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MailTribune.com
  • Apartments-in-the-sky proposal resurrected

    City would retain ownership of parking lot in new version
  • A proposal to build an elevated residential complex above a parking lot on Central Avenue in Medford has resurfaced after the city took a pass on the project in December.
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  • A proposal to build an elevated residential complex above a parking lot on Central Avenue in Medford has resurfaced after the city took a pass on the project in December.
    "We're just trying to get it back," said Mark McKechnie of Oregon Architecture in Medford.
    The 25-unit Skybox project, now called Sky Park, will go before the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board at 6 p.m. Thursday in the City Council chambers at 411 W. Eighth St.
    The MURA board will decide whether it wants to enter into an exclusive 90-day negotiation period with McKechnie and Ashland developer Allan Sandler.
    In December, the project appeared to unravel over a disagreement with the city about who should retain ownership of the parking lot, located across the street from the Medford library at the northwest corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street.
    MURA wanted to retain ownership of the land, and the developers would have paid $1 for "air rights" to build the residential complex. The parking lot would have remained open to the public.
    However, the developers asked the city to sell them the land, which they would lease back to the city for up to 100 years.
    As a result, the MURA board, which initially endorsed the concept, decided not to renew an exclusive 90-day negotiation period.
    McKechnie said he didn't realize that retaining ownership of the land was so important to the city. He said the idea of buying the land came up in order to make the agreement simpler, particularly working out the technical details of how the elevated structure attaches to the parking lot area.
    "We were trying to make the thing as simple as possible for everybody," he said.
    Under the latest proposal, the city would retain full ownership of the parking lot. The developers would retain ownership of only the structure built above the lot as well as supporting columns.
    Eventually, the residential complex could become a condominium association. McKechnie said the structure would belong to the association, and the parking lot would belong to the city.
    The project calls for apartment-sized, one- and two-bedroom units.
    The cost of the project is estimated to be in excess of $2 million, funded by private dollars. McKechnie said he couldn't say when the project could start until an agreement is reached with MURA.
    A central open-air courtyard would traverse the center of the complex, from north to south. The courtyard would vary in width from 22 to 35 feet.
    Currently the parking lot has 75 spaces; the developer would increase that amount to 85 by removing planters.
    Under the proposal, the agreement would allow one parking space for each unit, resulting in a net loss of 15 spaces.
    Councilor Dick Gordon, who is the MURA board president, said he has two issues with Sky Park that he would like discussed at the board meeting.
    The first is making sure the city owns the land.
    The second is the density of the project. He cites four-story buildings that have gone up recently, including the Lithia Motors headquarters and One West Main project.
    Another project proposed by the Jackson County Housing Authority is the four-story, 50-unit residential complex on Sixth Street.
    Gordon said the Housing Authority's proposal is on roughly the same sized lot as Sky Park, but will have twice the density. Under Sky Park a public parking lot would be retained, but the Housing Authority's proposal would get rid of a public parking lot.
    Daniel Bunn, a city councilor and MURA board member, said he would like some discussion among the board members before reaching a decision on any agreement.
    "I think it's worth looking at," he said. "It's good to see development in the downtown."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.
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