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MURA board should make the best of a bad situation, restore Greyhound 'portal'

The Medford City Council, acting as the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board, will discuss the star-crossed Greyhound "portal" restoration in a meeting Thursday night. Given the options available, the board members should take the path of least resistance — and, probably, cost — and proceed with the original plan.

We were not enthusiastic about the proposal to restore the portal — essentially a square, tile-covered archway that once framed the entrance to the Greyhound bus station — as a reminder of one of the historic buildings that was torn down to make room for the park blocks. We haven't changed that opinion, although we acknowledge that the finished project may look better than it sounds when it is described. Some City Councilors were underwhelmed, too, especially when they learned the work was estimated to cost up to $50,000.

But now it appears that doing anything else could cost at least as much, and could delay completion of the second and final park block.

The city's own code requires the Greyhound building to be commemorated because it was a historic building in a federally recognized historic district. Saving and restoring the portal was approved in 2007. When the proposal came up again during preparations to begin work on the north block, some councilors said they would rather not spend that much money, and the council asked to have the portal demolished instead.

The landmarks commission said something needed to be done to commemorate the Greyhound depot and the other historic buildings that were torn down. The council could, if it chose, reduce the portal's height by shortening its legs, the commission said.

Not thrilled with that idea either, the council asked the Medford Arts Commission to recommend other alternatives. They are:

  • Salvage tiles from the portal and hire an artist to use them in a mosaic or something similar.
  • Commission a new sculpture that might incorporate some element of the portal.
  • Restore the portal as originally planned.

The councilors/MURA board will take up those recommendations in a meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday. Whatever they choose will still need to pass muster with the landmarks commission.

Commissioning artists is not an inexpensive proposition, and starting over on a new design likely would mean delaying completion of the second park block. Not to mention that any new artistic design would be sure to please some people and dismay others.

Once again we find ourselves in agreement with Councilor Dick Gordon, who said the most prudent course would be to complete the project as originally approved.

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