Portland-based Canterbury Commercial, the new owner of the Medford Elks Lodge on Central Avenue, wants to hear ideas from the community on how to utilize the historic building.
The first step, Canterbury founder Dale Bernards said, is cleaning up the century-old structure. After that, Bernards wants to turn the landmark into something fitting for the downtown.
"Our goal is for community involvement," said Bernards, whose firm has overhauled historic buildings and developed commercial property for 35 years. "We think outside the box. We know it's a project, but that's kind of what we buy. We took a look and saw so much potential."
Brandt Bernards, Dale's son, will oversee Canterbury's local activity. He said the Elks Lodge is similar to many of the company's past renovations, ranging from an Elks Lodge in Beaverton to warehouses and a bed-springs factory.
"This is kind of the missing piece of the puzzle in Medford, in one sense," he said, as he gazed across Central Avenue. "You've got development over here, you've got Lithia over there and a lot of activity this way. This building is the key part to bring downtown Medford back to life."
Although the Bernardses queried McMenamins, the Portland brew pub often associated with landmark renovations, it passed, saying it is still engaged with the restoration of an Elks temple in Tacoma, Washington.
Even without a McMenamins, there are plenty of options, the younger Bernards said.
"A lot of people obviously discussed the idea of McMenamins coming," he said. "We've had conversations, and we'd love to see them down here. Event space has been talked about here, and we have the sort of things that naturally facilitate use of the building and preserve what it was."
Last week, Brandt Bernards met with Medford city officials, the Energy Trust, historical consultant George Kramer, the chamber of commerce and Restore Oregon.
The $750,000 that Dale Bernards and business associate Stuart Lindquist paid for the lodge is a fraction of what it will take to restore the long-lost shine on what was once a focal point of the community.
"It appears there is a demand for event space, but we are still doing a lot of research on potential tenants," Dale Bernards said. "We're patient, we bought it at a good price per pound, and the potential is great. The big thing is getting it cleaned up and presentable to show to potential tenants — I don't like to show a dirty apartment or office."
By its nature and location, the Elks Lodge attracts attention and speculation, Kramer said.
"It's one of those buildings that in my business everybody keeps their fingers crossed that something good will happen," Kramer said, "not knowing what that will be."
A century-old building comes with both opportunity and limitations, Kramer said.
"You can't sell cars in the Elks building," he said.
More important, however, is having an owner with a good approach.
"An owner that recognizes the value and wants to do the right thing," Kramer said. "It seems those people have the capacity and interest to do something great; the building will tell you what it can be."
A hall capable of seating 200 or more people and a kitchen will make it easier to find a tenant, he said.
Dale Bernards said new companies moving to town create opportunities.
"We're trying to figure out what the best use will be, if it would be ballroom space, it would be something special."
The building eventually will have a new identity, but elements of the old lodge will remain.
"There are certain things you don't want to touch, such as the entryway," Dale Bernards said. "We'll definitely brand the building, but that's probably a conversation for later."
In the meantime, the new owners are open to suggestions from possible tenants and the community. To reach Canterbury Commercial, call 503-222-2900 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
— Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.