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MailTribune.com
  • Building momentum

    Alba Village shopping development begins to show renewed signs of life
  • The Northgate Centre at the old Medco lumber mill site in Medford has hurdled its fair share of setbacks since it was proposed in 2005, but the project is still moving ahead, developers say.
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      when the 15 minutes are up
      Sunday — Ryan Sheaffer of Medford, 2005 contestant on "The Bachelorette"

      Monday — Windfall, a black bear raised by two "mountain men" in Coos County

      Tuesday — Ric Holt, former Jackson County commissioner

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  • The Northgate Centre at the old Medco lumber mill site in Medford has hurdled its fair share of setbacks since it was proposed in 2005, but the project is still moving ahead, developers say.
    Within the next few weeks, partners in the property at highways 62 and 238 will submit plan amendments to the city requesting permission to develop about half of Alba Village, the 417,000-square-foot retail center in Northgate, said Steve Morgan, managing partner of the 42-acre retail component.
    "The city, as well as (the Oregon Department of Transportation) have been very cooperative, and if everything goes like we have planned ... we hope to be open in late spring 2012," Morgan said.
    Approval of the new amendment allowing construction in phases should take about six months, leaving less than a year for construction, Morgan said.
    Initially, the Northgate project was going to be developed all at once, and Alba Village was going to feature primarily small and medium-sized stores. But things have changed in the past five years, said Morgan.
    "The small spaces are really difficult to rent right now, so we're taking a different approach: focusing on negotiations with major nationwide retailers for larger spaces ... to get the ball rolling," he said.
    Over time, Alba Village will fill the smaller storefronts, but for now, Morgan is going to take what he can get.
    "This is a completely market-driven development; we're going to respond to the market instead of trying to create a market," he said. "If the economy keeps improving, then we will go along with it."
    According to Morgan, the development of Alba Village took a major hit in 2008 when top U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy and sent Wall Street deeper into crisis.
    "We had a committal from a major Wall Street bank to fund the whole thing and we were all ready to go until the financial markets collapsed," Morgan said.
    The combination of a lack of investors and retailers rethinking their expansion plans held up the development of Alba Village, and the Northgate project as a whole, Morgan said.
    Regardless, Morgan said that he and his partner, San Francisco investor Guy Farthing, recently have formed a joint partnership with a "major publicly traded real estate investment trust," which he declined to reveal.
    According to Morgan, the trust has about 60 million square feet of retail space around the country and should be a good long-term fit for the development of Alba Village.
    "We're in good shape," he said. "Most all of the major players that were with us two or three years ago have hung with us and we've been very heartened by that."
    Morgan declined to disclose the names of possible tenants, because negotiations are still under way, but he said that the speculation and rumors surrounding some of the retailers are true.
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