The estate of Art Alfinito and Jefferson Public Radio have closed the sale of Medford's historic Holly Theater. Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune photo - Jamie Lusch

'Coming back to life'

The Jefferson Public Radio Foundation inked a deal Thursday to purchase Medford's historic Holly Theatre with plans to turn it into a venue for live music and film.

It was a busy day for JPR. Hours after completing the $499,000 purchase, the foundation's executive director Ron Kramer appeared before the Medford Urban Renewal Agency public meeting in city hall to request at least $1 million to refurbish the theater's interior.

The goal, Kramer said, is to return the theater to its glory days of the 1930s.

The meeting was called by the MURA board, which is made up of City Council members, to seek public ideas for how to spend $13.8 million in funding meant to revitalize Medford.

The council chambers were filled with people ready to give their opinions on how the money could be used to draw businesses and visitor's dollars to Medford.

Kramer was relieved to finally hold the Holly title in his hands after spending months jumping through hoops to purchase the building, which has fallen on hard times in recent decades.

"We have successfully saved a very important structure in downtown Medford," Kramer said. "This will attract businesses to downtown and improve property values in the area."

The JPR Foundation has made its presence felt in Medford recently by accepting a former Medford Grocery Warehouse at 40 10th St. It plans to renovate the building, which once was home to a nightclub, to house Jefferson Public Radio, which has been associated with Ashland since 1969.

The downtown Medford warehouse was donated to JPR by Bruce Larson,who owns Larson's Home Furnishings. It has been appraised at $500,000. (Correction: Details about the donated warehouse have been corrected in this story.)

The projects have left the JPR Foundation looking to raise a total of $7 million to renovate the buildings. It has three years to begin restoration of the warehouse under a deed restriction. The Holly renovation could take five years.

On Thursday, Kramer asked that MURA kick in at least $1 million to get the interior remodel started. The total needed to open the theater would be $3.5 million, Kramer said.

Kramer said the theater needs new a new heating and air condition system, updated electric wiring, seats, a roof and refurbished rest rooms among other renovations.

MURA currently has a $500,000 facade renovation plan in place to improve the building's shabby exterior.

"It's important that we have the facade completed by the end of this calendar year," Kramer said. "We want to show the community that the Holly is coming back to life."

The JPR Foundation runs the Cascade Theatre in Redding, which Kramer says has operated in the black since they took over six years ago.

"We have had several big acts recently such as Bill Cosby at the Cascade Theatre that fly over the Rogue Valley on their way somewhere else," Kramer said. "The Holly will give them a place to perform."

In addition to music, the Holly would include a screen showing art house films and will broadcast opera and stage performances from around the world.

MURA also heard ideas for what to do with the $13.8 million chest of money. MURA, created more than 20 years ago, will wind down over the next three years after spending or designating $62 million for projects to improve Medford.

Ben Truwe, a local historian, asked the council to dedicate funds to moving the historic Luther Godwyn Porter House to Hawthorne Park to serve as a city museum.

"A museum is something that shows you've arrived as a city," Truwe said.

Several others in attendance approached the council in favor of the museum.

Ron Norris, who sits on the MURA budget committee, suggested that a portion of the funds go to adding a fire station in downtown. He said the city should consider purchasing existing buildings instead of building a station from scratch to save money.

Officials from the Medford Parks Foundation asked that a dog park be added to Hawthorne Park in addition to improving or replacing the pool.

The council did not plan on the number of speakers for the meeting and had to cut them off after an hour to start the scheduled City Council meeting. Those who wished to give their opinions for the MURA funds were asked to wait until after the council meeting to give their statements.

Over the next few weeks the MURA board will make it selections on which projects to support. The decisions will be finalized on June 2 when MURA adopts its budget.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email

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