Major repairs to the seven-year-old Evergreen parking garage are under way after the city recently awarded a $1.2 million contract to S&B James Construction Co. of White City.

Major repairs to the seven-year-old Evergreen parking garage are under way after the city recently awarded a $1.2 million contract to S&B James Construction Co. of White City.

The Evergreen repair project, off Main Street next to the railroad tracks in downtown Medford, came in about $100,000 under engineering estimates.

Adroit Construction Co. of Ashland submitted the only other bid at almost $1.3 million.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency originally set aside $2.9 million to repair both the Evergreen garage and the Middleford garage on Sixth Street.

Lithia Motors is gearing up to remodel the Middleford garage at a cost of about $1.6 million, plus another $300,000 to create a walkway through the building to connect Bartlett Street as part of The Commons project. Lithia is also going to open up the stairwells so pedestrians will be visible from the street.

Lithia hasn't started work on the Middleford garage yet. Employees of the company have been moving into the new headquarters.

As workers repaired the Evergreen garage Friday, only five vehicles were parked inside, even though it was designed to hold 410.

The lack of use has been a source of frustration for city officials since the parking garage opened.

MURA Board President Dick Gordon said the lack of students during the summer likely contributed to the low number of vehicles. But he said he's hopeful that Pacific Retirement Services, the parent company of the Rogue Valley Manor, will decide to build its corporate headquarters around the parking garage.

"I'm really optimistic about downtown Medford right now," he said.

Gordon said the repairs to both the Middleford and Evergreen garages are deferred maintenance, discovered after City Council assumed control of MURA in 2010.

"I think we're doing a lot better job of protecting those assets," he said.

He said part of the problem with Evergreen is that it was designed for a building to surround three sides of it. As a result, water infiltrated areas surrounding the garage, he said.

Much of the construction budget — $943,389 — will add extra waterproof protection to protect the building.

In addition, S&B James will spend $93,701 on concrete, $13,311 for electrical work, $43,134 for plumbing, $45,903 for paint and $22,686 to make the building more vandalism-proof.

The city agreed to purchase $172,000 in new LED lights for both Middleford and Evergreen to provide better illumination and to cut the cost of electricity.

S&B James will install the lights as part of its contract.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency has been in negotiations with Pacific Retirement Services, which wants to build a 120,000-square-foot building around the Evergreen parking garage.

The building — almost twice the size of the new Lithia Motors headquarters — would house the headquarters for PRS and potentially two other tenants.

On March 22, the city and PRS agreed to a six-month letter of intent to explore the possibility of building the corporate offices, which would likely help fill up garage.

The Evergreen was originally called the Bella Vita project, which died in 2008 after disputes erupted over prevailing wage laws. The six-story Bella Vita was planned to have 64 condos and specialty shops.

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