Vision is a word that comes up a lot when you're talking to former Medford Mayor Lindsay Berryman about the monumental efforts it took to change the face of downtown.
Before Berryman became the first — and so far only — female mayor of Medford, she served on the board of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, which was battling against a town labeled "Dreadford" by many.
"The buildings were dilapidated and were falling into disrepair. There were a lot of empty storefronts, and there wasn't a lot of traffic," said Berryman, reflecting on the downtown that greeted her and her husband when they moved here in the 1970s.
Berryman moved her business, the Cookie Connection, downtown in 1986.
"I wanted to show other merchants what they could do by infusing the exterior facade and having an interior that's spunky," said Berryman.
Inspired by her time in Germany, where she lived before moving to Southern Oregon, she wanted to help enliven downtown with some European vitality.
"I thought about when we lived in Germany and how they focused on rivers and creeks, and how the city centers were strong and vibrant," said Berryman. "I recognized that Medford could do that."
Berryman served on Medford City Council and MURA through the 1980s and '90s and as mayor from 1999 to 2004.
During that time she helped organize groups, raise money and carry out numerous projects, including renovation of the historic Craterian Theater, rehabilitation of Bear Creek and the annual arts festival, Art in Bloom.
"Nobody was a believer. What they were looking at had been there for so long," said Berryman. "They needed to see the vision. We had so many failed attempts, they needed to see what it would look like."
Berryman helped raise $5 million for the remodel of the Craterian, which was built in 1924.
"It took me about five or six years to raise the money. The center of our historical town needed to be revitalized and re-established. Every single member of the community came together," said Berryman.
One big downtown project that occurred during her tenure was the 1998 removal of a Bear Creek dam at Jackson Street. The stagnant water behind the dam was an stinking eyesore, and the dam itself was a major impediment to migrating salmon. It took nearly a decade for the dam to be removed once it was identified as a priority, but when it went, downtown revitalization efforts got a boost.
"It was one of the first dams to come out in the nation," Berryman said. "I'll never forget the day one of the fish and wildlife people told me salmon were spawning (upstream) in Larson Creek."
Another point of pride for Berryman is the annual, spring Art in Bloom celebration, which blends cultural and agricultural aspects of the community.
"I've always been an art advocate. Julie Petretto (former executive director of the Medford Visitors and Convention Bureau) and I were friends and were always working together on events like the Pear Blossom and the car shows. She was a great event planner and organizer," said Berryman.
The women worked with Judy Barnes, director of the Rogue Gallery, local arts supporter Elizabeth Udall and others to develop the concept for Art in Bloom, which sprouted in 2001.
"I had a lot of help, I mostly just open doors," said Berryman. "It brings agriculture and art together."
Now in semi-retirement, Berryman still has plenty of ideas to improve downtown.
A master plan still needs to be implemented, she said. And downtown needs more housing.
"I'd like to see the city create a code to integrate the creek. I'd like to see restaurants serving lunches along the creekside. I'd like to see bike shops set up around the bike path," said Berryman. "If people have the vision, then it will begin happening."
Reach reporter Mandy Valencia at 541-776-4486 or email@example.com.