Downtown Medford's malaise and lack of vision have allowed other cities to take the lead in creating agricultural hubs in Southern Oregon, Mark Rivers, a consultant on the Commons redevelopment project, told the City Council Thursday.

Downtown Medford's malaise and lack of vision have allowed other cities to take the lead in creating agricultural hubs in Southern Oregon, Mark Rivers, a consultant on the Commons redevelopment project, told the City Council Thursday.

Rivers, president of Boise, Idaho-based Brix & Co., said the city has the potential to overcome the malaise and create the largest farmers market in the region.

Rivers presented his ideas for improvement free of charge, suggesting the city undertake just a few at little cost to get the ball rolling.

"I see a community here with unbridled potential," he said.

Rivers said Grants Pass, which has agricultural festivals and Saturday farmers markets, has laid claim to being the center of the food and wine industry in the region.

"We can't let them do that," he said.

Councilwoman Jill Stout said she liked Rivers' idea of an incubator program to spur development of agricultural business and stimulate interest in year-round agricultural products.

"I agree with you that some of the towns around here have stolen our thunder," she said.

Rivers suggested moving the farmers market from the Medford armory to downtown, an idea that has been discussed over the years. He urged erecting signs that create a taste trail through Medford, leading to wineries, food centers as well as the downtown, the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater and other attractions.

More long-range ideas include a possible indoor farmers market, a business incubator for wineries and spirits distilleries and the creation of the largest urban garden on the West Coast.

He said Medford has lots of empty lots that could be converted into a garden.

Rivers is a consultant for other communities throughout the U.S. He's part of an effort to build a 68,000-square-foot agricultural pavilion in Santa Rosa, Calif., known as the Sonoma County MarketHall.

Medford has different groups that need to get together to form a cohesive vision, Rivers said.

"There is a vacuum of leadership that could be helped by the council," he said.

Laz Ayala of the Heart of Medford Association said the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, his association and other groups and businesses are not working well enough together.

"We lack direction and we lack vision in downtown Medford," he said.

Sally Densmore of Heart of Medford said she liked Rivers' idea of a more cohesive vision for the downtown.

"We're all going in different directions," she said.

Reach Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail dmann@mailtribune.com.