A move in the right direction

Here's one we should all be able to agree on: Jefferson Public Radio is planning to move to Medford where it will occupy a donated building. And that's a good thing

Unlike JPR's proposal to refurbish and reopen the Holly Theatre, which drew support and opposition, the JPR move should present no threat to anyone. Ignore those people behind the curtain whining about diminishing Ashland's culture or not being a good fit in the more conservative Medford. Their concerns are about as real as the powers of that wizard in Oz.

Truth is, a radio station can operate just about anywhere. JPR is already a testament to that, serving a 60,000-square-mile territory that stretches from Eugene to Chico, Calif. JPR is now crammed into too little space in a daylight basement of an old classroom building on the campus of Southern Oregon University. The station certainly can use the room, as can the university, which is full to the brim with students.

JPR was already planning to move at some point, but previously had tied its hopes to building a new station on the SOU campus. That was a nice idea, but the pricetag was a hefty $16 million to $20 million. The Medford site at the southwest corner of Front and 10th streets was donated to JPR by Bruce Larson, owner of the nearby Larson's Home Furnishings. JPR estimates the renovation costs to be in the vicinity of $3.5 million.

Led by Executive Director Ron Kramer, JPR is poised to make a big impact on Medford, and downtown in particular. Combined investment in the new studio and the Holly Theatre on Sixth Street is estimated at $7 million.

That's money that would be spent on contractors and renovators alone; beyond that is the effect of injecting life into a downtown that is struggling to keep retailers, especially on the west end.

Raising millions is no easy feat even in good times, so this is not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. But city and business leaders should come together to help make the JPR move a reality. It's a positive for both the city and the station at a time when we all could use some positives.

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