A playground and a new downtown park are taking shape next to the headquarters of Lithia Motors and will be open to the public by the end of the month.
"This isn't just a plaza for Lithia," said City Councilman Dick Gordon, who is president of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board. "This is a city park."
Gordon said he's been approached by some local residents who don't realize the park belongs to the city, not to Lithia.
Workers are installing landscaping, pavers and other features in the park, which is one of the focal points in The Commons, a project designed to pump life into the downtown. Shade structures could not be installed this week because of the wind.
A colorful playground with a slide is one of the most distinctive features in the new park, and a rubberized surface has been installed, creating a spongy feel that will help prevent injuries in case of falls.
A second park, which will likely have a large lawn area, will be built after the beginning of next year just to the north of the new park.
Officials are still discussing whether to keep a wall and large doorway left over from the former Greyhound bus station on the site.
The wall has been preserved as a possible entrance for the second park and to serve as a historical reminder of what previously stood on the property.
The City Council has questioned the cost of bracing the wall and restoring it, estimated at about $50,000.
"In view of the costs, we asked the landmarks commission to take another look at it," Gordon said.
The Medford Landmark and Historic Preservation Commission will be making a recommendation in the near future on whether to keep the wall.
Lithia and the city Public Works Department are also discussing a request to install stop signs at West Bartlett and Fifth streets, as well as at East Bartlett and Fifth streets.
Currently, there are stop signs only for motorists traveling one way on West Bartlett and East Bartlett. Eric Iversen, Lithia project manager, said additional stop signs are needed for motorists traveling along Fifth Street to keep the area safe and inviting for walkers.
"We want pedestrian movement to be the priority," said Iversen.
Bartlett was formerly a two-way street, but has been divided into two one-way streets on either side of the park blocks.
The Medford Public Works Department denied the request, telling Iversen there is not enough traffic on the streets to warrant an additional stop sign.
Cory Crebbin, public works director, said the city's Traffic Coordinating Committee determined there won't be enough traffic on Fifth to warrant the extra stop signs. Crebbin said Lithia could appeal the committee's decision to the City Council.
The parks, new roads and Lithia headquarters are part of a redevelopment project undertaken by the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. MURA has contributed $14 million for the project, and Lithia has contributed $18 million, primarily for its new headquarters.
Lithia is also acting as the general contractor for the project.
While the first park is close to opening, Iversen said, some of the benches will not be brought out until the spring. He said many of the benches and other furniture at the parks will be stored during winter months.
The first park is dotted with trees and bushes and is made up largely of decorative pavers.
Iversen said a celebration will be held for the park opening sometime next year.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.