MEDFORD — Demolition and ground-breaking are set to begin along Bartlett Street in October, making way for The Commons, Medford's six-block urban redevelopment project. Meanwhile, the final touches are being added to the design for the 10-story Lithia Motors headquarters, due to be submitted to the city within three weeks.
Building demolition and headquarters design of The Commons, formerly dubbed Middleford Commons, were among the details provided Friday to the Medford Rogue Rotary Club by Mark Rivers, the Boise, Idaho, real estate developer managing the project. The first thing to be built will be the park block on Bartlett and Sixth streets, where Lithia's Dodge dealership and the Littrell building are.
"Next month the Lithia Dodge store will vacate its property on Riverside," he said, adding that it will move out to the new Lithia site on Highway 62. Though the Littrell building will be torn down, a wall and some of the architectural features will remain to pay respects to Medford's history, said Rivers.
The vitality of the neighborhood will be ensured by making all the street level space retail and commercial, he said.
"On the ground floor of everything we'll do retail," said Rivers. "Even on the Lithia headquarters building." He said the six-block area is designed to create a dynamic urban neighborhood. "We're not creating this huge fortress with statues of ourselves out front."
He said people have asked him if the project will compete with the existing downtown.
"We're actually hoping to expand the waistline of downtown," he said. "This is downtown. This project is not intended to make The Commons prosper, it's intended to make the downtown prosper."
In a question-and-answer period following the presentation, Laz Ayala, a real estate developer and downtown commercial property owner, asked how much retail space the project included.
Rivers said there will be about 15,000-square-feet in the first phase, which amounts to two or three restaurants, a cafe and maybe two or three boutique stores.
Frank Mania, title insurance salesman, asked if there was a transportation plan for the project. Rivers said there was no transportation plan per se. Following the meeting, Cory Crebbin, Medford public works director and Rotary club member, said the traffic generated from the project is accounted for the city's transportation system plan. Any traffic studies are done at the time of zone changes, and there are no zone changes with this project.
"There is some traffic study work being done on turn lanes and intersections," he said.
The Greyhound bus station will be moved temporarily to a parking lot owned by the Medford Urban Renewal Agency on Grape Street between Fifth and Sixth streets next year, said Rivers. Demolition of the bus station along with seven other buildings was approved by the city in July. The buildings are between Bartlett Street and Riverside Avenue and Fourth and Sixth.
Rivers said he wished all development projects he's been involved in had the support of families like the DeBoers, who own Lithia Motors.
He quipped that as an out-of-towner he can't attest to whether Lithia sells good cars, but as development partners in an ambitious project they're "exceptional."
"They're putting their money where their mouth is and they're doing something that defies odds," he said.
Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.