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Developers eye low-income housing in Liberty Park

A man rides his bike past Liberty Park in Medford. [Mail Tribune /Andy Atkinson]

Medford has found two companies competing to build a flagship low-income housing project for the Liberty Park neighborhood.

Rubicon Investments of Medford has formed a partnership with Edlen and Company for the project, and the other company is Standard Communities, which has primarily worked on the East Coast.

Daniel Bunn, a former Medford City Council member, is president and CEO for Rubicon Investments, which has built many large projects throughout Oregon.

Just north of Les Schwab on Central Avenue, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency bought a warehouse and the surrounding 3.25 acres in 2019 for $1.75 million, which would be the site for the housing project.

The Liberty Park neighborhood, just north of downtown Medford, is in the midst of an ongoing redevelopment effort to upgrade this low-income area of the city.

MURA is trying to attract a developer to build about 100 to 125 units on the property. A separate warehouse is being eyed for a potential community center.

On Thursday, the MURA board, made up of city councilors, agreed to set up a scoring committee to determine which of the two development companies will be selected to build the project.

The scoring committee will make its recommendation to the MURA board by Nov. 10, and the board at its Nov. 23 special meeting will likely select one of the companies.

At this point, no specific design has been submitted for the housing complex, which would be built between Central Avenue and nearby railroad tracks. However, Rubicon and Elden indicated it is considering building 155 units in a four-story building. The partnership also envisioned a community center in the existing warehouse

Standard indicated it was looking at 108 to 120 units in two three-story walk-ups.

The company that is selected by MURA would have an exclusive right to develop the property.

Weiss said that the scoring committee will look at the strength of the companies and their ability to complete a project of this size as part of the selection process.

The actual project will likely vary considerably from these early estimates, based on a number of factors, including building costs, types of grants and financing.

“This is all dependent on where the funding is coming from,” he said.

He said there is a great difference in cost between a three-story and four-story building, which will weigh into the final design for the project.

Developers are looking for a “sweet spot” between building construction type, the number of units, financing and other factors, Weiss said.

Two other companies had expressed interest in the project, but for various reasons didn’t submit proposals, he said.

“The takeaway here is that there are two very qualified and capable developers interested in this project,” Weiss said. “If this all goes forward, this will be a demonstration of other projects that could be developed in other urban areas of Medford.”

Another MURA project with local developer Laz Ayala is being built at the corner of South Holly Street and West Eighth Street, which will have 58 units, offering studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units in a three-story building.

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