Aportal commemorating the former Greyhound bus station in The Commons development should be torn down, possibly in favor of an ice-skating rink, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board suggested Thursday.
The MURA board voted to recommend to the Medford Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission that the remnant of the bus station wall be torn down, partly because of the $50,000 cost of stabilizing it, and partly because of the look of the two-story concrete wall standing at the corner of Fifth and North Bartlett streets.
"Aesthetically, it does not do a lot for me," MURA board member Bob Strosser said. "I do think an ice-skating rink would be better in the park blocks."
Mayor Gary Wheeler was one of three board members who voted against the idea of tearing the wall down.
"I've got real mixed feelings about getting rid of a piece of history," he said.
Other board members balked at the $50,000 estimate to permanently stabilize the wall, formerly the front of the Greyhound building.
Instead, many board members suggested that the money would be better spent on an ice-skating rink, though a decision on the rink or its location in the park hasn't been made yet.
MURA is building two downtown parks next to the Lithia headquarters. The first park is almost complete, but the design of the second park, which was going to feature the Greyhound wall, is still under discussion.
MURA board members voiced support for erecting a plaque commemorating the Greyhound station in lieu of keeping the wall.
"I'm sorry that it has come to this," local historian George Kramer said.
Kramer, who has been a consultant on many downtown restoration projects and originally suggested the wall be restored, said saving parts of buildings has become a common practice in many downtowns.
He said the Greyhound wall would help connect the new development to old Medford and help avoid the creation of a "killer sterility" in the new spaces in The Commons development.
"These are the kind of things that make urban spaces successful," Kramer said.
In a recent letter to MURA, Kramer conceded the present look of the concrete wall is "blah," but stated it would have a different effect once it is cleaned up and restored.
"The arch will just exude 1950s postwar 'cool,'" he wrote.
Kramer said the Greyhound building was designed in 1949 by Robert Keeney, who was the partner of famed local architect Frank Clark.
Board member Karen Blair, who said she supported Kramer's suggestions, said she remembers taking the Greyhound bus from Medford to Portland during the 1970s.
"It is really important to keep our sense of place and history," she said.
Board member Eli Matthews said he would favor building an ice-skating rink, which he said would attract more visitors to the downtown than a wall.
"We need something with functionality," he said. "I wish we could do it all, but we can't."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org.