New hope for old bus station site in Salem

“Helping communities and good causes get needed facilities such as housing for domestic violence survivors is putting EPA’s brownfield funding to good use and makes my day.”

Mary Camarata, DEQ’s Western Region brownfields coordinator.

When the Center for Hope & Safety in Salem purchased the building next door in 2015 it was taking a gamble.

The nonprofit that provides services for survivors of domestic and sexual violence had grand visions for the property where the old Greyhound bus station stood. The land would be home to HOPE Plaza, a three-story brick building where survivors would have a place to live and work.

But before the downtown property could be redeveloped the Center for Hope & Safety, formerly Mid-Valley Women’s Crisis Service, had to have assurance from the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Sampling earlier this year showed that it is safe to build on the site as long as the soil is properly managed if disturbed.

DEQ helped the nonprofit by using the Environmental Protection Agency’s Federal State Response Grant program to pay for testing at the site, as well as funding from Business Oregon’s Brownfields Program to pay for the removal of a 2,850-gallon underground heating oil tank. The department closed out the heating oil tank file in December 2019 and sent a No Further Action Determination letter regarding soil contamination to the Center for Hope & Safety in May, said Mary Camarata, DEQ’s Western Region brownfields coordinator.

“Helping communities and good causes get needed facilities such as housing for domestic violence survivors is putting EPA’s brownfield funding to good use and makes my day,” Camarata added.

The letter gives the green light for redevelopment and to obtain federal block grant funding.

DEQ and Business Oregon saved the nonprofit about $125,000 in environmental expenses by tapping into the federal and state programs, said Center for Hope & Safety Executive Director Jayne Downing.

“That was an incredible gift to us,” she said.

In all, the HOPE Plaza project will cost about $10 million, Downing said. The nonprofit is relying on state and federal funding, as well as donations of money, time and services to cover the costs. The goal is to be debt free on the project when the new building finally opens.

“If we can do this we can help other nonprofits to be able to say, ‘Here’s what we did and you can do it too,” Downing said.

HOPE Plaza, on the 400 block of Church Street Northeast in Salem, will have businesses and a training center on the first floor and 20 apartments spread among the second and third floor.

The businesses will provide jobs or services for domestic and sexual violence survivors, Downing said, and the design includes a training center. The apartments feature a variety of studios, one-bedroom and two-bedroom floorplans.

The Center for Hope & Safety bought the old Greyhound bus station property for $650,000 five years ago even though there was concern about soil contamination and the heating oil tank documented in a Phase 1 Environmental Site Assessment. There was contamination because the 11,800-square-foot commercial building hadn’t been just a bus station.

There were shops and other businesses to serve bus passengers and downtown visitors. A drycleaner held one of the retail spaces in the northern end of building from 1961 through 1976.

A consultant hired by the Center for Hope & Safety tested the site in 2015 and found chlorinated solvents in the soil and groundwater, as well gas in the soil. The dry cleaner likely caused the contamination.

Greyhound shifted bus service in Salem to the Amtrak train station years ago. Since the Center for Hope & Safety bought the old bus station contractors have cleaned up the site and in March 2019 a demolition crew knocked down the old building. Gov. Kate Brown and Downing even took a turn at the controls of heavy equipment to mark the occasion.

Construction of HOPE Plaza was set to start this year and be done by 2021, Downing said. But that timeline was before the coronavirus pandemic so the project may be delayed.

“We know it will happen,” Downing said. “It just might not happen as soon as we wanted it to.”

– Dylan Darling, public affairs specialist

Published by Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

DEQ’s mission is to be a leader in restoring, maintaining and enhancing the quality of Oregon’s air, land and water.

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