Established in 1907, Salem’s Fairview Hospital and Training Center was a largely self-sustaining care facility for people with developmental disabilities. It covered nearly 800 acres and produced much of its own food and energy for Fairview’s neighborhood. Over time, as Salem expanded, it became more convenient for the administration to get goods and services from town. Fairview’s self-sustainability was no longer the most cost-effective option, and the surplus property was sold until only 275 acres remained.

Allegations of mistreatment at Fairview surfaced, and in February of 2000, the authorities closed it down. The residents moved to homes in the community and, in some cases, closer to their loved ones. After closing down its second such care facility, Oregon became the only state in the nation with 100% in-home care for people with disabilities.

Pringle Creek Community Salem Park
On the left is a community general-use shop, and on the right, is a community root/wine cellar. Photo credit: Tami Richards

Community Formed Around Waste Consciousness

In 2005, some very innovative individuals purchased 32 acres of the old Fairview property and began to build a community unlike anything ever seen in the area. They named this development Pringle Creek Community after the stream that runs through the middle. The streets of Pringle Creek Community are named after some of the better-known nature advocates: John Muir, Jane Goodall, Jacques Cousteau, and John Audobon. They are paved by green street methods, which include porous asphalt, gravel shoulders, bioswales, drainage courses, and rain gardens at each intersection, all of which filter rainwater runoff.

The people who planned and developed the area into one of the most eco-conscious communities in the United States have worked hard to build the new homes using high green standards and have incorporated many of the original Fairview buildings into the mix. They repurposed many of the old buildings when dismantled and used some of the original buildings either as they were or with improvements. When visiting the area, the responses can be mixed as people digest the looming brick remains of a stratospheric smokestack or gaze at a shining water tower two stories in the air.

Pringle Creek Community Salem Park
The picnic area at the park is in front of the community root/wine cellar and the shop. Photo credit: Tami Richards

Building a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Community in Salem

Inside the original pump house are pipes and pressure tanks that access the 400-foot industrial well once utilized by Fairview Training Center, pumping 300 gallons a minute. The water from this well stays 56 degrees no matter the weather because it comes from so far beneath the ground. The pressure tanks send the water to up to 77 homes and businesses throughout the area, each with a small individual compressor that extracts or repels heat to reach the desired temperature, creating a geothermal loop for heating and cooling!

The homes are built to encourage neighborly visits on the way to check the mail or out to walk the dog. They are all near a small park ideal for picnics or throwing a Frisbee. The community center serves as an event venue, gathering place, and snack bar.

Pringle Creek Community is the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) platinum-certified community building in the United States. In fact, all the homes in this neighborhood rank high on the LEED certification scale. The builders recycled and re-used cement slabs and original buildings, created green roofs, designated mixed-use sites, built tall houses and a roundhouse, and developed green streets, leading the way to building a friendlier, greener community.

Pringle Creek Community Salem Park
Water tower and smokestack as seen from the community park. Photo credit: Tami Richards

Sustainability Comes Full Circle at Pringle Creek Community

Many of the recycled buildings embody the sustainability that the original Fairview builders had in mind. There are a pair of Lord and Burnham glasshouses from the 1930s totaling over 6,000 square feet of solar-heated year-round gardening space. These redwood and steel Victorian glass house conservatories were restored in 2009 and supply year-round produce, winter lettuce, herbs, starts, and flowers. Everyone in the community has a plot and has the opportunity to attend gardening workshops.

Painters Hall is also from the 1930s and is a building used by the community for social events, dinners, workshops, guest speakers, group meetings, art shows, concerts, and classes. It is not only a restored building from the original Fairview Training Center but also LEED platinum certified, the highest ranking available. One of the key sufficiency attributes of Painters Hall is its rooftop solar panels which power the entire building as well as the geothermal loop. Painters Hall is a shining example of the dual purpose of sustainability and connecting a community.

Pringle Creek is a net-zero (producing enough energy to offset the energy consumed) neighborhood with 12 acres of shared space consisting of orchards, community gardens, walking paths, and sequoia and fir tree stands. The neighborhood has won many awards and is continuing in the spirit of self-sustainability of its predecessor. Pringle Creek Community has no through traffic; all streets are clearly posted as private property.

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