Where will we park?
When Lithia Motors' headquarters opens in August as the centerpiece of The Commons project, the city should expect to have a parking shortage of about 115 spaces, according to a study released Thursday.
But that need could jump to nearly 1,000 spaces if all the plans for The Commons project come to fruition, according to an analysis presented to the city Thursday.
Those plans include options for a multistory hotel of up to 150,000 square feet, an office building of similar size, a bank and other developments. There are no deals on any of those ideas at present.
But the city will have to deal immediately with increased demands for parking after the Lithia Motors headquarters opens, according to the study by Brame Northwest LLC.
The Commons, a joint effort of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency and Lithia Motors, is roughly bounded by Sixth Street, Riverside Avenue, Bartlett Street and Third Street.
Lithia Motors' need for parking will put more demand on the nearby Middleford garage, which is running near capacity now, Dan Brame of Brame Northwest said.
"That situation is going to get much worse in a couple of months," Brame said.
In the short term, he recommended selling more permits in the Middleford site, but looking ahead five years, he said the city could need another parking garage with up to 400 spaces.
Brame presented his findings to various city leaders Thursday morning, describing the issues the city would face if the best-case scenario came to pass in developing The Commons. The study was prepared at a cost not to exceed $42,500.
"This kind of blows my mind," said Fred Robinson, a Medford Parking Commission member. He said that the Lithia headquarters will make the parking situation very tight in the downtown.
"To go beyond that, it is going to inundate the downtown parking facilities," he said.
Councilman Al Densmore said there is still plenty of time for the city to prepare for additional parking in the downtown.
The city has made a number of parking changes in recent years, including pay machines and time limits, that have met with sometimes negative reaction from merchants, students and customers.
Lithia plans to build temporary parking lots near its headquarters. However, many of those lots eventually will disappear when they are developed.
Even an 18-space parking lot next to Lithia's headquarters may be replaced with a proposed three-story office and retail complex.
Under Brame's rosy scenario, a hotel could be built on the lot immediately to the north of Lithia. He projected it could be four to six stories tall, occupying 75,000 to 150,000 square feet. He said another lot to the northwest of Lithia's headquarter could become a four- to six-story hotel or office building with 75,000 to 150,000 square feet.
Lithia has been actively courting other businesses to locate in the Commons, but potential new developments Brame included in his study are just that — potential.
The parking shortage will be real, however, when Lithia opens its headquarters. Brame said the demand for short-term spaces would increase by 40 vehicles when Lithia opens, while the demand for long-term spaces will increase by 75.
He suggested creating more available spaces by cutting the three-hour limit in Middleford to two hours. More monthly permits could be issued in the garage as well, he said.
Brame said the city also should look at creating more one-hour parking in the area.
When the Middleford garage is opened this summer up to create a walkway connecting the two sides of Bartlett Street, 27 parking spaces will be isolated from the rest of the garage. Brame suggested converting these spaces to a preferred parking area.
In the short term, Brame suggested reducing the monthly permit from $15 to $10 at the Evergreen parking garage near the railroad tracks at Main Street to draw more college students away from the Middleford site.
Brame said one suggestion for creating additional parking could be at the Red Lion Inn, which is for sale and located across Riverside Avenue from The Commons.
But, he said, crossing Riverside Avenue poses a risk for pedestrians. He said if demand warranted, the Red Lion property could be purchased and used as a temporary parking area to handle overflow until a new parking garage is built.
If Brame's optimistic development scenarios came to pass, by 2017 there could be a need for as many as 965 additional parking spaces. He suggested offsetting that partially with a 400-space, multi-story parking garage to the north of the Lithia headquarters.
The city and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency have not made any decisions about how they would pay for additional parking if property purchases and new construction were needed.
Brame said the development of The Commons will likely undergo considerable changes in the years ahead, which could put more or less demand on parking facilities.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.