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Medford gets ready for a parking reboot

Medford’s ever-evolving and expensive downtown parking situation is ready to shift again.

The total number of public parking spaces in garages, streets and lots will increase from the current 3,200 to about 3,400 after some lots are removed and others are added over the next two years. 

“I think there will be an improvement,” said Clay Bearnson, who is a member of the Medford Parking Commission. 

The city is working on two new public parking lots on Riverside Avenue and is planning to build a city employee parking lot with 41 spaces at the corner of Oakdale Avenue and 10th Street, which required felling a large tree.

Between the city employee lot and a new parking garage for the new Medford police headquarters on Ivy Street, more on-street parking should be freed up around City Hall. 

At the same time, the 390-space Evergreen Parking garage on Main Street, which has hovered around 15 percent of capacity, will get filled with the occupants of the One West Main project. 

Behind the Mail Tribune, a 63-space parking lot that has been underutilized will become a low-income housing development in the next few years. 

The new Jackson County Health Services building, which will open in December, will have a six-story, 545-space parking garage for customers and employees. 

Bearnson said he thinks the two new lots on Riverside Avenue will be popular almost immediately. 

The lot at 10th and Riverside, with 75 to 80 spaces, will be used by college students and library patrons, he said. The other lot, with 170 spaces on Riverside next to the former Red Lion, will handle vehicles that now try to park in the Middleford garage, which is often at capacity on Central Avenue and Sixth Street. The cost to buy the lots, along with demolition and paving, is anticipated to be about $4 million.

Most parking lots and the two parking garages in the downtown make up about $35 million that the Medford Urban Renewal Agency has spent on parking as part of its $72 million budget over the past 25 years.

Bearnson said the city likely will offer a reduced permit fee for the lot next to the new Inn at the Commons to encourage downtown employees  to use it instead of Middleford. In addition, the city is looking at designing the lot next to Bear Creek to allow for a second level in the future, which could almost double its capacity, Bearnson said. 

Lynette O’Neal, assistant to the deputy city manager, said the Evergreen garage was typically only about 15 percent full. The entire underground portion of the parking garage was closed off, but the 135 spaces will now be available to the One West Main tenants. Also, the upper floor with 67 spaces will be available only to the tenants.

“With One West Main opened, Evergreen will look a lot more like Middleford,” O’Neal said. 

In addition, the new building also featured redesigned on-street parking that helped gain an extra seven spaces, she said. 

Once the parking changes are finished, the city will reassess the parking situation again to make sure there is enough spaces in downtown, O'Neal said.

The city doesn’t require developers in the downtown core to provide parking spaces. Many businesses have few, if any, designated parking spaces. 

O’Neal said parking around City Hall will be tight while the new police headquarters is under construction. 

The headquarters will occupy the site of an 83-space lot. Some city vehicles will fit on the new 10th and Oakdale lot, which has 41 spaces, so the area will see a net loss until the police headquarters parking garage is built. 

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

A lot at the corner of 10th and Oakdale in downtown Medford was cleared to create a parking lot for city employees. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell