Monday, May 19, 2008
The Greyhound move and preservation
On Tuesday, the Sacramento city council will hear a proposal to relocate the Greyhound station to Richards Boulevard: there was a story in the Bee this Friday http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/945786.html. The idea of moving Greyhound has been kicked around for a long time, but the issue of how the task could be done is not simple. Two major issues that occur to me are the issues of transportation and preservation.
The current Greyhound station, originally located on 7th and L in the 1930s, was very well situated for connection with other transit. All three city streetcar lines could be reached at 8th and K Street, a block away, the Sacramento Northern interurban line ran down 8th, and while the 7th Street trolley had already been replaced by a bus, it could be used too. After 1947 and the end of the city streetcar lines, Sacramento City Lines and later Sacramento Transit Authority/Regional Transit buses were nearby, and relatively convenient. For the past 20 years, the nearby Light Rail system and bus service have been close to Greyhound, because (obviously) people on Greyhound don't have cars, and for many a cab ride is an expensive proposition.
Relocating the Greyhound station to Richards Boulevard means that public transit is limited to three buses: the 15, which is daytime-only and runs between downtown and Rio Linda, the 11, which is weekday-only and hourly, and the 33, a neighborhood shuttle intended to help people get from Alkali Flat light rail station to various social services.
Theoretically, the Light Rail DNA line is supposed to advance to Richards and 7th in short order, but that's about a quarter-mile from the proposed Greyhound station at 420 Richards, not particularly convenient. A couple of full-time bus lines or another shuttle, between downtown and the station, is probably going to be necessary to allow Greyhound passengers to get wherever they're going in town--or to allow people in town without cars to get to the Greyhound station. In a lot of ways, Ricahrds makes sense as a lower-traffic and more freeway-conveient location than the current building, so the problem of connection to public transit has at least a potential solution.
The other problem, preservation, is a bit thornier. The owner, I am certain, plans to build something very tall on that plot of land. The current building, a Streamline Moderne structure of poured-concrete construction, is more than 70 years old and is already listed as a city landmark. While there are all sorts of pejorative terms people will use to describe the structure, go take a look at it sometime: the building is extremely solid, shows very few signs of serious exterior damager or wear, and isn't in any structural danger. And if you really look at it, and ignore the dust, the dirt, the indifferent paint, and the current use, it actually is a very nice building in its own right, and absolutely unique in the central city. Especially if there are redevelopment funds used in whatever project takes place, the issue of the building is something that has to be addressed, one way or the other.
So, what do we do? Some might assume that the appropriate answer would be to prevent Greyhound from relocating, or that the answer is to try to find a compatible use for the current building. But those aren't the only answers--or even the best.
While hunting around online I found some pictures of another former Greyhound station, one that was vacant for decades, and how the old facade was integrated very nicely into a new, quite tall, building:
This isn't even that new of an idea in Sacramento--it has been used as an adaptive reuse strategy on several of Sacramento's landmark buildings:
The Esquire Theatre, a 1940 Art Deco theater, became the home of an IMAX theater and the base of a modern, tall tower.
The Public Market, designed by famed architect Julia Morgan, was saved from years as an office building and became the grand entrance to Sacramento's Sheraton hotel, again with a tall tower behind it.
So why not do a similar project with the Greyhound station? The Moderne styling of the station could be complemented by something with similar style, or something more up-to-date that plays off the same themes and architecutral elements. It's a way to have our building and high-rise it too...just some food for thought. How digestible is it?