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Medford’s Palace could get royal treatment

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune The proposed Palace apartment complex would be above Bricktowne Brewing Company, 26 S. Central Ave., in downtown Medford.
Dormant downtown hotel looked at as site for 50 apartments

A former hotel that has languished for decades could be transformed into a 50-unit apartment building in downtown Medford.

Fortify Holdings LLC, which has been buying up other Medford hotels, including Inn at the Commons, is planning to turn the upstairs of the building that houses Bricktowne Brewing Company into an apartment complex at 26 S. Central Ave.

“We are extremely excited about our latest project downtown in Medford, said Ziad Elsahili, president of Fortify, in an email. “When complete, the Palace is going to be a vibrant mixed-use building that brings additional housing to downtown Medford on top of already existing retail space. “

The upstairs of the former Palace Hotel has remained empty for about 50 years, with some of the bed frames and other reminders of its former hotel days still frozen in time.

Elsahili said his company plans to do a complete remodel of the upstairs, exposing the existing brick walls inside some of the apartments. A new heating and air conditioning system will be installed for each unit, and the roof will be repaired.

Each apartment will have a kitchen and bathroom.

He said the rebuild will try to preserve the historic character of the building, and Fortify will seek financial assistance from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency.

Elsahili said certain finishes and touches that reflect the history of the hotel on the inside of the building will be retained.

The budget for the project is still being worked out and a start date for the renovation hasn’t been set yet, Elsahili said.

He said details are still being developed, such as the configuration of the rooms, common space and roof renovations.

Fortify expects to get 50 or more apartments at the top of the building, which occupies about a quarter of a block between Eighth Street and Main Street. The downstairs of the building will remain retail.

“We see the retail there as a huge benefit for the future tenants of the Palace apartments,” Elsahili said.

Fortify has been purchasing hotel properties in Medford over the past few years, making some of them available to fire survivors.

Fortify has a lease agreement with Rogue Community Health, and together they partnered with the Oregon Department of Human Services, Oregon Housing and Community Services and ACCESS for an 84-unit property at the former America's Best Value Inn on Riverside Avenue.

The company also bought an Econolodge near Winco, and a Ramada Inn next to Food 4 Less.

Parts of the Palace Hotel were built around the turn of the last century, with more additions made during the 1920s.

Harry Weiss, director of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, said he’s had preliminary discussions with Fortify about potential grants that could involve seismic upgrades or fire sprinkler systems.

He said that according to code, the city wouldn’t require a seismic upgrade because the building isn’t undergoing a change of use, because it will continue to provide housing.

However, elevators and new additions would be required to meet current codes.

Another issue that will have to be worked out is parking, Weiss said, though the city could potentially provide parking permits for residential occupants.

Weiss said Fortify’s plan is another step in the city’s quest to get more housing in the downtown.

“It’s really exciting to see someone take on that property,” he said.

Weiss said Fortify has taken on a number of similar projects throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Renatta Tellaz, executive director of the Downtown Medford Association, said more apartments will help bring extra energy into the downtown.

She said the Fortify project and developer Laz Ayala’s 62-unit apartment complex at South Holly and West Eighth streets will bring badly needed housing to the downtown.

“That’s going to be a game-changer,” she said. “We’re looking at these two projects as being the start of something amazing."

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