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Access road shouldn’t scuttle 3D housing

Medford could be on the cutting edge of 3D-printed housing by next winter and provide truly affordable home ownership to Almeda fire survivors in the process — if the developer and city planners can work out their differences over an access road.

The Thalden Foundation, a nonprofit corporation established by Kathryn and Barry Thalden, has proposed an 84-unit development of single-family homes called New Spirit Village on 6 acres off Meadows Lane, south of West Main Street and east of Lozier Lane.

3D printing technology allows the exterior walls of a house to be made of concrete extruded by a nozzle, meaning houses can be constructed much faster — Thalden says all the walls of a house can be created in three days. New Spirit would offer two- and three-bedroom houses, with two-bedroom homes selling for $185,000, and mortgage payments of less than $1,000 a month.

The homes would be available to Almeda fire survivors.

City planners say they want to see the project proceed, but are insisting that Vick Lane should be extended to provide access to emergency vehicles and an evacuation route for residents in case of a wildfire. The city’s long-term plan is eventually to extend Vick Lane from Stewart Avenue to West Main Street. Planners want to maintain connectivity between streets as west Medford continues to grow.

Barry Thalden objects to extending what he calls “a road to nowhere.” He rejected a city proposal to build the Vick Lane extension on city-owned land in Lewis Park because it would reduce the amount of land in the park. He has proposed building wide walkways through the park that could be used for vehicles in an emergency.

City planners had recommended that the Planning Commission deny the project primarily because of the Vick Lane issue, but the matter was continued from last week’s Planning Commission meeting to a meeting July 14, allowing the parties to try to work out the disagreement. At least one meeting with planning staff will be held between now and then.

This project could be a model for truly affordable housing not just for fire survivors but for many local residents facing soaring rents and a shortage of housing in general. It would be a shame to see it collapse over something as simple as an access road.

Both sides seem willing to work out their differences. For his part, Thalden says, “My belief is when smart people come together for a goal, they will find a solution.”

Amen. Just get it done.