Steel could turn into gold for Medford businesses as massive girders for two office buildings begin to transform the skyline and offer the promise of new vitality in the downtown.

Steel could turn into gold for Medford businesses as massive girders for two office buildings begin to transform the skyline and offer the promise of new vitality in the downtown.

Medford is in the midst of a building boom that started with the Lithia Motors headquarters and is now dominated by the Jackson County health services center on Eighth Street and new offices for three corporations at the building known as One West Main.

"It looks like there's new life coming into town," said Kathleen Fox, 63, who moved to Medford four years ago from Pittsburgh, Penn. "It looks like a lot of growth is coming."

Fox, who was meeting friends at a downtown restaurant, hopes the growth gives her more reasons to come to Medford.

"They need to figure out how to make Medford more like Ashland," she said.

Her sister, Linda Rose, said she usually comes downtown for a specific reason, but not for window shopping or events.

"I've never been to the downtown for nightlife," said the 66-year-old who moved here four years ago from Corpus Christi, Texas. "I hope this activity means there are more reasons to draw people downtown."

A 115,000-square-foot building at the corner of Main and Fir streets will be occupied by Pacific Retirement Services, Rogue Disposal and Recycling and Procare Software.

The three companies, other offices and retail shops will mean the building should have up to 400 people inside during the day, said Brian McLemore, PRS's president and chief executive officer.

Up the street, the county's $27 million health building and parking garage will house 230 employees.

"I think there's going to be a big boon to restaurants," McLemore said. "I think it's going to be a notable change."

McLemore said several other businesses that require office space are interested in the building.

Also, he hopes to attract one or two restaurants in the ground floor.

"We've talked to a few people about a restaurant, but we're not quite to the end zone," McLemore said.

He said he expects to have more information sometime in the first part of 2014.

McLemore said One West Main and the county health building will bring lots of professional-level people to the downtown.

"It's definitely going to change the feel and the vibe," he said.

PRS has already rented out space in local restaurants for employee lunch meetings.

One West Main will be 116,599 square feet and four stories and will cost $8.3 million, with several million more planned for tenant improvements. The building should be ready toward the end of 2014.

The county health building started out at 86,000 square feet, but county officials decided to expand it after construction began.

Harvey Bragg, deputy county administrator, said the total square footage is still being worked out. He said the increased size will likely add another $2 million to the project cost and was changed to reflect increased demand for health care in the state.

Diane Raymond, executive director for the Heart of Medford Association, said she expects changes with the new buildings.

"Probably not as quickly as everybody would like to see them," she said.

One West Main in particular will occupy an area that has been devoid of business for years.

"We're filling in the dead zones," she said.

ScanDesign has moved back into its old building at Main and Fir and Scrub Hub moved in across the street in the former Winans building.

"I've just seen some really big important pieces of the puzzle fall into place," Raymond said.

Many residents in the downtown weren't sure what the building activity was all about.

"All I know is it makes traffic always get stuck over there," said Zachary Grant, a 21-year-old Central Point resident who attends Rogue Community College, which also has expanded in recent years. "But at least they're doing something."

Grant is studying industrial welding, and there's plenty going on in the two buildings.

"It's providing more jobs," he said.

Scott Perry, superintendent of the Southern Oregon Education Service District, was headed to a restaurant in the downtown for lunch.

"I'm so happy seeing some construction in the region," he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or