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City approves homeless hotel

The Redwood Inn in Medford is going to be turned into housing for Almeda fire survivors and others in need of transitional housing. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune
Fire survivors will be the first priority

A motel being turned into a transitional housing project for fire survivors and homeless people received a $450,000 grant from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency Thursday night.

“It’s a great project,” said MURA board member Tim D’Alessandro. “It’s a step in the right direction.”

Rogue Retreat, a Medford homeless advocacy organization, bought The Redwood Inn, at 722 N. Riverside Ave., using a $2.35 million grant and has started converting it into 47 suites with kitchens.

The organization, with help from MURA, received the money to buy the hotel from a portion of the $30 million Project Turnkey state grant program designed to aid fire victims in Oregon.

The grant was enough to pay for the purchase of the hotel and some of the renovation.

Providence has agreed to contribute $120,000 to convert four of the rooms at the hotel for people with medical conditions.

The MURA board, made up of City Council members, on Thursday night approved $250,000 as a first installment toward the renovation of the rooms.

The remaining $200,000 will be provided in two installments as the project progresses.

The money is part of about $18 million MURA has set aside to improve the low-income neighborhood known as Liberty Park, just north of downtown.

Chad McComas, executive director of Rogue Retreat, said the demolition work at the hotel has already begun.

“We intend to start the building on the first 14 rooms by April 14,” McComas said.

By October, all the rooms will have been renovated.

Over the next two years, fire survivors will be the main occupants of the refurbished building.

The Oregon Department of Human Services will identify the fire survivors who are eligible to live in the motel.

Eventually, once the fire survivors find more permanent housing, the motel will become transitional housing for homeless people.

Rogue Retreat offers a number of options for the homeless, including an urban campground just off Biddle Road and Hope Village, a collection of tiny houses on McAndrews Road.

The motel will offer a further step up for the homeless as they transition back into society.

“It’s a step above Hope Village,” McComas said.

Harry Weiss, executive director of MURA, said the city would provide the money only if Rogue Retreat is unable to secure other grants to cover the cost of renovation.

He said it’s likely the city will have to pay the full $450,000 toward the renovation, partly because the cost for materials and labor has increased dramatically.

Weiss said Rogue Retreat will remodel the hotel in phases and already has people lined up who need to move in.

This is the second hotel in the valley that is being bought with Project Turnkey grants.

A 50-room Super 8 motel in Ashland was purchased by Options for Helping Residents of Ashland rafter receiving a $4.2 million grant.

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