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Hearing set for Liberty Park project

Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune Pacific Survey Supply property, located at 908 N. Riverside Ave., is moving and the city is thinking of redeveloping the site for multiple uses.
Medford proposal would include apartments and market expansion

A public hearing will be held next week for a proposed apartment building and market redevelopment project in the economically depressed Liberty Park neighborhood.

The Medford Urban Renewal Advisory Committee sounded its support for the Riverside Avenue project Thursday night, paving the way for the public hearing at MURA’s board meeting at 6 p.m. in the Prescott Room of the Medford Police Station, 219 S. Ivy St.

Previously the MURA board, made up of city councilors, ratified an option agreement to potentially purchase the one-acre Pacific Supply property on Riverside Avenue for $1,275,000.

After the public hearing, the MURA board is scheduled to consider a resolution that would set the stage for the purchase of the property.

MURA has been investing $18 million into redevelopment of the Liberty Park neighborhood, located just north of downtown.

The 60-day option allows the city time to perform environmental and appraisal work before the purchase.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency hopes the project will attract a developer who could build an apartment complex with up to 45 units. MURA wants to figure a way to build the apartments close to a proposed pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek.

At the same time, MURA has been in negotiations with the owner of La Fiesta Restaurant, who wants to build a 17,000-square-foot market on a separate 1.7-acre property.

Because of riparian concerns with the creek, the total project area is roughly two acres, which could be developed for the restaurant, market and apartment building — along with a shared parking arrangement.

The market proposal originally called for construction closer to the creek, but MURA has been negotiating with the owner to move the building next to Riverside if a land-swap deal can be negotiated.

The properties included in the proposed development area are located from 908 to 920 N. Riverside Ave. Kids Unlimited has an office building overlooking Bear Creek in the proposed development.

As part of the project, the city hopes to create a storm water retention system that would help clean up the water before it empties into the creek. Many of the older neighborhoods currently drain directly into the fish-bearing stream.

Harry Weiss, director of MURA, said roughly a 60-acre area of residences and businesses drain into the creek.

The city wants to build a pedestrian bridge over the creek to provide better access to the Bear Creek Greenway from Liberty Park.

Weiss said the apartment project is still in the early stages of planning.

“We’re always on the hunt for places where we can do more housing,” Weiss said.

As part of the option agreement, the city will analyze potential environmental problems in the project area related to previous car dealerships and repair shops.

Weiss said the project would be another step in turning what has historically been a transportation corridor through Medford into more of an urban corridor with shops, businesses and housing.

“We have a number of goals we could advance at this site,” Weiss said. “We have a long way to go to see how much we can do there.”

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