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Urban Renewal may acquire two properties

TALENT — The Talent Urban Renewal Agency has put down earnest money on two commercial lots that abut Talent Irrigation District property the agency seeks for a third leg to the downtown roundabout.

A small portion of one of the lots that borders on West Valley View Road at the roundabout would be needed for the leg.

“It was a unique opportunity that arose in an area that we need,” said Mayor Darby Stricker, who is chairwoman of the urban renewal board. “We have envisioned this all along for the downtown area. The possibilities are many.”

Due diligence is being performed by the agency on the sites while they are in escrow. Earnest money of $5,000 was put down on each property. Phase 1 environmental assessments, line surveys and title reports are being prepared. The agency is also awaiting appraisals, which can alter the prices, said TURA Executive Director Tom Corrigan.

One lot of 1.6 acres lies just south of West Valley View Road and the roundabout and west of Highway 99 and includes a building. The Quick Stop convenience store there closed recently, and Video Quick and Bunks Deli are also gone. A Washington Federal Bank branch in a portable building was once on the property. Steve Parmalee of Windermere/Van Vleet & Associates, Medford, is handing the transaction. The lot has a listing price of $895,000.

The second site, 1.94 acres of bare ground, is next to the first property to the south. It's bordered by Highway 99 and residences in the Gangnes Street area. Jack Latvala of Star Properties represents the owner. The asking price is $475,000. The two sites surround the Little Brown Jug tavern and Mei Sum restaurant on Highway 99.

TURA wants the TID property to complete the third leg of the roundabout, linking it to Wagner Street. The project was conceived to more efficiently route traffic through downtown while making it more pedestrian-friendly. The other legs are East Main Street and West Valley View Road, which were linked in 2015.

Talks between TURA and TID continue, said TID Chairman Bob Morris.

A 4-by-8-foot TURA sign at the roundabout asks the public to participate in the site-development process.

“I think the board agrees we really want to take this opportunity to encourage the citizens to weigh in on what exactly we want it to look like,” said Stricker.

Among the possibilities are small-manufacturing "maker spaces," mixed commercial and residential buildings or perhaps housing near residences bordering the lots. Staff has been directed to hold several meetings on site development in the new year, said Stricker. Acquisition of the 2.9-acre TID site would also give the agency more land that could be developed after a roadway is constructed.

A 331-page Phase 1 environmental analysis on the TID property revealed that an underground fuel tank may have existed on that land, and there is the potential that groundwater contamination might affect the other two lots. However, state grants are available to mitigate what is termed “brownfield contamination,” consultant John Sputhgate told the agency.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.