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Gateway to change

Rogue Valley School of Gymnastics takes over the former OfficeMax site at Medford's South Gateway

South Gateway Center's face continues to change, if ever-so-slowly at times.

The 72-acre commercial complex inside the Medford Urban Renewal District has about 8 acres remaining to be developed, according to Bob Kaczor, president of TRF Real Estate, a partner in the center.

Fred Meyer representatives have been pursuing a possible gas station at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Center Drive. Batzer Construction is preparing to build a 12,000-square-foot structure south of Hollywood Video, although no tenant has been secured. The former OfficeMax site at 1341 Center Drive has become the new home of the Rogue Valley School of Gymnastics.

While occupants come and go, other changes loom as well.

The city, MURA, Oregon Department of Transportation and property owners are sorting out how Center Drive will be realigned and plugged into the Garfield Street extension.

If something happened in the next two years, it would probably be considered fairly speedy, Kaczor says.

Behind the center, the south freeway interchange project is scheduled in 2006.

I don't think traffic (spill over) is that big of an issue, says Russ Batzer, president of Batzer Construction. It's such a good location. There will be more traffic when construction starts and that's good for retailers.

A wild card in the area's future is Jackson County's eventual disposition of Miles Field that would open 12 acres ' with an estimated value of &

36;3.7 million and &

36;4.7 million ' to development.

The most visible recent change has been the arrival of the gymnastics center in the 23,800-square-foot space occupied by OfficeMax from April 1995 until it closed in April of 2001.

OfficeMax still holds a seven-year lease, with two five-year options. The property is owned by a partnership headed by David Michaelis.

Keith and Kim Sparacio started their school Feb. 12, 2001, hiring some of Flip City's former instructors after it went bankrupt.

It leased a 9,000-square-foot warehouse from Frank Surma at 5877 Crater Lake Highway, but quickly outgrew those quarters and expanded into a second 4,000-square-foot building near Crater Lake Avenue and Vilas Road.

Even then, Rogue Valley's 16 coaches and 400 kids and competitors from ages — to adult needed more room.

The Sparacios considered making an offer on the Superior Athletic Club gym on Chevy Way and looked into having Batzer Construction build a 20,000-square-foot gym until they discovered competitor America's Best Kids was building across the street.

Sam Fong, a commercial real estate agent with ReMax Ideal Properties Inc. began exploring other options for them and then landed viable sublease terms from OfficeMax.

It's much better with everyone back together, Kim Sparacio says. Our gym director, Jeff Amundson, is our optional coach for the higher-level girls team. It was really hard to be gym director and be in a separate building.

Fong says that it was a longshot for OfficeMax to work the deal with the gymnastics school. But he made the case it was a destination business with its own students, similar to the RRRink ice skating center, and not dependent on traffic.

They were supposed to bring in another national tenant, but obviously they failed, Fong says.

If a gas station is added to the mix, it won't likely be this year.

It's an idea we have and we are pursuing it. But it's still way too early to know whether it will happen, Fred Meyer spokesman Rob Boley says.

Boley declines to specify the potential cost or number of pumps. Fred Meyer currently operates 27 FM Fuel Stops, including 10 in Oregon.

Kim Sparacio and her husband, Keith, have moved the Rogue Valley School of Gymnastics into the old OfficeMax site at the South Gateway Center. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven