Change is on its way to downtown Salem, starting with the former Schwartz department store.

A ground-breaking ceremony early Thursday afternoon included working plans for a cafe and apartment units in the building's upper level. The ground floor, soon to be home to Original Gravity, or "OG" - a modern-casual bar selling craft beer and wines opening Spring 2024.

"I just want it to be a really comfortable space for people to come and hang out and work and meet with friends," Scott Larrick, OG's owner says. "So the idea of having a restaurant with some retail mixed in I think will really bring people in."

The work doesn't end there: Original Gravity is the first phase of a multi-building renovation and construction project to establish an entertainment district in downtown Salem.

The building's owner, Joe Hovorka, says he hopes the new district will bring economic development to South Broadway street, and build a better sense of community overall.

"As you can imagine, as big box retailers, online, and everything like that took business from these small towns, you know, they fell on fairly hard times. Salem hit its bottom maybe six or seven years ago," Hovorka notes.

The full project will cost around $6 million -- with about 1.7 million of those funds coming in from state and federal grants and tax credits for historical preservation.

Hovorka says the preservation aspect of the project helps not only to offset the cost of the renovations, but keep the downtown area's original charm. "It's part of the character. It's not a cookie-cutter kind of same type of building over and over. Each of these have their own unique history, unique look, and I think that adds to the vibrancy of downtown."