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MailTribune.com
  • Pillars of the Community

    Medford Arts Commission brainstorms ways to beautify Interstate 5 viaduct columns near Hawthorne Park
  • The Interstate 5 viaduct that cuts through the heart of Medford could undergo a makeover as part of the upgrade of Hawthorne Park.
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  • The Interstate 5 viaduct that cuts through the heart of Medford could undergo a makeover as part of the upgrade of Hawthorne Park.
    "We're trying to pretty up the viaduct," said Brian Sjothun, director of parks and recreation. "The concept is to take the viaduct and make it an attraction."
    The Medford City Council last week agreed to seek a recommendation from the Medford Arts Commission on the best way to beautify the massive columns that support the viaduct.
    Some ideas include placing murals or lighting on the columns to make the underside of the viaduct more inviting.
    Sjothun said that thanks to Ashland, cities now have an opportunity to work with the Oregon Department of Transportation to make state bridges and highways more attractive.
    Ashland had a say in the design of bridges over the interstate at exits 14 and 19. The city also allowed murals under a short viaduct on Lithia Way in downtown Ashland.
    Both of those projects opened the door for the possibility of a cooperative artistic relationship between a city and ODOT, Sjothun said.
    Medford has reached out to ODOT for preliminary discussions, but a better idea of the type of artwork that would be installed on the columns needs to be developed, Sjothun said.
    Other cities, such as Seattle, have installed lighting on freeway columns.
    "We've been talking about this for years and years and years," Councilor Eli Matthews said.
    Medford officials are looking at a $1.7 million proposal to redesign Hawthorne Park, which has been plagued by crime and vagrancy issues over the years.
    The Medford Urban Renewal Agency has authorized $1 million toward the park rehabilitation. If other projects on MURA's list come in under budget, the unspent dollars would be applied to Hawthorne.
    The plan includes a spray pad, basketball courts, artwork and two dog parks — one each for small and large dogs.
    New walkways would be built throughout the park, along with new lighting and a new restroom, which should be installed this summer.
    Improved irrigation equipment and many new plants would be installed, as well.
    A base plan to renovate the park would cost almost $1.5 million, or $500,000 more than the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board previously had earmarked for the project.
    The city also wants to tie together the Hawthorne improvements with work going on at The Commons redevelopment project, including possibly building a pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.
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