On July 7, Glenn W. Gross, Community Development Director for the City of Salem, issued city staff’s recommendation on the matter of Howard Hall, the historic building designed by architect John V. Bennes in 1923.  Howard Hall was a dormitory for the now-closed School for the Blind, and sits on land owned by Salem Hospital which the hospital wishes to develop for other uses.

In the 105-page review, Gross recommends that the council reverse the unanimous decision made by the City-appointed Historic Landmark Commission (HLC) in June, and demolish the hall instead of preserving it.

The HLC found that Salem Hospital did not meet three of the four requirements necessary to approve the application. Salem Hospital did not show that:

. The value to the community of the proposed use of the property outweighs the value of retaining the designated historic resource on the present site.

. The designated historic resource is not capable of generating a reasonable economic return and the demolition is economically necessary.

. No prudent and feasible alternative exists to rehabilitate and reuse the designated resource in its present location.

… and so the Hall should remain standing.

On July 14 the matter will be reviewed by city council, informed by Gross’s staff recommendation.  The council might affirm, amend or reverse HLC’s decision, or may remand the matter for further proceedings.

The council’s decision will be the final decision of the City on Salem Hospital’s application.

At the July 14 hearing, all in favor of the demolition and all opposed to it will be given the opportunity to express their position; any person who does not present that night will be unable to participate in an appeal to the Land Use Board of Appeals, the next step in the process.