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Warehouse eyed as economic hub

An empty warehouse in Medford could become a workforce training site or makerspace to help pump economic vitality into the Liberty Park neighborhood.

On Thursday, the City Council acting as the Medford Urban Renewal Agency will look at a number of options to make use of the 20,000-square-foot warehouse at 727 North Central Ave., just north of Les Schwab Tire Center and located next to the railroad tracks.

The Red Cross had been using the warehouse as part of its disaster assistance effort for the Almeda fire, and previously it was a hemp production company.

“The question is, ‘what are we going to do with this warehouse?’” said Harry Weiss, director of MURA. “Is it a keeper or a scraper?”

The city bought the warehouse and surrounding 3.25 acres in 2019 for $1.75 million as part of a long-range plan to revitalize the Liberty Park neighborhood.

In 2018, MURA set aside $18 million for redevelopment of the neighborhood.

The city is in discussions with developers who might be willing to construct up to 125 affordable housing units on the property.

To provide an economic hub for the residents of this housing development, Weiss said he will be asking the council if it would consider a number of options for the warehouse such as a business development space, a makerspace, workforce training, a co-working space, or a food hub.

A makerspace is typically a work space inside a school, library or separate public or private facility for making and learning with hands on training, typically with a high-tech emphasis. A makerspace is currently located at Crater High.

Other ideas for the warehouse include turning it into a brewery, Weiss said.

“The thought is to have an active space that complements the housing,” Weiss said.

Also if the warehouse were retained, it would help act as a buffer from the railroad tracks for the housing units.

Weiss said he doesn’t have any firm proposals from a potential developer for the warehouse, but he wants to get direction from the council before exploring options for the building. Weiss said he has been in discussions with developers who have expressed an interest in an affordable housing project for the rest of the property.

Les Schwab has an easement over a portion of the city property near the warehouse.

The original portion of the warehouse was built sometime before 1950 to house the Pacific Cooperative Poultry Producers and was later expanded with an additional warehouse bay.

Jason Prins of Structural Solutions analyzed the warehouse construction for MURA and found it would require straightforward upgrades to meet modern seismic requirements.

The city provided the warehouse to the Red Cross free of charge, but the organization has been winding down its Almeda fire efforts and is expected to vacate the building in the next few weeks.

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

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The city of Medford bought a warehouse last year near Les Schwabb and says it could be converted into a job incubator site, a makerspace or a food hub.