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Denny's comes to Ashland

ASHLAND -- With nary a whimper of protest, a 1950s-style Denny's diner sailed through the Ashland planning process Tuesday.

Near the Interstate 5 interchange at Ashland Street, the restaurant will open in late fall, said the developer, Bob Robertson, a co-owner of Pacific Western of Medford.

The diner will be built next to a Holiday Inn Express, also recently approved. The $3.5 million motel will also be on Clover Lane. It will rise four stories with 65 rooms.

(Denny's) will be the first (all-night diner) in Oregon for travelers as they come from California, said Robertson. And you need a break there.

It will be open 24 hours.

The restaurant will cost $1 million to build, Robertson said. The project took a year to get through the planning department because Robertson needed to make many modifications to the diner's design to fit Ashland's stringent planning criteria, he said.

But no one protested the chain diner in the town where some objected to Starbucks, and others actually squelched the building of a Wal-Mart and factory stores.

Associate Planner Maria Harris said the project was appropriate for the zoning of the site on Clover Lane near Ashland Street. Notices of the project were sent to neighbors, but because no one requested a public hearing, the project was approved by staff then passed by a Planning Commission hearings board Tuesday.

Robertson said dilapidated rentals had been on the property before the diner was proposed. Ashland firefighters burnt down the buildings in a learning exercise.

The new project will give a better impression of Ashland to people coming into town, Robertson said.

The Denny's will be a single-story building, about 3,200 square feet, with an ability to serve up to 114 customers at a time. It will be modeled after a 1950s diner with an exterior almost entirely made of stainless steel. The interior will have a black-and-white checkerboard floor, vinyl seats and a jukebox.

The only thing missing from the 1950s milieu will be the neon sign, Robertson said. Neon isn't allowed under Ashland's sign ordinances.

It will be beautiful, it really will, Robertson said. I went to see one in El Paso just like it and they are beautiful buildings.