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A new chapter for an old mill site

KOGAP's long-delayed Stewart Meadows Village development will be worth the wait, offering a restored stream to replace an underground culvert, and new residential and commercial space.

The project was first floated in 2003, then formally begun in 2006 when KOGAP Enterprises filed an application with the city of Medford. The recession put the plans on hold, and the convoluted permit process for the stream work took five years to complete. KOGAP worked with the Army Corps of Engineers and the National Marine Fisheries Service to gain approval.

The property was once the site of the KOGAP plywood and veneer mill. KOGAP — Keep Oregon Green and Productive — is the family company run by former Medford mayor Jerry Lausman before his death in 2012. The company branched out into real estate and other ventures, including Stewart Meadows Golf Course, after the mill shut down about 20 years ago.

Hansen Creek, which historically ran only seasonally and doesn't even appear on some maps, was diverted underground through a concrete culvert running beneath the KOGAP mill and an adjacent Grange Co-op property. The new channel will include three ponds, and because of agricultural return flows, it will have water in it year-round.

The housing will include senior units with views of the golf course as well as apartments. Some of the units will be rentals, a growing need in the Medford area.

Completion of the project is still a ways off. The new stream channel won't have water in it until 2016, to allow newly planted vegetation to become established, and the rest of the development will follow at least a year after that.

When all is said and done, Stewart Meadows Village will transform what is now an unused industrial site into an inviting landscape that incorporates a revitalized stream. 

Many Medford residents will remember the whine of mill machinery echoing across the valley and the scent of freshly cut wood wafting on the breeze. Some may lament the passing of those days. But the revival of this project and others is a sign that the Rogue Valley is rebounding from the recession, and is evidence that the local economy has a bright future not dependent on wood products alone.