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MailTribune.com
  • Lithia will soon have neighbors at The Commons

    Building renovations join Lithia headquarters at the Commons
  • Lithia Motors headquarters has stood as the only citadel of business around the two parks that make up The Commons in downtown Medford for the past year.
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  • Lithia Motors headquarters has stood as the only citadel of business around the two parks that make up The Commons in downtown Medford for the past year.
    That will change soon with the opening of SkyOak Wealth Management, which is in the process of converting a former Southern Oregon University building into offices, seminar rooms and even a living space for out-of-town clients.
    "The timing was great for us," said Jennifer Davis, president of the company. "We took a little chance."
    She said she wasn't sure that the second park would be built, but looking out the window she can see that the park is almost finished.
    Her husband and business partner, Derek, said, "It's turning out to be a great location."
    The couple's financial service business has offices in Shady Cove, Grants Pass, Ashland and Medford that will be consolidated at the 9,600-square foot Mary Phipps building at 229 Bartlett St., built in 1955.
    They bought the building, which was a former dormitory for women until 1984, for $284,000 in May from SOU. They will spend $300,000 renovating the two-story brick structure with views of Roxy Anne and Lithia's headquarters.
    A large seminar room downstairs even has a fireplace.
    SkyOak has already leased out 10 office spaces in the upstairs.
    They will also be looking out at the renovation of the Monarch building to the north. The project should be completed by December.
    Derek Davis said he will have a front row seat to the Christmas tree lighting ceremony that will be held in the park as well as the candy cane hunt. The activities in the park will also appeal to tenants as well.
    "We wanted to create Class 'A' executive offices," he said.
    Lithia is remodeling the Monarch hoping to get a brew pub or some other kind of business inside.
    Both the Monarch and Mary Phipps buildings will receive facade improvement grants from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency.
    The Monarch building, with its distinctive Streamline Moderne style of architecture, has curved features including a curved window. Built in 1947, the "Leever Motor Company" building became Medford's first Dodge dealer. In the 1970s, the building became the Monarch Seed and Feed store.
    Workers will restore the original lines of the building.
    On the west side of the building, workers have reopened windows and doors that were blocked to allow more access to the second park in The Commons.
    A metal roof that obscured some of the curved features has been torn off. The interior is being gutted.
    "The expectation is it would be cool to have a restaurant out there," said George Kramer, a historic preservation consultant who is called in for advice on remodeling old buildings. Kramer said he hasn't heard whether a specific tenant has been found for the building.
    Eric Iversen, project manager for Lithia, said the Monarch will be seismically upgraded with major improvements on the exterior.
    The interior is being gutted, essentially leaving an open floor plan that will be modified depending on the tenant's needs.
    Iversen said he didn't know the full cost for remodeling the building yet, though Lithia did receive an $80,000 MURA grant. "We will match that and then some," Iversen said.
    SkyOak's move into The Commons is part of a trend of businesses that are moving into downtown Medford since the Lithia headquarters was opened..
    A major office complex is taking shape at the corner of Main and Fir streets that will house Pacific Retirement Services, Rogue Disposal and Recycling and Procare Software.
    Jackson County is building a health services complex at West Eighth and Grape streets.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, dmann@mailtribune.com or @reporterdm.
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