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A new centerpiece for Central Point

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Hew McElroy, local business owner and project developer, says the statue outside of the Banner Bank will remain after he is finished developing the city block.
Multi-phase plan would bring businesses, residences and more to downtown

CENTRAL POINT — Redevelopment of a section of downtown near the junction of Third and East Pine streets will find the vacant bank property, home to Banner Bank before it closed in February, redeveloped into a picturesque complex of retail spaces and an eventual community plaza adjacent to faux 1880s-style mixed-use buildings.

The project will be built in phases. Local business owners Hew and Sarah McElroy plan to renovate the bank space first, creating a series of unique shops from which local makers and small businesses can operate.

Eventual phases call for a community plaza concept and, later, six mixed-use structures — for retail downstairs, with residential units on top.

Owners of Pine Street Property Holding, LLC, which includes the Crater Café and co-ownership of The Point Pub and Grill restaurants, the McElroys moved to Southern Oregon a dozen years ago.

Hew McElroy said the couple were vested in the future of the downtown and the success of local businesses, but weren’t in the market for additional properties until the bank property was listed for sale.

“We have the Café and The Point, and we thought we were done expanding, but we heard the bank was selling and we wanted to make sure it was redeveloped in the best possible way for the success of the downtown and other businesses,” McElroy said. “My wife and I are really vested in what happens to the downtown.”

McElroy said initial plans call for revamping the 1960s bank structure and exterior gardens. A sigh of relief came from local business owners and residents when McElroy said the Remington bronze horse statue outside, near the sidewalk, will remain untouched. McElroy might even add a few more.

A few changes will be made: The entrance to the former bank building will be moved to Third Street, and a façade improvement will disguise unsightly equipment on top of the structure.

A second phase will entail conversion of portions of the parking lot into a “gardened courtyard” for civic events, concerts, movie nights or day use between the original building and planned storefronts.

The third phase, with the two-story mixed-use structures, will reduce some of the parking on-site, but McElroy plans to create additional parking elsewhere to compensate.

A high priority for the McElroys is ensuring and enhancing downtown parking. City officials plan to add parallel spaces along Pine Street. McElroy said angled parking on the Third Street and Fourth Street sides, which will require he donate a piece of the property, was a viable option for added parking.

Central Point Parks and Public Works Director Matt Samitore said city officials were encouraged by plans to redesign the vacant bank property into something viable.

“We’ve had preliminary conversations regarding their redevelopment plans, and we’re looking at potentially partnering with them on streetscape improvements. From the city’s standpoint, whenever we can get economic redevelopment in downtown, it’s always a good thing,” Samitore said.

“We welcome them and their continued ownership of property in the downtown. We’re certain they’ll be great partners in continuing the revitalization of the downtown and bring in viable businesses that will be important for the heartbeat of our city.”

McElroy said the final phase of the project, the mixed-use structures, would infill some of the parking lot area but add some ambiance by matching the new units to the 1880s “western false front” facades.

A name is still in the works for the new development, but “Pine Street Center” is one contender.

McElroy said the old bank drive-up could serve as a space for drive-up custard from his nearby Crater Café. Other unique spaces inside the former bank, such as the old vault, could be creatively used for myriad local business concepts.

McElroy said his primary focus is to help restore and renovate the downtown into a “fun, family-oriented destination.”

“We want to create a space where folks can come down and have some frozen custard, maybe go over to The Point or check out the fun shops like the antique book shop, the quilt-making or the yarn shop,” he said.

“It’s a labor of love, really. Our vision is to help breathe more life into the downtown while helping with the housing shortage and the need for affordable space for small businesses, and a place for people in the downtown to gather.”

He added, “One of the reasons I wanted this property was so we’d have some say in what comes into the downtown. We want to make sure we favor family-owned small businesses with great ideas that will be compatible with the rest of the downtown.”

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.