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Work in progress on Phoenix urban renewal

Dirt is being moved as the Phoenix Urban Renewal Agency begins working on projects that will add buildings downtown, reconfigure and construct roads, and add pedestrian enhancements.

The first phase of a 30-acre town center project — bordered by Main Street, Bear Creek Drive and First and Fourth streets — is underway, with brush cleared, roadways cut and utilities going in. New roads and a parking lot will be paved during the phase. Pilot Rock Excavation is performing the work.

“It's still going according to the calendar that the contractor gave us,” said Jim Sharp, agency executive director. “He has until Nov. 15 to complete the job.”

The project eventually will include residences, business spaces, parking, walkable wetlands, a plaza and a community center.

Knife River is partway though improvements at the south couplet, where Highway 99 divides with northbound traffic going onto Bear Creek Drive by Blue Heron Park. Included are new sidewalks, pedestrian-activated flashing beacons, crosswalk striping, landscaping and upgrade of a south entrance road off Highway 99 into Blue Heron Park.

Some revisions have been made to the original 30-acre project plans.

Roadways off Bear Creek Drive and Fourth Street to the project area have been dropped to allow more room for residential development and reduce project costs. Developers are being sought to provide housing in the area, including buildings along Main Street that will have businesses at ground level and residences above.

Installation of solar-powered street lamps with batteries is under consideration. The lights would pay for themselves in four to five years with energy savings, city officials say. More design proposals are being created for the community center.

Following delays, older buildings along Main Street that were purchased by the agency should be demolished next week.

“We were having some environmental issues with the buildings that have just been resolved,” said Sharp. “There’s asbestos. They begin later this week doing the remediation.”

Just one of the old buildings between Third and First streets, which is privately owned and houses Simply Sassy Salon, will remain. Business owner Melissa Wagy said the building also will house the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce visitor and information center.

Next month Pilot Rock will begin work on north couplet improvements where Bear Creek Drive rejoins Main Street. That work includes new sidewalks, flashing beacons, pedestrian crosswalks and a paved bus turnout just north of Fourth Street on Bear Creek.

After the two couplet projects are completed later this year, Main Street will be reduced to a single lane from Fourth Street to the south couplet through restriping, with bike lanes added. Bear Creek Drive also will go to a single lane. The vehicle traffic lanes will have slurry seal applied.

Urban renewal will pay for the couplet projects. They are among improvements listed by Oregon Department of Transportation in a 2015 Highway 99 corridor redevelopment plan from south Medford to north Ashland. Restriping of the roads is also included in the ODOT plan.

South couplet costs are about $100,000, with urban renewal supplying half of that amount and the other portion coming from ODOT matching grants. North couplet expenses, approximately $50,000, will be paid entirely by the agency. A $3.5 million bond will pay for the city-center work.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

Construction crews have started working on the Phoenix urban renewal plan on Main Street (Highway 99). Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch