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Medford is about to get a ‘woonerf'

Andy Atkinson / Mail TribuneRyan Rhoden, Pastor of Living Waters Church in downtown Medford, walks across Third Street Wednesday in downtown Medford.

A downtown Medford street is about to be converted into a “woonerf” to give it a little European flair.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency decided last Thursday that Third Street, from Apple to Bartlett, needs some work to make it more compatible with an upcoming hotel and an adjacent church.

A woonerf is a Dutch word meaning a livable street.

Part of the street would no longer be available for traffic and would be enhanced to make it more walkable.

“It will emphasize pedestrian and bicycle mobility, and it still accommodates a limited amount of traffic,” said Harry Weiss, director of MURA. “Third Street between Apple and Bartlett is hardly used by anybody.”

Weiss said the developer of the proposed hotel project and Living Waters Church both supported the woonerf idea.

The church wants a more pedestrian-oriented access along the southern boundary of its property on Third Street.

Another project approved by the MURA Board calls for restriping nearby Fourth Street to help make it more friendly to pedestrians and bicyclists and to provide an easier link to Pear Blossom Park.

The street changes will go to the Medford City Council for approval. The MURA Board is made up of city councilors.

Weiss said the woonerf concept is similar to other streets in downtown Medford, including Apple and Bartlett surrounding Pear Blossom Park.

Originally, when Pear Blossom Park was conceived, Fourth Street was going to be widened. Ultimately the park was pared down to two city blocks instead of the originally proposed three city blocks.

Since then, there has been a change in sentiment about widening Fourth Street in favor of turning it into a more pedestrian- and bike-friendly route.

“Why put a five-lane road through a downtown plaza?” Weiss said.

Western Hospitality has been reworking the design and engineering for its planned 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.

Parking for the hotel, which would be located just north of Pear Blossom Park on Fourth Street, would be accessed on Bartlett.

Western Hospitality LLC, working with Marriott, has been developing the plans for the Fourth Street hotel.

The upscale suites would come with kitchens, and the hotel would feature two patios overlooking the park, along with two bars and a swimming pool, which would be partially indoors and partially outdoors. The L-shaped hotel would have some underground parking.

Western Hospitality is still going through design changes, but the hotel should be five or six stories tall.

On the first floor, there would be a patio looking out toward Pear Blossom Park, with the pool nearby.

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