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State approves grant for homeless hotel

A $2.55 million grant announced Wednesday by the Oregon Community Foundation paves the way for the purchase of a Medford hotel to convert it into apartments for Almeda fire survivors and homeless people impacted by COVID-19.

Rogue Retreat, a Medford nonprofit, is working to buy The Redwood Inn, 722 N. Riverside Ave., and transform it into 47 units with kitchens.

This is the second grant Jackson County has received to help with emergency housing for fire victims, the other being for $4.2 million for the purchase of the 50-room Super 8 motel in Ashland.

With the Project Turnkey grant approved, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency has scheduled a special meeting following the Medford City Council meeting at 6 p.m., Thursday, to discuss assistance to help Rogue Retreat remodel the hotel.

A $450,000 grant or loan could be provided as part of $18 million targeted by MURA to help the low-income Liberty Park neighborhood, located just north of downtown.

Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, said his organization is working with Providence on another grant, which would allow for creating four recuperative care rooms.

Homeless people who are being released from the hospital could transition into these rooms to help with their recovery.

As part of the Project Turnkey grant, the remaining rooms would have to be dedicated to fire survivors.

McComas said he hopes to close the deal on the purchase of the hotel by March 19, and begin remodeling shortly after.

“Hopefully we will have it done in a few months,” McComas said.

The state grant provides $130,000 for the purchase of the kitchenettes, and the additional money from the city would pay for installation and any other remodeling work that needs to be done.

Once fire survivors find more permanent housing, the hotel will be used as transitional housing, McComas said.

This is the latest partnership between the city and Rogue Retreat to deal with the homeless crisis in Jackson County, which was made worse by the Almeda fire and COVID-19.

“We’ve given them support because they continue to produce,” City Manager Brian Sjothun said. “They have been a great partner.”

The nonprofit has worked with the city on other projects, including the Kelly Shelter, Hope Village and the Urban Campground.

The city has been working on the Project Turnkey grant since November.

While the grant provides some funding for renovation of the hotel, it wasn’t enough, so Sjothun said City Council members, who comprise the MURA board, have shown a willingness to help out.

This is the third hotel transformation project around the downtown, with the Inn at the Commons and America’s Best Inn also eyed for remodeling into apartments, though not specifically for those displaced by the fire.

These projects should spur economic development in the downtown, Sjothun said.

“We should see some sort of transformation in the downtown area in next 18 months or so,” he said.

The Oregon Legislature allocated $65 million for Project Turnkey for the purpose of acquiring motels/hotels to shelter people experiencing homelessness or at-risk of homelessness.

Two funds were provided by the state: one totaling $30 million to be awarded in counties and tribal communities impacted by the 2020 wildfires, including Jackson County; and one totaling $35 million for the remaining 28 counties in the state.

Oregon Community Foundation is administering both funds through an application and selection process, with guidance from an advisory committee of state, local and community stakeholders.

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

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune The Redwood Inn Motel in Medford could be used for fire survivors by new owners.