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High-end condos: location, location, location

ASHLAND — A large building taking shape on Lithia Way will house a bank and high-end condominiums once it reaches completion, which is likely next summer.

Washington Federal Bank has signed a lease to occupy the ground floor of the building, said Randy Jones, a partner with First Place Partners, LLC, which is developing the site on Lithia Way between First and Pioneer streets.

Jones is also a partner and the general manager for Mahar Homes, Inc., the company constructing the building. Both businesses are based in Medford.

The bank will use most of the commercial space on the ground floor, although it could sublet some space to other businesses, such as retail shops, Jones said.

The ground floor also will have an affordable-housing unit plus a market-rate condominium.

The second and third floors will each have four condominiums, bringing the total number of housing units to 10, Jones said.

Prices have not been set, but he said the condominiums will be at the high end of the market because of their quality.

The condominiums are not for sale yet, although Jones said he has had about 30 people express interest. For now, he is taking their contact information. "The interest is quite high. As they say, it's about location, location, location," Jones said.

The condominiums are within walking distance of attractions in Ashland's historic downtown, he said.

The condominiums range in size from 1,360 to 1,588 square feet with one bedroom and a study or two-bedroom units. Those sizes include approximately 100 square feet of garage and storage space, according to First Place Partners, LLC.

The building will have underground parking and electric car-charging outlets for each unit.

The condominiums will feature high-efficiency LED lighting and heating and air conditioning systems, open floor plans, views from windows and decks, elevator access to all levels and natural gas fireplaces and appliances.

The developers hope to win Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — or LEED — certification because of the green features.

The building, which will have a public plaza to the side next to a city-run public parking lot, has been named Plaza West.

With its mix of commercial and residential space, the building is a model for mixed-use development, said architect Jerome White, a partner with Ashland-based Kistler + Small + White Architects, which designed Plaza West.

Building on empty lots downtown reduces sprawl and helps control the costly extension of city services to outlying areas, he said.

Having residential units downtown also keeps "eyes on the street," which helps reduce crime, White said.

Plaza West is the first of multiple buildings that could be built on the large parcel of land owned by First Place Partners, Jones said.

Up to five buildings could be constructed there, although three or four are more likely, he said.

The large parcel sat vacant for years after Copeland Lumber and an office and condominium complex were cleared away to make way for new development.

In 2005, the Ashland Planning Commission rejected plans for a building called Northlight to be built there, saying it was too large. The land was then divided with plans to construct several smaller buildings there, but when the national real estate market collapsed, the original developers lost the property to a bank.

In 2012, the land's new developers, First Place Partners, won planning approval to build Plaza West.

For more information about the condominiums, contact Jones at randy@maharhomes.com.

Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings.

Construction continues on Lithia Way near First Street on a project which will house a bank and high-end condominiums. - Julia Moore