April 24, 2005 | Page One | By Dennis Thompson

After years of work, the developers of Fairview have gained approval for a master plan showing how they will use the 275-acre property. Construction of the first phase, 32 north acres called the Pringle Creek Community, is expected to begin by early next year.
A neighborhood of “Net-Zero” homes will be one of Fairview’s first phases. The solar-powered homes are designed to create more energy than they use on a yearly basis. Single-family and coach homes will be within walking distance of small retail shops. Pringle Creek will be cleaned up and preserved as a green space corridor that cuts through the 32 acres.

Up until now, the redevelopment of the former Fairview Training Center into a self-sustaining village has been nothing more than an academic exercise.

But if all goes as planned, construction of new homes on a segment of the 275 acres of rolling hills of southeast Salem could begin by early next year.

Sustainable Development Inc., the local company formed to develop the project’s first phase, hopes to begin work by then if no problems arise during the planning and permitting process.

City officials recently approved the master development plan for Fairview, a crucial step that shows in broad strokes where the homes and shops will be located.

“In a perfect world, we would start late this year or early in 2006,” said Don Myers, president of the company. “Fairview has been conceptual for so long, it’s exciting to be moving forward. The master plan approval opened the door for getting aggressive about active development.”

That approval allows work to proceed on the first phase, a 32-acre parcel of land on the property’s north end that will be called Pringle Creek Community.

When completed, Pringle Creek Community will contain 190 homes, including one of the country’s largest “Net-Zero” neighborhoods – solar-powered homes designed to generate more energy than they use. It will cost about $32 million to build the residential property in the first phase, Myers said, and will take about two to three years to finish.

Approval of the master plan also has freed the company leading Fairview’s redevelopment, Sustainable Fairview Associates, to begin selling off the rest of the land to developers who will follow through on its initial vision.

“It’s really allowed us to go out and talk to people,” said Tony Nielsen, one of the partners in Sustainable Fairview Associates. “We’re now looking at development teams for the rest of the property.”

For almost a century, the Fairview property served as a state institution for developmentally disabled residents. The facility shut down in 2000, with state officials intending to sell the campus for redevelopment.

Sustainable Fairview Associates won the right to redevelop the property in 2002, paying $15 million for the land. Since then, they have been drafting plans and working their way through the city’s development approval process.

The overall master plan for Fairview envisions between 1,600 and 2,000 families living in a variety of townhouses, rowhouses, apartments, condominiums and single-family homes. Most of those homes would be in four large neighborhoods situated on the crests of the property’s rolling hills, with the valleys between each hill set aside to provide long stretches of green space.

The plan also calls for a 32-acre village center within walking distance of the homes. It will contain a variety of shops, offices and services as well as two large parks. The developers have identified about 13 existing buildings from the Fairview school that could be re-used for commercial space in the village center.

The homes would face tree-lined streets, with their garages around back. An extensive network of paths and sidewalks would allow easy foot traffic throughout the development.

The ultimate goal is to create an environmentally friendly village within Salem that is self-supporting, with residents able to find most of the goods and services they need within walking distance of their homes.

A `total asset’ to Salem

The project’s high-minded ideals already have begun to attract prospective customers, the developers say.

“It’s intelligent. It’s creative. And the plan, to me, provides an environment I would want to live in,” said Nancy Morley, a South Salem resident who has expressed interest in buying a home in Fairview. “It’s something I really want to be a part of.”

Walking the property of the future Pringle Creek Community, Myers points out a number of the development’s features.

The Net-Zero homes will be across Pringle Creek from two old greenhouses that will be re-used as the base for a community garden. A stand of 200-year-old oak trees that will remain as part of the landscape are near a shabby-looking school building that will give way to a set of brownstones and a small retail center.

Sustainable Development Inc. purchased the north 32 acres in November, Myers said. Salem developer Chris Jones had expressed early interest in developing that property, but the deal fell through.

Although no final prices have been set, Myers said he thinks that homes in Pringle Creek Community will be in the range of $150,000 to $350,000.

“That mix of housing is an important part of what we’re trying to do,” he said. “This is for everybody. This is not a gated community. This is a part of Salem.”

Only about 20 of the 32 acres will be developed, Myers said. The rest will be preserved for open space.

The east edge of Pringle Creek Community fronts Strong Road SE, next to the Salem Industrial Park, but the first phases will be built on the opposite end of the property. That’s so the first residents of Fairview won’t have to live with dump trucks driving past as the rest of the community builds out, Myers said.

The Net-Zero neighborhood, 24 single-family homes, two duplexes and seven multiplexes, will be one of the first phases. The homes will be designed by Nathan Good, a Salem architect who is a pioneer in environmentally friendly housing.

The other area to be built first will include seven single-family houses and seven coach homes near Pringle Creek.

JoAnne Beilke, a local real estate agent and member of the Chemeketa Community College board of directors, predicts that Fairview will prove to be “an absolute total asset to the community.”

Her main concern is that market forces will make the developers scale back their grand plans, resulting in mediocrity.

“I think that’s going to be the real key – keeping the costs down,” Beilke said. “That, and making sure whoever they sell the property off to is going to go with the model of the master plan. If they go in and sell it off without some strong controls, it’ll look just like any other subdivision.”