Residents of the Highlander apartment buildings watched Wednesday as demolition crews began tearing down three of the buildings to make way for a driveway and parking space for a new eye care clinic.

Residents of the Highlander apartment buildings watched Wednesday as demolition crews began tearing down three of the buildings to make way for a driveway and parking space for a new eye care clinic.

"It's just bang, slam, bang, slam," said Ruth Tillery, an 85-year-old resident of the Highlander complex, located at the corner of Highland Drive and Barnett Road.

Three of the complex's eight buildings are being leveled to make room for a parking lot and a driveway onto Highland Drive for the new Medical Eye Center building that's scheduled to open in October 2009. Access on Barnett Road is limited to right-in, right-out, and the clinic wanted to build a full access driveway on Highland Drive.

Keith Casebolt, the eye center's chief executive officer, said ground will be broken June 6 for the new 37,000-square-foot building that will allow the practice to move from its current home near Rogue Valley Medical Center.

"We're basically going to double our size," said Casebolt. He noted that the practice has been renting 3,000 square feet of office space in the nearby Black Oak Shopping Center because it had outgrown its office space.

The Highlander buildings were constructed in 1967 by Wally Iverson, a respected philanthropist, small newspaper publisher and lifelong Medford resident who died in 2005 at age 88.

The Medical Eye Center purchased the Highlander property as well as three vacant lots to the east from Rogue Valley Medical Center last year. The eye clinic will be built on the three vacant lots, which are zoned for commercial service and professional offices.

Bianca Petrou, acting planning director, said the project has been approved by the city.

Casebolt said residents of the three buildings were given more than three months' notice, and some received rent reduction and relocation assistance. He said residents of the 22 remaining apartments were informed about the demolition before work began.

Jim Akery, project coordinator for R.A. Murphy Construction, said the demolition work should take about a week.

Casebolt said the remaining apartments could eventually be removed to make space for another medical office building.

"It could be years in the future," he said. "We don't have any plans for that."

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail mlanders@mailtribune.com.