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Medford Center surveys the future

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Owners of the shopping center using a survey to get feedback on popular tenants, new restaurant concepts
Grace Marin and Lili Marin, 3, enjoy an ice cream Wednesday at Cold Stone Creamery at Medford Center. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Several new stores have moved into The Village at Medford Center. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]
Leslie Lundin, managing partner for LBG, sits down at Tap & Vine in Medford Wednesday. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

The Village at Medford Center was alive with activity Wednesday evening.

Patrons filled outdoor tables and chairs to chow down on smash burgers with shoestring fries from locally owned Tap & Vine at 559.

Musical artist Adam Gabriel strummed his acoustic guitar, drawing crowds eating ice cream from the popular chain Cold Stone Creamery.

People of all ages trickled into Cinemark Tinseltown USA to see the latest flicks, be it “Top Gun: Maverick” or the biopic “Elvis.”

It could have been called a typical summer evening for Medford Center, which is conducting a survey asking patrons what else they’d like to see in the place its owners envision as “Medford’s living room.”

“We want to know what the people want,” said Leslie Lundin, managing partner with LBG Real Estate Companies LLC. “We want to be the place that people want to go to.”

The survey, available on the Medford Center’s Facebook page or at www.surveymonkey.com/r/53NVRBG through mid-July, includes questions asking customers how many times they’ve visited Medford Center over the past year, what they think of retail and restaurants already offered, and even how they feel about safety and cleanliness at the property.

Then there are questions asking customers which of the following restaurant concepts they’d like to see next: modern-style Japanese ramen and sushi, Chicago deep-dish pizza, all-you-can-eat Korean barbecue and fried chicken, all-American barbecue and bookstore-coffeeshop/cafe.

“I can’t tell you which one’s winning right now,” Lundin said with a laugh. “The participation rate has been phenomenal.”

The survey was developed by a hospitality consultant named Jeffrey McNeal, whom LGB hired to put Tap & Vine’s concept together.

“There isn’t a Korean barbecue place in Southern Oregon — maybe people don’t even know what it is,” Lundin said. “Jeff said, ‘If you really want to know, you’ve got to ask people — do a survey. They work really well.’”

Adam Benson, general manager of Tap & Vine, said three of the restaurant concepts, including Korean barbecue, are his. They originated in the planning stages of the current restaurant, which he describes as “pub fare with flair.”

“I don’t think we would compete with each other; all boats rise, and I think we would just all help each other out,” Benson said of adding new eating establishments to The Village. “I’m willing to start other restaurants here to further the center.”

One place a new restaurant could start up at Medford Center is in the former Sears Auto Center. Lundin highlighted the structure during a tour of the shopping center Wednesday evening.

“Those concepts, in old auto centers, are really, really popular right now,” she said. “If you look at that building and how it’s set up, that is a natural for a really cool restaurant. We’ve been saving it to get the right tenant in. But we don’t know what the right restaurant is.”

Officials with LGB said they believe restaurants can be a shopping center anchor, a new and emerging trend.

“It seemed so obvious,” said Lundin, sitting at a table at Tap & Vine. “(It used to be) very risky, and people didn’t see them as an anchor. We recognize that we need something like this — a restaurant here, with doors that open up and a big, vibrant gathering place.”

For Medford Center, not every concept is waiting to crop up; some of it is already established or imminent. That is true for Burlington and T.J.Maxx, which are open, while Ross Dress for Less is slated for the fall.

“In the retail world, that’s the trifecta of great discount tenants,” Lundin said. “They love to co-locate.”

There was an abundance of people, young and old, at Medford Center Wednesday evening, including Anita Sanchez, who was eating Cold Stone ice cream with friends after a workout at Village Fitness. She said she comes here three times a week.

“It’s the place I come the most,” said Sanchez, who also loves live music and drinks at Tap & Vine. “It’s nice. You can walk and have shade.”

Sanchez, who took the survey, suggested brick-oven pizza as a future restaurant concept.

“I would love to see improvements and more shopping,” she said. “It would help this entire area. It was dead for a while.”

“Right now, with all of this business, it’s fun,” said Sanchez’s friend, Josie Martinez, who had not heard of the survey until it was mentioned to her. “I would like to see an area with a big fire pit so we can all come together.”

She’s hopeful Medford Center makes improvements so it can be more fun and bring more people to the city.

Jean Bradley and her friend Diana Walker were seated directly outside Cold Stone. Bradley suggested Medford Center bring more artistic opportunities, including performances.

“Music is the best therapy,” she said, while a pianist played a rendition of Elton John’s “Benny and the Jets.”

Walker, on the other hand, could not talk about Medford Center without mentioning her wedding, which happened around the same time the Medford Center — bracketing Jackson Street, Biddle Road, Stevens Street and Crater Lake Avenue — opened.

“We had nothing. That was the first shopping center we had,” Walker said. “It has changed, let’s put it that way.”

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.