Poor Medford. No matter how hard our city tries, local residents just don’t seem to think our downtown is hip enough.
But, like the city, they really want it to be.
After we ran a story Sunday about a consultant who gave city officials ideas for improving downtown, we asked on Facebook, “What would make Medford cool?” Dozens of readers responded with pages and pages of comments.
Some suggested outdoor markets, all-ages music venues, a San Antonio-like riverwalk along Bear Creek, free parking, wine bars, more shops, coffeehouses, major water park, more food carts, more public art, more outdoor seating at restaurants.
Some offered up solutions for what’s keeping Medford low on the groovy meter, such as housing for young workers, better parking, lower leases, more public transportation, stricter enforcement of loitering and drug laws, and, ungraciously, one-way bus tickets for the homeless.
Others went on a rant about parking. Note to the city of Medford: people are IRATE over the parking situation downtown. Sure, there’s free parking, but only as long as you’re not taking a class, shopping at more than one store or chewing your food at lunchtime.
Some thought Medford already was making strides — The Commons and revamped Hawthorne Park are good examples — but surely a McMenamins would be the cherry. Note to Terminator Stout fans: It’s not happening. At least not in the near future.
Having lived in the city for 18 years, I think downtown Medford is getting a bit of a bad rap here.
We’ve got our own version of a riverwalk, the Bear Creek Greenway. I’ve been to the San Antonio River Walk, and it is super cool, but its banks are concrete with development right up to the water’s edge. You can’t do that to Bear Creek (and really, who would want to?) because of riparian setback laws — the same laws that keep Oregon a beautiful place to live.
I did like the Medford Urban Renewal Agency’s ideas back in 2003 to make Bear Creek the center of downtown, with a meandering boardwalk, cafés and improved riparian areas, but that got tabled for The Commons project. Not a bad tradeoff, when you consider The Commons’ concert stage, grassy park area, splash pad for kids, Starbucks and a brewpub called Common Block to rival any McMenamins. It’s just too bad there’s a big parking garage separating it from the downtown’s core.
Those who love Medford know it already has coffeehouses, wine bars, outdoor seating, clothing shops, quality restaurants, entertainment venues and an outdoor market on Thursdays and Saturdays. Every third Friday night, there’s an art walk. We’ve even got small, high-tech companies locating downtown.
And as for the housing situation, it’s improving. Not fast enough, but there are plans for a 108-unit apartment building for working folks on Almond Street.
No one really knows what new business, housing development or attraction will be the one to push Medford into the “cool” zone. But I love the fact that so many people care.
— Cathy Noah is editor of the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4464 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.