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MailTribune.com
  • The Commons project is a go

    Lithia has two lenders to finance effort; construction should begin in the spring
  • Lithia Motors has secured two lenders to help launch construction of Medford's downtown Commons, a project that includes the company's future corporate headquarters.
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  • Lithia Motors has secured two lenders to help launch construction of Medford's downtown Commons, a project that includes the company's future corporate headquarters.
    The joint project to build a 65,000-square-foot headquarters and adjacent park space on two city blocks between Riverside Avenue, East Sixth, East Fifth and Bartlett streets is funded by Lithia and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency with hopes of revitalizing downtown.
    Lithia executives and some city officials said the project would bring construction jobs in the short term and serve as a downtown magnet in the long term.
    "This is a huge development in advancing the project and moving it forward," said City Councilman Chris Corcoran. "What a major boon for downtown economic efforts!"
    Lithia President Bryan DeBoer would not disclose the exact amount of the loans or the names of the West Coast lenders, but he said the loans will cover up to 80 percent of Lithia's $16 million share of the project.
    MURA is contributing another $14 million to the project in the form of infrastructure, property acquisition and development of two park blocks adjacent to the headquarters.
    The project includes construction of Lithia offices, 8,000 square feet in retail and dining space on the first floor, two city park blocks and a pedestrian thoroughfare through the Sixth Street city parking garage. The city park area will be deeded back to the city for maintenance.
    Medford's OgdenRoemerWilkerson Architecture and Interior Architects of Seattle have been working for the past six months on the design of the building.
    Demolition of existing Lithia buildings between Riverside, Bartlett, East Fifth and Sixth streets is set to begin before the end of the year. Construction of the new building will start in the spring, with completion of the headquarters slated for fall 2011, DeBoer said. He estimated construction of the headquarters would employ about 200 people.
    Plans for the project have been languishing since 2006. Since then, the Lithia building has been scaled down from a 10-story tower to four stories. The location of the headquarters also has shifted to the south from between East Fourth and East Fifth to between East Fifth and East Sixth streets.
    Bartlett will be made into two one-way sections with the park block serving as its median. The existing Bartlett will be the southbound lane, while the alley between Apple and Bartlett streets will be converted into the northbound lane.
    The corporate headquarters will consolidate about 300 of Lithia's downtown Medford employees from a total of eight buildings, DeBoer said. In that sense, the project won't bring new jobs to downtown, but city officials are hopeful the concentrated staff will generally bring more economic activity to and interest in the downtown center.
    Despite Lithia's revisions to the project, the city's urban renewal arm has remained committed to the project and has not decreased its financial contribution.
    Councilman Ben Truwe has been the only detractor on the Medford City Council. He voted against agreeing to the reduction in the project's scale in February 2010.
    Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.
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