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'Killer' parking crunch

Owners of the Inn at the Commons have come head-to-head with a parking situation that threatens their busy event season coming up in September.

Medford officials plan to start up to six months of work on an adjacent parking lot that will decommission 100 spaces used by event-goers.

“The parking situation feels like no good deed goes unpunished,” said Doug Neuman, owner of the hotel. “It’s a killer.”

Neuman took over the Inn at the Commons in 2013 and has invested a lot of money into improving the facility, which was the former Red Lion Inn.

When he acquired the hotel, Neuman made a deal with the city to set aside 100 spaces in the public parking lot when events are scheduled. The parking lot is located just south of the hotel near the corner of Sixth Street and Riverside Avenue. 

Meanwhile, the city delayed plans to renovate the parking lot to concentrate its efforts on building another parking lot to the south at Riverside Avenue and 10th Street. Neuman said he had hoped the city would renovate the parking lot during the first half of the year when there are fewer events.

Deputy City Manager Chris Reising said no public parking spaces are available nearby that could accommodate the kind of events scheduled at the hotel.

“There are no provisions made during construction for the lost parking spaces,” he said.

Middleford garage, located across the street from the parking lot, is always full. Other city lots are located some distance away.

Reising said the city originally intended to start construction earlier on the new parking lot next to the hotel, but the lot at 10th Street became a priority.

The city has budgeted $975,000 to build the 183-space lot next to Inn at the Commons. The 81-space lot at 10th Street is budgeted at $744,000, though city officials expect it to come in under that amount once it’s completed before the end of the month.

Reising said the city has received bids for the north parking lot, and construction should start in August.

Work is scheduled to be completed by the end of January, but Reising said he anticipates the contractor should be done sooner.

The bulk of the grading work should be done by October, he said.

In addition to the new parking lot next to Inn at the Commons, the city plans to upgrade the entrance so it aligns better with Sixth Street. Handicapped access to the parking lot also will be built.

Long-range plans call for construction of a pedestrian bridge from the parking lot to Hawthorne Park.

Courtney Coughlin, catering manager for the hotel, said construction will start as soon as the busy events season begins in September. She said earlier plans called for starting the project in the spring.

The access to the new parking lot is also the delivery entrance for the hotel, which could cause other issues. Coughlin said the last thing the hotel wants is for delivery trucks to wend their way through the parking areas used by guests.

“We have obvious noise concerns,” Coughlin said.

She said she wants to discourage attendees who come to the conferences from parking where hotel guests are located.

At this point, Couglin said she is not sure what she will tell conference guests about where they can park. She’s hoping that the hotel and city can work something out.

She said it will be difficult to tell 300 conference attendees who are brand new in this city that they can’t park adjacent to the conference center.

“We want our guests to have a good time,” Coughlin said. “Every minute they’re looking for parking takes away from that. It’s definitely a challenge.”

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

Courtney Coughlin, catering manager for Inn at the Commons, says parking lot delays could threaten events at the hotel's convention center. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch