JPR Foundation focuses on Holly Theatre

Jefferson Square headquarters proposal 'in a state of dormancy' as fundraising takes priority

A proposed new headquarters for Jefferson Public Radio in downtown Medford has been placed on the back burner as supporters try to reignite fundraising efforts for the Holly Theatre.

"It's in a state of dormancy," Steve Nelson, president of the JPR Foundation, said of The Jefferson Square project, which would have housed Jefferson Public Radio's new headquarters at the old Medford Grocery warehouse on 10th Street. The radio stations are currently housed in a basement at Southern Oregon University.

However, Nelson said he wants to stress that the Jefferson Square project isn't dead.

The foundation has been regrouping after a particularly divisive confrontation with Southern Oregon University this year over the leadership of the radio station, which led to the ouster of former executive director Ron Kramer and forced greater separation with the foundation.

Paul Westhelle has served as executive director of the radio stations and the foundation since Kramer's departure.

The foundation has created a spinoff organization called Jefferson Live! that will undertake the Holly fundraising campaign. The Holly, along with the Cascade Theatre in Redding, will work in concert to attract acts that will perform at both locations.

Nelson said he expects a new executive director for Jefferson Live! to be hired in the next few months. Nineteen candidates applied for the job, but the number has been narrowed to five, who will be flown into Jackson County for interviews. The job will pay from $60,000 to $80,000, depending on experience.

The five candidates, none of whom live in this area, will be assessed on how quickly they can get the Holly fundraising campaign up and running. The goal is to raise about $3 million in donations and other funding to restore the theater. The facade and a cracked beam supporting the roof were restored earlier this year.

With the focus on the Holly, an analysis and business plan for the Jefferson Square project have been put on hold, Nelson said.

Under a deed restriction with Bruce Larson, JPR has three years to begin restoration of the Medford Grocery warehouse.

A year has already gone by, he said, so the foundation might have to sit down with Larson if the project takes longer than expected.

Carolyn Shaw Straus, vice president of Larson's, said, "We are supporting JPR through the transition. It's their building."

She said she isn't worried about the three-year period and understands the main focus will be on the Holly in the near future.

John Snider, co-chairman of the Holly Theatre Restoration Committee, said he thinks the foundation will pick the right candidate to get the theater restoration back on track.

"It's better to get it right than to go through what we went through," he said.

Snider said the exterior of the Holly looks great, and the interior is sound.

"When we bring people inside, they are blown away by the size of it," he said.

Snider said he's convinced that the Holly will be fully restored, and he's confident the new executive director will spark the fundraising campaign.

"I think the downtown is looking more promising than it has for a long time," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or

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