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What's on the inside

Heads have been turning in downtown Medford as the unusual-looking Jackson County health services building takes shape on West Eighth Street next to City Hall.

"It looks a little cheap," said Gold Hill resident Eva Dennington. "It looks like a box."

Dennington and other onlookers have watched as workers continue to erect the $33 million building and parking garage.

One of the more unusual features is the metal-tile siding that has a rippled appearance and comes in various shapes and sizes.

Some onlookers have compared it to a "jail" or describe it as "institutional," while others have been more charitable.

"Honestly, to me it looks fine," said Mason Martin, a 25-year-old Medford resident. "It fits in with the downtown."

Martin said he's just surprised at how quickly the building has come together.

The building has not been completed, and additional features will be added that will change its appearance.

Harvey Bragg, senior deputy county administrator, said that once the trees and plants grow up in the planters, the building should fit in better.

"It will mellow with time," he said.

Bragg said the metal panels are designed for durability.

"Hopefully, it's not completely obnoxious," he said.

The county spent its money and efforts on the inside rather than the exterior.

Some of the savings allowed the county to add an extra 11,000 square feet to the structure.

"We had to go with a less-expensive exterior to maximize the interior space," Bragg said.

Commissioner John Rachor said it's difficult to build something as nice in today's economy as, say, the Jackson County Courthouse with its marble interior.

But Rachor said Commissioner Don Skundrick and he were more interested in gaining square footage and making sure the building had all the services necessary for the public.

Still, the exterior isn't what he had envisioned.

"I'm not happy with the look of this," he said.

Local historic preservationist George Kramer said good design doesn't have to cost a whole lot more than poor design. He said other areas of the state have built municipal buildings that don't look institutional.

"I think they missed an opportunity to do something good for the community and the county," Kramer said. "Government should create buildings that meet the postcard test."

He said there was a time in this country when the public took pride in its government buildings.

The building defies good urban planning, Kramer said, which dictates that entrances to buildings be located at regular intervals to make the downtown more pedestrian-friendly.

The health services building was designed with just one entrance to make it easier for clients to find the central intake area.

Part of the problem with the health services building is that the entrance isn't located on Eighth Street, but rather in a courtyard area facing the garage, Kramer said.

"In effect, the public gets to look at the back of the building," he said.

In comparing the health services building with another new building a few blocks away — One West Main, with a brick exterior — Kramer said the Main Street structure is definitely more memorable.

Despite his dislike of the county building's features, Kramer said, "I'm not willing to say this building is ugly."

Onlookers had a variety of opinions about the health services building, which replaced the old federal building that housed the former U.S. Postal Service office.

Sal Mellelo, owner of Mellelo's coffee, said the building fits in with the neighborhood and is an improvement over the federal building.

"It's not exactly what I would have picked, though," he said.

Don Turner just moved to Medford about a week ago and was looking for the postal service when he got his first look at the health services building.

"There's nothing inviting about it," said the 60-year-old Turner. "It says, 'Stay away.' Scary."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

The metal tile siding on the Jackson County health services building on West Eighth Street next to City Hall has a rippled appearance and comes in various shapes, colors and sizes. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell