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Hands-on approach

Medford Center's new owners are weeks away from presenting plans for a cosmetic makeover of the shopping center.

Broader and longer-lasting changes, however, will come from the personal and financial efforts the owners of LBG Real Estate Companies say they plan to pump into the venue just north of Hawthorne Park.

LBG Real Estate of Los Angeles acquired the 55-year-old commercial center from Kimco Realty late last year for $22.175 million. Managing partners David Goldman and Doug Beiswenger told the Chamber of Medford/Jackson County board Wednesday that personal involvement  will be required to re-energize the aging center.

"We got into the project because we felt the center had tremendous potential that had not been fully realized by the previous ownership," Goldman said. "Our goal is to create the premier lifestyle entertainment center in Southern Oregon by capitalizing on what the center currently does have ... and bring in more restaurants, more entertainment uses, more retail that will complement those kinds of uses."

Medford Center's previous owners rarely were involved to the degree LBG promises to be.

"It takes a lot more than capital to make a property perform well," Beiswenger said. "They were remote operators and very big companies. I don't think they paid attention, and it takes capital and intense management."

LBG plans to renovate and bring the center up to contemporary standards, instituting aesthetic, operational, merchandising and security changes.

"We understand you've got to spend money to make money," Goldman said. "We're going to be spending a lot on improvements. We've been working on concepts and hoping that sometime in the next couple of months we'll be able to submit applications to the city."

In essence, LBG sees Medford Center having two components, the traditional retail element highlighted by its anchors — Sears, Rite-Aid, Ashley Furniture and Safeway — and an entertainment center, featuring Tinseltown and International Fitness. The vision for the courtyard area outside the movie theaters, Goldman said, is a community living room, complete with brew pubs and restaurants with good track records in other parts of the state.

"Medford is really the hub of a much larger wheel and draws from an area significantly outside the city limits and draws quite a bit from Northern California because of the lack of sales tax," Goldman said. "We're thinking carefully about what all those people would be interested in seeing at the property, as well as the residents in the immediate area." 

The scope of the project is sizable, Beiswenger said. A typical commercial development is 150,000 square feet, and this one — bracketed by Jackson Street, Biddle Road, Stevens Street and Crater Lake Avenue, is 420,000 square feet.

"The Medford Center has excellent bones," he said. "With capital and intensive management, we will be able to dramatically improve the operation of the property ... as part of our re-merchandising effort."

He said there were discussions with potential new tenants, but nothing finalized.

Chamber CEO Brad Hicks said the parallel efforts of LBG and the city's revamping of Hawthorne Park will be advantageous to the community.

"I think the improvements coming at the same time means a lot," Hicks said. "Not only aesthetically, but for safety."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

LBG Real Estate bought the Medford Center from Kimco Realty. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell