A Salem resident who's a builder, a developer and has a history with urban redevelopment projects is launching a private sector effort aimed at revitalizing the downtown.
Scott Cahill, who recently moved back to the city, announced he's hosting a Technical Advisory Committee meeting at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Salem Golf Club.
A downtown building owner, he has invited other downtown building owners, downtown merchants, city officials, business leaders and preservationists to attend, as well as extending an invitation to anyone interested in learning about the T.A.C. process or improving the downtown.
Mayor John Berlin confirmed he was contacted by Cahill and said he's planning to attend the meeting.
"I don't disagree with anyone who's trying to enhance the downtown," he said.
The Technical Advisory Committee is more of putting the idea of revitalizing the downtown into action, he said, by working with the property owners to get buildings rehabbed and desirable and filled with tenants on all floors.
"If that happens, we can get a more vibrant downtown," Berlin said.
The mayor said it's the right way to go, adding "we have a lot of buildings downtown that are beautiful."
Organizations represented on the guest list included the Salem Historical Society, Salem Design Review Board, the Sustainable Opportunity Development Center, Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, Salem Storybook Museum, Salem Community Foundation, Howells & Baird, a Salem attorney and a real estate agent. Salem Fire Chief Jeff Hughes, city Councilman Dave Nestic, who's also a building owner, city Council President Mickey Cope Weaver, Salem Housing Inspector Dan Rice, Salem Planning and Zoning Director Pat Morrissey and city Law Director Brooke Zellers were also on the list.
Cahill explained the participants will either serve on the T.A.C. or one of the subcommittees that will be formed to address the different areas of the downtown revitalization, with plans calling for the redevelopment plan recommendations to be ready to present to Salem City Council by February.
Participants will receive no compensation except for the appreciation of the city and no money will be requested from the city or state. He explained this will be a self-funded endeavor through funding to be secured from venture capitalists used to leverage more money through a
bank to rehab the buildings and bring them up to minimum standards, if that's the desire of the T.A.C. at the end of the planning process.
"We're creating the vehicle to do the redevelopment of downtown," Cahill said.
The city's involvement will come in the area of regulations, if needed. Expected subcommittees will cover: structure evaluation to evaluate downtown buildings and their viability; proportion to look at the relationship between occupied commercial space, residential space, open green space and parking; standards to develop minimum standards for buildings in the revitalized downtown, looking at existing building codes, safety codes and regulations and whether changes are needed; implementation to draft and introduce the plan to council and the public; fiscal to look at the current tax base, the return on the proposed investment to improve the downtown tax base and assure fiscal success.
"We'll make it a much more palatable downtown for business," Cahill said, adding "we can't go on with the downtown the way it is."
In an email sent to invitees, he explained the need for the project by pointing out the "declining conditions of the downtown area, the loss of the tax base, the loss of vitality of the downtown and the loss and potential loss of historically significant structures."
Downtown building owners will have the choice to bring their building up to the minimum standards or they could turn over their building to a limited liability corporation and take membership in the LLC for the value of the building or turn the building over, take membership ownership with the LLC and then buy the building back from the developer once its improved. He said a loan could be secured against the improved value of the building.
The idea is to increase the value of the buildings through the improvements and fill the buildings with tenants.
"I think we can do something constructive," Cahill said.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org