Under the draft budget of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, the Middleford parking structure would be remodeled to include a connector between downtown and the planned redevelopment project known as The Commons. - Bob Pennell

Downtown façade program unfunded in $14.3 million proposal

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency's proposed $14.3 million budget does not include new funds for the popular façade improvement grant program that has helped spruce up historic buildings downtown.

The agency's budget committee approved the 2007-08 budget Tuesday evening.

The budget includes only a $50,000 carryover from the previous year's façade improvement program as the agency gears up for the downtown redevelopment project: The Commons. The budget includes $300,000 for design and construction of the remodel of the Middleford parking structure to turn a physical barrier into a connection for foot traffic between dowtown and The Commons this year.

Board member Dick Entinger asked if there were resources to tap to keep the façade grant program alive. He asked about selling the ERA building on Sixth and Grape streets, which the agency owns and leases out, to have the money available for future projects.

MURA director Jackie Rodgers said there is a nonprofit agency leasing the ERA building until August 2008; additionally, a condition upon the agency is that selling the property has to improve the district.

Cathy de Wolfe, budget committee member and chairwoman of Medford's Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission, also asked about façade improvement.

"What's the reason there isn't more money in that?" she said.

Board member Pete Naumes said the board is committed to keeping the program.

"I think you're going to see it back next year," he said.

George Kramer, chairman of the Oregon Heritage Commission and the historic preservation consultant who worked with MURA on its façade improvement program, said the program is one of the most beneficial things the agency does for downtown. The program has offered $150,000 annually in grants to downtown property owners, touching almost 80 buildings, he said.

"There's not a block in downtown that someone has not benefitted," he said, adding that he hopes the agency finds the money to continue funding the program.

Currently the Hubbards Hardware and Rack 'Em buildings are finishing their façade improvements, and Scan Design on Fir Street and Microvellum Inc. on W. Sixth Street are next in line.

MURAs $14.3 million annual budget is up from the $10 million budget for fiscal year 2006-07 and the $13.6 million budget for 2005-06.

Also included is $1.1 million for the Bartlett Street improvement project, alongside the new Southern Oregon University/Rogue Community College building under construction. The street is expected to be completed August 2008. There is also $350,000 set aside for the Evergreen Way alongside the Bella Vita project which is estimated to begin in June.

The budget calls for spending up to $226,800 for four staff members. That figure is down from the previous year's $270,080 when a senior planner was on staff. The salaries include $91,800 for the director, $58,600 for a new office administrator position, and two administrative support technician positions at $38,200 each, one of which is a new position.

The assistant to the director position, formerly held by Rodgers, was eliminated. The figures do not include benefits. The budget also includes $226,800 for contractual services such as consultants and grant writers, up from the previous $206,000.

The MURA budget committee includes eight members of the public and nine members of the agency's board of directors.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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