Green light for Evergreen?

Three companies propose building offices around downtown parking garage
Ian Rowbottom, an employee of Simpson and Associates, applies a sealer to the edge of the concrete slab surrounding the Evergreen parking garage. After more than a decade of starts and stops, plans are once again in the works to develop the vacant space on three sides of the garage.Bob Pennell

An agreement tentatively has been reached to build a $9 million, four-story corporate office around the Evergreen parking garage in downtown Medford, apparently bringing to an end a decade-long saga involving the property.

If the proposal is approved by the city's urban renewal board, Pacific Retirement Systems Inc., Rogue Disposal and Recycling and Procare Software would join together to build the 105,000-square-foot office complex. It would put a layer of offices around the three sides of the parking structure fronting on West Main, South Fir and West Eighth streets.

$9 million

Expected cost of new downtown office building

4

Number of stories

planned for new building

105,000

Amount of square feet in new building

$2 million

Amount MURA would contribute if approved

50%

Larger than

new Lithia

headquarters

"We've got three great groups coming together to make this happen," said PRS president and chief executive officer Brian McLemore, who was instrumental in bringing the other companies on board.

The building, with the address of One West Main, would be 50 percent larger than the new Lithia headquarters on Riverside Avenue and could set the stage for more corporate presence in the downtown.

"We hope that what Lithia started will be continued," McLemore said.

PRS would have 100 employees in the building, moving out of its 16,000-square-foot headquarters near the Rogue Valley Manor, which is part of PRS' holdings.

Rogue Disposal would bring up to 50 employees into its new offices, moving from its current headquarters in White City at 8001 Table Rock Road.

"Almost 75 years ago we started in downtown Medford with a small office," said Garry Penning, director of marketing at Rogue Disposal.

Penning said downtown Medford would provide a more central location for the company's customer base, which includes most cities in Jackson County.

Penning said the companies have already explored financing for the project. "We're confident that financing will be arranged," he said. "We've got three solid companies."

Procare, currently on Excel Drive near Costco, would bring 45 employees to the downtown location. The company creates child-care management software for more than 25,000 clients.

Procare would occupy 30,000 square feet, PRS 30,000 square feet and Rogue Disposal 15,000 square feet. Tentative plans call for the first floor of the building to feature restaurants, retail and some offices.

The design of the building will be similar to the downtown library on Central Avenue and the Higher Education Center on Riverside Avenue.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency would contribute $2 million as an incentive toward the project. If approved by the MURA board on Oct. 18, the project would begin in spring 2013 and be completed by fall 2014.

"This is one more chapter in the redevelopment of downtown Medford," said Dick Gordon, president of the MURA board. "Hopefully, there will be more chapters to follow."

Gordon said the project will bring 200 jobs downtown in the near term, with the possibility that the number could double over time.

He said the city is leveraging $2 million to receive an initial $9 million private investment. With additional tenant improvements, the project will generate more private investment over time.

In addition, the new building will put a major part of the property back on the tax rolls, Gordon said.

The Evergreen parking garage has been a thorn in the side of city officials seeking to revitalize the downtown for more than a decade.

Near the turn of the century, the city proposed a six-story combined retail, office and residential project known as the Winetrout Building. But that was shelved in 2002 after a downtown property owner threatened to sue the urban renewal agency for exceeding its authority in creating space that would compete with his commercial buildings.

In 2005, plans were announced for a public-private partnership on the site, with a residential and retail complex to be built on three sides of the $10.2 million Evergreen garage.

The parking structure was completed in 2006, but by 2008 the Bella Vita project was dead, in part because of disputes over prevailing wage issues. The state Bureau of Labor and Industries eventually ruled that the project was required to use the more expensive prevailing wages standard because of its connection to the publicly funded parking structure. With the economy also in a tailspin, the developer pulled out.

The three companies will pay prevailing wages for the project.

In addition, MURA will provide the three companies with 200 spaces in the Evergreen parking garage, which is currently not heavily used.

The companies will also lease 100 spaces at $10 a month for each space.

As a result, 75 percent of the 395 spaces in the garage will be used by the three companies. If the city ever decides to sell the garage, the companies would have the right of first refusal to purchase it.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com.



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