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Local editorial

Build it and they will park

MURA should focus more on walking, less on vehicular convenience

We've thrown a lot of praise in the direction of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, which is slowly but surely, we think, turning parts of downtown into a place people might want to visit.

The rest it's turning into parking.

It seems that every time the agency tells the public what it's up to, a new parking lot or parking garage is on the to-do list.

So when MURA released its four-year development plan last week, we probably should have expected the appearance of a &

36;1.4 million project to turn the car lot at 10th Street and Riverside Avenue into ' ta-da ' parking.

MURA is, of course, in the midst of building the 400-space, &

36;10 millionparking garage on the block bounded by Main, Fir and Eighth streets. It has a 380-space structure at Riverside and Sixth streets. It's building Evergreen Way, a parking strip that will front the new parking garage and will include diagonal spaces. It's planning to buy two Sixth Street lots. A handful of other block-sized parking lots dot the downtown core. And, of course, there's on-street parking across downtown.

No one wants to go downtown and have to search far and wide for parking, and infrastructure ' parking, sidewalks, foot bridges ' has to come before business can follow. But MURA seems so intent on parking that it's lost track of the need to give people a reason to come downtown in the first place.

— What kind of changes can provide that reason? The reshaped Vogel Plaza, with its fountains, trees and benches. The businesses that have taken advantage of a MURA program that helps them pay for renovations. Even little things like the public art that has sprouted in the redeveloped area.

A 2000 MURA study said people don't want to walk more than two blocks to a destination when they're downtown, a finding MURA has used to justify all the parking.

But the good that has come downtown because of MURA has a lot to do with walking, and it should. MURA should be aiming at a downtown that encourages people to get out and enjoy it, not park and leave.

That visitors don't want to have to park more than a couple blocks from an errand ought to be a piece of what MURA considers, but only a piece.

Interest, not cars, ought to drive the renewal efforts downtown.