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Southeast center offers new approach to growth

Medford city leaders are on the right track with plans for a commercial development at Barnett and North Phoenix roads, clearing the way for future residential development in that part of town.

Plans have been on the books for more than a decade for the Southeast Plan, a massive project that eventually could be home to 10,000 people as originally proposed. A key part of that plan is the Southeast Village Center, an 18-acre development east of the intersection of Barnett and North Phoenix.

The idea is to provide the kind of commercial services residents need so they won't have to drive into town, adding to traffic and air quality problems. The center will be designed to be bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly, and will incorporate a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus stop.

Besides encouraging residents to bike and walk to do their shopping, the development also will incorporate paths connecting a new park within the development to Chrissy Park to the east, and eventually to Prescott Park atop Roxy Ann Peak.

All of this will take years to become a reality, but the commercial center was the key obstacle, because the city code had to be amended to allow for the development. The recession intervened, or the project probably would have been further along by now.

The coordinated approach to future growth is a positive change for Medford. For too long, development consisted of throwing up houses subdivision by subdivision, with no overall plan for meeting the needs of new residents beyond just selling them houses. Now, thought is being given to how those new residents will live and how much they will need to drive to buy a gallon of milk or fill a prescription.

Promoting biking, walking and riding public transit should mean growth can occur without the immediate need to expand the capacity of the city's street system. And that's a good thing for old and new residents alike.