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Phoenix food court planned for downtown urban renewal site

Phoenix City Hall

An outdoor food court could bring the first commercial development to land acquired in downtown Phoenix by the city’s urban renewal agency six years ago. It would be located adjacent to the town’s Civic Center building on Main Street.

The urban renewal agency’s board of directors agreed July 7 to proceed with creation of an agreement with two developers, but work has just started as both parties waited for a new platting of the land to be recorded by Jackson County, which took place Aug. 20.

Phoenix Phoodery would be developed by commercial real estate broker Eric Herron and builder Kyle Taylor of Taylored Elements Construction. A central building would provide space for five food operations, a tap house, kitchen spaces and services. Seating would be in an open space with a roof covering, heating provisions and roll-up doors.

“We have been working with PHURA for a couple years on this deal where we can create a social hub for the community to go to,” said Herron. “(Customers) would have multiple choices across from the park. The bike path is real close.”

Developers are preparing a disposition and development agreement that would include sale of the one-third acre parcel by the agency to Herron and Taylor. Phoenix would retain ownership of a small area of land at the site, which includes a large maple tree, and measures would be taken to avoid damaging it during construction.

The pair would sell or lease the restaurant spaces. The court would provide opportunities for restaurant owners who lost properties in the Almeda fire or others to own their kitchen spaces. Most restaurants operate in leased space, Herron said. Restaurant owners who purchase spaces would have a say in how the operation is run under agreements.

“Very few restaurant owners ever get to own their own restaurant properties,” said Herron. “I think this would be a good opportunity for them to do that.”

Herron said he’d like to see a variety of food types offered to appeal to families and those with special dietary needs. The partners would own the tap house and hire a manager to run it, said Herron.

The Phoodery would be patterned after The Lot in Bend, but with some differences. The Lot features food trucks surrounding a central space with a tap house. Heat is provided by lamps and fire pits in the covered space.

“It works in Bend. It’s cold there. It won’t be fully heated, but there would be some heat lamps, and you could pull the doors down when it gets cold,” said Taylor. Misters would be incorporated to provide summer cooling.

“We were always looking for a project that would really turn these lands into the highest and best use for the city of Phoenix,” said PHURA board Chair Al Muelhoefer. Oregon Department of Transportation studies show that 6,600 cars go down Main Street each day, and he’d like to get some of those people to stop.

“I think it’s a neat concept. I don’t know any other place in the valley that has a variety of food stalls where you can sit outside,” said Muelhoefer.

Speakers during a public input session at the meeting all supported the Phoodery as a good thing for Phoenix.

A civil engineer has been retained to created final drawings for the proposed one-story structure. Concept designs were created by Herron and rendered by Ron Rivards of 3D Modeling, Ashland, for materials that were shown at the July meeting. If an agreement is reached, construction might start in the first quarter of 2022, said Herron.

PHURA amassed nearly 30-acres of land in downtown in 2015. The agency removed some older buildings but development has been slow. Parking and roadways were created and infrastructure installed for future development. It also turned a wetland area into a park and restored streams that run through the property.

The partners and PHURA have discussed potential development of other lots the agency has for sale in the area, but both parties said that creation of the Phoodery comes first before agreements on future stages.

PHURA completed the $2.8 million Civic Center in 2018 and turned it over to the city, which now manages the building. It hosts city meetings and a variety of events and activities and rents the space for use by groups.

Urban renewal board members also heard a proposal for a nature learning center on land owned by the agency adjacent to Blue Heron Park during the July 7 session. The idea was brought forward by members of the Rogue Valley Pollinator Project and others groups. The agency decided to put the proposal on hold while it looks at the best use for the site.

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