Owners of the Sam Jennings Company equipment repair business are objecting to what they say is harassment by city officials because they refused to move the business to make way for The Commons downtown development project. City leaders deny that anything is happening "behind closed doors," but acknowledge concerns about possible code violations at the business.
City officials should tread carefully to avoid the appearance of singling out the business or treating it differently than any other enterprise. The business owners should consider that a little investment in the appearance of their property is part of being a good neighbor.
The Reisinger family, descendants of business founder Sam Jennings, say they plan to continue operating one of Medford's oldest businesses on the site it has occupied since the late 1920s. They say they've been approached about selling the property since work began on The Commons, but were never offered what they considered a high enough price.
Sometimes referred to as "The Alamo" because of its mission-style facade and a family tie to Texas, the Sam Jennings Co. has been a fixture at the corner of Fourth Street and Riverside Avenue for many years. The business provides delivery services and heavy equipment repair, specializing in brakes, clutches and hydraulic systems.
The building is historic, certainly. And its owners have every right to continue to operate their business on the property.
At the same time, the city has an interest in the appearance of the downtown redevelopment project that includes Lithia Motors' new headquarters and two park blocks. The Jennings business is a light industrial operation that would not be out of place in many parts of Medford where similar businesses congregate. But it does stick out in its present location, especially now that The Commons is nearly complete.
If the "portal" that once served as the doorway to the old Greyhound bus depot is worth restoring as a reminder of the past, the Sam Jennings building could be as well. A new white paint job, along with tidying up the outside equipment storage areas around the building, would be a good start.