SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 12, 2013

Our view: Downtown project deserves Council support

Salem’s City Council is set to vote next week on a land sale that could jump-start a $46 million hotel development downtown.

RCG is proposing to redevelop the corner of Washington and Dodge streets with a 100-room hotel, apartments, retail stores and offices. It’s an under-utilized area now, and the prospect of revitalizing it is an exciting one. Plans won’t be filed until November, but a hotel operator has already expressed interest.

What’s before the City Council is the sale of a parking strip with 38 spaces along Washington Street, for its assessed value of $275,000. This would allow for wide sidewalks, outdoor tables and a streetscape similar to the one farther down the street at Tavern in the Square (a property that RCG also developed) and Rockafellas. In return, the developer would dedicate 38 of its 278 spaces elsewhere on the property for public parking.

The council expressed its initial interest in this proposal by declaring the parking lot surplus property and opening it up for sale; RCG was the only developer to submit a bid to purchase it. Now, the next step is for the council to vote on whether to accept that bid and sell the property to RCG.

So far, there’s been virtually no public opposition. And while there will surely be closer scrutiny once a definite plan is presented to city boards, the concept seems to appeal to everyone. Not only would it bring more commercial activity to that end of the downtown, it would add more residents, who help to sustain Salem’s thriving restaurants and stores in the off-season when the tourists go home. It would bring in an estimated $300,000 a year in property taxes, plus nearly $200,000 more in hotel/motel taxes.

There have been no concerns from neighbors so far, and indeed, it’s been so non-controversial that only a handful of people turned out for the public hearing this week.

We hope councilors will agree that this is a promising development — one that deserves their support — and will vote to approve the sale of this property next week and help get this project underway.

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