Medford officials predict a second $1.65 million park in The Commons will finally generate the spark in downtown Medford that some other cities already enjoy.
"I love going to Ashland when they light their trees up," said Brian Sjothun, director of the Medford Parks and Recreation Department.
Sjothun unveiled plans this week to give the city of Medford the equivalent of a daily Christmas when the second park in The Commons opens to the public this November. All the trees will be lit every day, while a special lighting ceremony will be held at the beginning of the holiday season featuring an even grander display with four large Christmas trees.
The Commons is a multiblock redevelopment roughly bounded by Riverside Avenue, Sixth Street, Bartlett Street and Fourth Street. Lithia Motors' headquarters is in The Commons.
The first park is almost completed, and construction on the second park is scheduled to begin later this spring. The city hopes that once it's finished, the parks and Lithia's headquarters will not only serve as a centerpiece for redevelopment, but also as a magnet to attract other businesses.
The City Council and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency this week approved a proposal for the design of the second park, which will feature a large grassy area, a stage, a dressing room and a perimeter of large trees designed to provide a canopy over the sidewalk areas.
One of the main features of the park will be a large living fir tree at the north end that will serve as the primary Christmas tree during the holiday season. The large fir will be surrounded by three smaller fir trees, which will also be lighted.
Both parks will have enough electrical outlets to handle concerts and vendors for large events.
"There's absolutely some heavy-duty electrical in these park blocks," said Eric Iversen, project manager for Lithia, which is the general contractor for the project.
The base cost to build the second park will be $1.4 million. A shade structure for the stage will be another $100,000, and a dressing room, used for storage and for equipment, will run another $150,000.
To help with the maintenance of the parks, Lithia will contribute $32,750 to the city during the first year, plus provide another $6,000 to $16,000 in in-kind contributions to help with events and other amenities.
A sponsorship program should help with some additional costs, including a hanging flower feature that will cost $5,200, extra street lighting at $8,250 and a traffic control barricade system at $3,200.
The grassy area in the center can be used for picnics or activities such as playing Frisbee most days of the week. When events are planned, the grassy area can hold more than 1,000 people, who would have a direct view of the stage. About 200 seats provided by a sponsor will be available for rent near the stage.
Lighted planters on the edge of the park will provide additional seating and a view of the stage.
During events, the city can close off streets, which will effectively increase the overall size of the parks.
The closest public bathrooms will be in the Middleford parking garage, on the south side of Sixth Street. During events, the city will bring in portable bathrooms.
Councilor John Michaels said he would like to see an ice-skating rink during the winter months.
But the cost for the rink — some $250,000 to $350,000 — put off most councilors.
"I would love to see an ice-skating rink, but I don't see the money for this," Councilor Chris Corcoran said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.