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Medford council OKs neighborhood upgrades

A unanimous Medford City Council Thursday night approved extending the life of urban renewal to help revitalize a poor neighborhood north of downtown.

The green light by the council, acting as the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board, sets in motion investing a majority of $22 million into the Liberty Park neighborhood, also known as the Beatty-Manzanita area after the two streets that bisect it.

In the months ahead, the council will create a list of projects for the neighborhood, bounded roughly by Central Avenue, Interstate 5, McAndrews Avenue and Jackson Street.

The council will look at land for development, particularly for construction of apartment complexes.

Also eyed for improvements are upgrading Manzanita and Edwards streets and providing incentives for developers.

Councilors Kay Brooks and Dick Gordon said they wanted to have flexibility in defining the boundaries of the neighborhood to help integrate it better with the surrounding community, particularly the area to the north leading to Trader Joe's and other shopping.

Brooks said she wanted the city to get out the word that the money is not being invested to improve a small city park.

The quarter-acre park was one of the only significant projects that the neighborhood received during the 30-year life of MURA, which spent $67 million on the downtown and near the south Medford interchange.

The council has indicated it wants to make amends to the neighborhood, which was cited to help justify the creation of MURA because of its severe blight.

The council also wants to set some of the $22 million to attract other housing projects in the downtown. Members would offer incentives such as helping offset development fees or by leveraging dollars to attract seismic retrofit grants to encourage housing above older downtown buildings that have empty second floors.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.