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Downtown hotel project delayed

The pandemic and other market forces have delayed a five-story hotel proposed for downtown Medford.

Western Hospitality has hit a couple of hurdles with the project that could push the start date off until the end of next year at the earliest.

“Hitting the pause button here is not a bad thing,” said Harry Weiss, executive director of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency.

He said Western Hospitality has been reworking the design and engineering on the project, planned as a 110-room Marriott Hotel on Fourth Street, bounded by Third Street to the north, North Apple Street to the east and North Bartlett Street to the west.

The hotel would be located just north of Pear Blossom Park.

When the park was originally conceived, planners discussed extending it north of Fourth Street, but that idea was abandoned. A major downtown hotel has been on the city's wish list for a while. The Inn at the Commons, located downtown, has undergone a transformation into studio apartments.

In April, MURA sealed a deal with Lithia to conduct a land swap to set the stage for the hotel project.

A 3-acre MURA lot off Riverside Avenue and just south of Inn at the Commons along Bear Creek was exchanged for a 1.65-acre Lithia property just north of Fourth Street.

Lithia is shifting most of its employee parking to the Riverside lot.

Under the deal with MURA, the parking lot will be available to the public at nights and on weekends.

MURA and Lithia have also discussed potentially building a level on top of the parking lot to increase the number of spaces.

Lithia’s move to the new parking lot will free up spaces in the Middleford parking garage and other surface parking lots in the downtown.

Weiss said Western Hospitality was looking at securing federal tax credits on part of the financing for the project, but it wasn’t able to apply for them this year.

Western Hospitality had originally wanted to build the hotel sooner, but the pandemic struck, putting the project on the back burner.

Also federal tax credits are typically sought during the summer.

“We didn’t get the chance to apply this year,” Weiss said.

Also, financing in the hospitality industry is somewhat more complicated currently, he said.

There are also a lot of supply-chain issues at the moment that make it more of a challenge to start a major construction project.

“The latter part of 2022 is the earliest start date,” Weiss said.

Despite the challenges, the hospitality industry had a significant rebound in spring and early summer, driven by tourism, Weiss said.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.