A massive doorway from a former bus station has the potential to become a local icon thanks to a donation of the original Greyhound letters and a Lithia Motors grant.
The lettering will be cleaned up and then attached to the former entrance of the Greyhound bus station that once sat on the site of the redevelopment in downtown Medford known as The Commons.
The letters spelling out "GREYHOUND" are made of brushed aluminum but had been painted blue then battleship gray. They will be cleaned and possibly backlit by two neon tubes before being placed near the top of the portal that formerly was the bus station entrance.
"I am tickled by the timing of this, that this guy stepped forward on this," George Kramer, a local preservationist who has pushed for restoration of the portal, said of the donation of the letters. "I just think it's going to become an iconic element in Medford."
The bus station portal at the corner of Fifth Street and North Bartlett Street has been described as "ugly" by some, and the $40,000 to $50,000 price tag to restore the structure has given Medford officials fits. But the city approved restoration because it had agreed to include a historical marker on the site of The Commons, which previously held several aged buildings.
Lithia Motors, whose corporate headquarters are the centerpiece of The Commons project, has offered a matching grant to help offset the city's cost for the project.
Kramer said the anonymous donor obtained the Greyhound sign when the building was closed, then decided to donate it back to the city after the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board agreed to pay for the cost of restoration two weeks ago.
The Greyhound letters are attached as a single word measuring 19 feet across and 32 inches high.
After receiving the sign, Kramer said he noticed a channel that allows for two neon tubes that can be lighted to make the letters appear to float across the portal.
"All of the doubting Thomases will think this is cool," said Kramer, who has offered his services to the city without charge to work on the portal project.
It's not certain yet whether the budget is large enough to add the lighting immediately, Kramer said. He noted that the donation of the lettering has already saved money on the project.
The Greyhound letters formerly sat above the entrance to the bus station. The portal is made of concrete and rebar in an upside-down U-shape that's 23 feet tall, 21 feet wide and about a foot thick. It is faced with green tile, which will need to be repaired in several places after the paint is stripped away.
Kramer said he has located a source for replacement tiles to fill in spots where tiles were damaged.
Mark DeBoer, Lithia's vice president of real estate, said his company has offered a matching grant for work on the portal that will be credited against the construction management fee on The Commons. Lithia is the general contractor for the two city-owned parks in The Commons.
DeBoer said the portal may seem out of place at this phase in the project, but once the park is completed its placement will make sense.
"It all will look really cool when it's done," he said.
DeBoer said he was excited to learn that neon tubes could be installed to highlight the Greyhound lettering.
Efforts will be made to reduce the cost of restoration, so that Lithia contributes some $15,000 to $20,000 to the project, he predicted.
"I'm sure we will figure this out," he said.
The MURA board was reluctant to approve the expense for restoring the portal, and board Chair Dick Gordon described it as "ugly," a sentiment shared by many other board members.
Kramer has urged critics to look past the painted-over portal and see what it could look like when the green tiles are exposed and repaired.
Gordon said Monday he was happy that someone had donated the lettering and said time will tell if Kramer's vision holds true.
"I sure hope so," he said. "I'm just happy the project is moving forward."
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.