Tenants of the low-income Cherry Creek housing project on Spring Street could begin moving in by early 2014.

Controversial development

The low-income Cherry Creek housing project on Spring Street is blossoming before neighbors' eyes — and to mixed reviews.

Adroit Construction Co. of Ashland is erecting 10 buildings and a community center at the corner of Spring and Berkeley Way in a project expected to cost $10 million.

"It's kind of an eyesore, but I guess that's progress," said Guy Billings, a 60-year-old who lives nearby.

He said he worries the traffic will get worse on Spring Street as a result of the development, which will feature 50 apartments.

Michael McDuff, 30, who also lives nearby, liked the new apartments, however.

"Just walking by, I thought, 'It's cool,' " he said.

McDuff said he had no idea that it was low-income housing.

"I thought it was fancy housing," he said.

Originally designed to house 100 units, the project drew a maelstrom of protest from neighbors, who said it would affect property values and increase traffic congestion. Their concerns led the Medford City Council in September 2011 to reject the project, saying it was incompatible with the neighborhood.

But the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals ruled that the city made mistakes in denying the Jackson County Housing Authority's application.

The Housing Authority threatened a discrimination lawsuit against the city last year, which led to a compromise.

The Housing Authority reduced the size to 50 units on Spring Street and transferred 2.5 acres of the 6-acre property to the city for parkland and a buffer between the complex and Spring Street. In exchange, the city agreed to swap a commercially zoned lot at the corner of Sixth and Grape streets to the Housing Authority, which plans to build a 30,000-square-foot building that would contain 50 units of low-income housing.

Stan Robbins, project superintendent for Adroit, said when construction started, workers heard complaints.

"People were coming by and voicing their concerns," he said.

There was some vandalism of the fencing around the project early on, but Robbins said that's settled down, and he's received some compliments about the look of the project.

Housing Authority Development Director Jason Elzy said his organization built a similar project in Ashland that drew criticism initially.

By the time the project was almost finished, real estate brokers were asking when it would be listed for sale.

"A lot of people were surprised," he said.

The Housing Authority hasn't yet established a waiting list for potential tenants at the Spring Street complex. Once the waiting list is opened, Elzy said he expects hundreds of people to sign up.

Elzy said some residents could begin moving into the units by early 2014. The project should be completed by May or June, he said.

Viola Curtis, an 88-year-old Medford woman who walked her dog, Chloe, through the Donahue-Frohnmayer Park adjacent the project, said, "I don't like it. It ruins the view."

She's not sure about how low-income housing will fit into the community, though the Housing Authority has strict rules for the tenants and has a rigorous maintenance schedule.

"We'll just have to wait and see," said Curtis. "It's there — we can't do much about it."

Even though she's not happy about her view, she said the buildings themselves appear to be well made.

"It's not ugly," she said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

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