A developer has expressed tentative interest to Medford officials about building a commercial project on the site of the ill-fated Bella Vita complex in downtown.

A developer has expressed tentative interest to Medford officials about building a commercial project on the site of the ill-fated Bella Vita complex in downtown.

The proposal, however, would not include residences as originally intended for the site, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board was told Thursday.

The original Bella Vita, which died in 2008 after disputes erupted over prevailing wage laws, was planned for six stories, with 64 condominiums and specialty shops. The Evergreen parking garage that sits on the site bounded by West Main, Fir and West Eighth streets, was designed specifically for the Bella Vita project.

A Bend developer later proposed a $5 million to $7 million complex that would have wrapped around the Evergreen garage, but withdrew from negotiations with the city in February.

The Evergreen parking garage was built in 2006 by MURA at a cost of $10.2 million.

Bill Hoke, interim city manager, said the latest developer to express interest — whose identity isn't being disclosed during preliminary negotiations — wasn't proposing a residential complex, but indicated it could be more oriented to commercial use.

"This proposal was a change of concept," Hoke said.

Most urban renewal board members, all of whom are also City Council members, agreed that building an upscale residential complex is unlikely in the current real estate market.

Only board member Karen Blair expressed interest in continuing to seek upscale housing rather than looking for someone to create more commercial space.

"There is no point putting something there that we've already got," she said.

Board member Al Densmore said the real estate industry has changed so markedly in the past few years that it would be foolish for MURA to wait for a developer who will create an upscale residential project.

Densmore said MURA should remain flexible in looking at other ideas for the Evergreen.

"If this doesn't bear fruit, let's look at a different concept," Densmore said.

Hoke told the board members that subsidized housing is still being built and could be an option for the Evergreen site. However, board members quickly rejected that idea.

"No subsidized housing," Jim Kuntz said.

Board members agreed to continue to maintain $2 million in MURA's budget to be used as an incentive to attract a developer to the Evergreen project.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.