We're looking forward to the opening of the first park block in The Commons next month, with the second block to follow early next year. The park blocks are designed to bring people downtown, with lawn areas, a playground, benches and decorative pavers. We're less thrilled with the idea of preserving a facade from the old Greyhound bus station as an entrance to the second park block.
The facade — essentially a square concrete arch — was left intact when the bus station was taken down. It has been suggested — by whom is not exactly clear — that the facade be braced and restored at a cost of $50,000.
The City Council, understandably taken aback by the suggestion, has asked the Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission to recommend whether to keep the facade or tear it down. The Medford Urban Renewal Agency board will hear a report on the "Greyhound portal" in its meeting at noon today.
We vote to tear it down.
First of all, $50,000 is a sizable sum of money to most people, although admittedly a small fraction of the $14 million MURA is spending on The Commons.
Second, historic preservation is a fine thing — when what is being preserved has value as an example of a particular style of architecture, or is useful for some modern purpose, such as the effort to restore the Holly Theatre as a performing arts center or to use the old Carnegie library building as a community center. We're trying hard to find a deep connection to the bus station, but we're not having much luck.
Perhaps some community residents have fond memories of the Greyhound depot. Perhaps not. But it's hard to picture anyone making a special trip to the park blocks to see a concrete archway. And the facade itself is not particularly attractive.
The estimated $50,000 cost would be better spent on something more practical, such as contributing to MURA's facade improvement fund to spruce up an existing building downtown. That makes more sense to us than using it to restore a piece of a building that doesn't exist anymore.