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Developer revives Cuthbert Building renovation

The long-anticipated renovation of the 1910 Cuthbert Building at Sixth Street and Central Avenue in Medford is nearing reality.

Eagle Point developer Reid Murphy and his wife, Anne, have purchased the vacant 24,000-square-foot building from Fred and Carol Phelps. The &

36;650,000 deal closed Thursday.

Reid Murphy says a &

36;2.3 million makeover, to begin in October, should be completed by late spring or early summer. The plans, originally submitted by Fred Phelps, have gone through the city's permit process.

Believe it or not, I stepped into a project where the owner had completed 95 percent of the preparation, Murphy says. It's going to save us a lot of time. If we had to go in and completely redesign the building and meet the historical approvals, we'd be talking about a year from now.

— The Phelpses purchased the building in June 1995. They intended to remodel it for retail and office use, with their Evangel Family Book Stores becoming the primary tenant. Fred Phelps spent four years readying the project, working with two architects, securing historical tax credits and lining up financing.

It was our dream to see that building come back and to make it look like it did in 1920, Phelps says. We weren't strong enough financially to do it. Reid is fulfilling our dream for that Cuthbert Building.

The interior will be similar to what Phelps had in mind, although modifications will be made to meet the requirements of tenants. Evangel won't be part of the project.

The Lord just worked it all out, Phelps said.

The earthquake requirements that stalled Phelps' efforts proved no hindrance to Murphy, whose company recently wrapped up a seismic retrofit of Medford City Hall.

We look at it with a little different set of eyes, Murphy says. Fred has a retail background, and we're developers.

Murphy says rising land values in peripheral areas and limited downtown office space enhanced the building's appeal.

New multi-story construction runs about &

36;125 per-square-foot, excluding land and parking costs. If a similar new building were going up on bare land in Medford, says R.A. Murphy Construction project coordinator Jim Akery, systems development charges would push the price to &

36;3 million, excluding land and parking lot costs.

The SDC costs are huge, Murphy says, whereas this building already has existing plumbing fixtures and an impervious roof structure. The real cost-savings is in enhancing a building that already, in essence, paid its dues rather than developing from scratch.

Murphy renovated the nearby former Regence Blue Cross Blue Shield building nearly a decade ago, as well as the Norris Shoe building across the alley.

The Cuthbert structure was built in 1910 by the Big Bend Milling Co., first housing a furniture store, then Golden Rule, J.C. Penney and JJ Newberry, which remodeled the facade to its present look in 1948.

It's a very prominent building as you enter the downtown core, says Medford Urban Renewal Director Don Burt. It's going to go through some positive and dramatic changes.

Medford architect Bob Siebert designed the exterior remodel that will include direct access to upper floors from the adjacent downtown parking structure. The building's colors ' cream and tan with green accents ' have been selected and approved through the historical renovation process.

With some projects, it takes people who want to go out on a limb a little bit, Murphy admits. Then there are other projects that are no-brainers.

R.A. Murphy Construction keeps busy

The Cuthbert Building project comes at a time when R.A. Murphy Construction has a variety of irons in the fire.

The company is involved in &

36;11 million of on-site work, building a church off Table Rock Road and apartments in Phoenix and recently wrapping up the Tower Business Park planned-unit development across from Costco. It soon will begin buildings for Oregon Fuel Injection, a cosmetology school and an insurance building in the development.

Murphy is working on Kaleidoscope Pizza on Crater Lake Highway, the 36,000-square-foot Cardiovascular Institute on the Asante campus, a preliminary design for a 60,000-square-foot retail center at the present site of Bethel Church on McAndrews Road and a 45,000-square-foot medical office building on Barnett Road.

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Developer Reid Murphy has big plans for the 1910 Cuthbert Building at the corner of Sixth Street and Central Avenue in downtown Medford. Murphy intends to remodel the building into retail and office space, a project launched by a previous owner. Mail Tribune / Roy Musitelli - Mail Tribune Roy Musitelli