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108-unit complex proposed for Almond Street

A project that could redefine a downtown Medford stretch near Bear Creek goes before the city's Site Plan and Architectural Commission Friday.

Daniel J. Thomas of Pinehurst proposes to build Almond Street Apartments, a 108-unit, 22,290-square-foot complex on 1.23 acres between Almond Street and the Interstate 5 viaduct. The fourth story of the U-shaped complex opening to the east would rise to an apex of 54 feet, well above the freeway, while the majority of the 115 parking spaces would be beneath the apartments.

"There aren't too many 108-unit complexes that are in one building in Medford and there just aren't any projects of that nature downtown," said architect Mark McKechnie of Oregon Architecture in Medford. "It's got all kinds of big-city elements. We're trying to attract young professionals, college students, and some retired people."

The north and south wings are two stories, with the four-story tower backed to the freeway and facing east. There's an exercise room planned on the third floor of the tower. Amenities will include in-house Wi-Fi, sprinkler system, high-tech features in the kitchens, two-stage flush toilets and LED lights. Rain water on the roof will be treated before entering storm drains.

"We were going for the high-tech look," McKechnie said. "It's a big building, so we used some opportunities for pop-outs with different colors to provide visual interest. They're here and there on different elevations. We're also trying to make this downtown friendly, because we're a convenient walking distance from restaurants and other things. If you work downtown, you can leave your car at home."

The proposed project is bound by a senior center and small apartment building to the north and a city parking lot near a foot bridge crossing Bear Creek on the south. 

While the project dwarfs its surroundings, Kelly Akin of the Medford Planning Department said the proposal hits a sweet spot, adding life to downtown, encouraging economic vitality and employment and providing a place close to eating and entertainment spots.

"Our comprehensive plan encourages housing downtown, that's city policy," Akin said. "It's a challenge to do infill development with the kind of site constraints there are there and fitting everything you need to on the site. Certainly going from single-family structures that were built in the 1920s and '30s to something like this pretty intense."

The proposal calls for 47 studio units, 35 one-bedroom apartments and 26 two-bedroom apartments. There also will be 126 bicycle stalls.

"We assume part of their target market would be students," Akin said. "If I were a student going to RCC I would think that's a pretty good gig."

The desire to have an open feel for tenants led to the suggestion of a deck in the middle of the complex, McKechnie said. "But that got a little expensive and it would have put the front door right on the street, making it inconvenient."

Instead, residents will look into the courtyard area, he said, with the tower 150 feet from Almond Street.

Wrap-around courtyards were commonly used for multifamily housing in the 1940s, he said. "I think it fits with the Medford climate." 

Thomas acquired the four lots in 2005 and 2006 for a total of $1.05 million and consolidated them under Almond Rentals in 2011. A spokesman for Thomas said he was not available Thursday. McKechnie began his design work in November and a pre-application meeting followed in December.

"We've moved pretty quickly," he said.

There are larger complexes in the city, such as Charles Point near U.S. Cellular Park, Akin said.

"But I don't know if there are more than 20 units in any single building," she said. "Charles Point turned out much nicer than I thought it would."

 Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31

A 108-unit apartment building is proposed for 100 Almond St., Medford. The fourth story of the U-shaped complex would rise above the freeway and most of the 115 parking spaces would be beneath the apartments. Drawing courtesy Oregon Architecture