What could be
Parking is great, but urban renewal needs to be about more than that
Urban renewal should be all about what could be, about innovation and change and growth.
And what does the Medford Urban Renewal Agency have in store for us on the block bordered by Fir, Main and Eighth streets?
That's right, parking.
A multilevel parking garage will sprout on the land that until recently was set aside for a project that was to be the centerpiece of downtown renewal.
At this time last year, plans appeared well under way for a structure unique to Medford, an urban-style building combining housing with office space, stores, restaurants and parking.
Then the Winetrout project, as it was known, ran into trouble. A downtown landlord sued, saying the project wasn't within MURA's scope, and a housing study showed Medford needed affordable housing, not the high-end condos proposed. The developer fled, and MURA dropped the project.
By the time a judge dismissed the landlord's lawsuit last week, MURA already had moved on. It says a new study reveals 500 parking spaces will be needed in the area in the coming decade, based on statistics that show that people like to park within a block of where they're going.
Well, fine. Downtown undoubtedly could use more parking. But is several stories of it really the best we can do on this property at the center of downtown, at the center of the area MURA is trying to breathe life into, next to the future Evergreen Way, a corridor that is to be designed so people want to spend time there?
Is it really the best replacement for a project that was supposed to be the centerpiece of downtown redevelopment? For a building that, if successful, would have brought downtown new residents, new workers, new business?
MURA officials say they hope to develop retail space on portions of the lot not taken up by parking. But it is not clear what form it will take or how much of the lot it will occupy.
Adequate parking ought to be part of any renewal, and it has been in the recently built three-story parking structure at the corner of Sixth and Riverside and public lots near the site of the new downtown library.
But parking can't be the basis of renewal, the part that helps the city bloom. And it shouldn't be the dominant part of a lot as visible as this.
People don't avoid downtown because they can't find parking; they avoid it when downtown doesn't offer what they want. Winetrout may not have been a perfect fit for the city, but it was an attempt at something new.
That kind of approach will inspire renewal downtown. More parking won't.
Read and release
The Jackson County Library Foundation is sponsoring a Read and Release program that will allow people to buy a book and then donate it to the library as a tax write-off.
This is a good deal for everyone. The four participating booksellers get good publicity, buyers can take a tax deduction and the library gets books that might otherwise be too expensive for it to afford.
The library has far more readers than available copies of popular books. For example, The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold has a waiting list of 236 people.
Library officials say the library can take all of the good new books it can get.
The four participating bookstores are Barnes and Noble, Bloomsbury Books, Soundpeace and Waldenbooks. Any new books donated to the library will include a notation inside indicating that it is part of the Read and Release program.
The program begins today. All you have to do is take that book you just read to the library and turn it in for a tax deduction.
In other words, Read and Release. No longer will you have stacks of relatively new books overtaxing your bookcase.