Medford's Sears tower
Medford soon could have its own Sears tower that will become the centerpiece in the transformation of an aging shopping center.
The tower, which could be up to 80 feet tall, would be visible from Interstate 5, would be erected on the southwest corner of the Sears building with the words “Medford Center” on the side.
“We’re going to dramatically update the existing buildings,” said Doug Beiswenger, managing partner with LBG Real Estate Companies LLC of Los Angeles.
The company has unveiled its preliminary plans for the center, including an improved courtyard area with a large canopy and outdoor seating along a portion of the central walkway.
The tower will be made of steel and brick and will advertise some of the major tenants in the complex.
LBG acquired the 55-year-old commercial center from Kimco Realty late last year for $22.175 million. Once the preeminent shopping center in the city, it has lost ground with major retailers over the past decades, beginning with the opening of the Rogue Valley Mall in 1986 and various big box stores at the north and south ends of Medford since then.
“There was not a willingness in the past to invest significant capital in the property,” Beiswenger said. “Our belief is the reason the shopping center has not been doing well is strictly operational. What is critical for properties such as this is that they must be kept relevant through their look and tenancy.”
The dated look of the property will be improved and there will be more continuity of building styles, he said.
In particular, the low, flat-roofed Sears building will be remodeled to give it height and architectural interest, Beiswenger said.
New tenants are being courted that could bring in restaurants and a microbrewery along the central promenade area, he said.
Once the city of Medford approves remodeling of the shopping center, work could begin by next spring and be completed by late 2016, he said.
“I think that what we’re doing with this property changes the perception of retailers in Medford,” Beiswenger. He said more traffic going to the Medford Center should translate into more business for surrounding retailers.
Also, ongoing improvements to Hawthorne Park and the potential for a pedestrian bridge at the Inn at the Commons should help the entire area, Beiswenger said.
He said the design for the improvements at the Medford Center are being finalized but he didn’t have a price tag for the remodeling work yet.
He said that long-range plans call for a more unified theme for the Medford Center, which includes Sears, Rite-Aid, Ashley Furniture and Safeway as well as other shops. Altogether, the shopping center has 420,000 square feet of commercial space.
Councilor Daniel Bunn said he’s excited to see the changes at the Medford Center.
“It’s great to see a property owner put money into something and upgrade the area,” he said.
Bunn said the Medford Center is due for a makeover that will help enhance an important shopping area near the downtown and attract more people to the area.
“Perception is reality,” he said. “It takes a serious commitment both financially and over time.”