Ryan Lees of Medford frames the upper floor of a house in Jacksonville's Keegan Gardens development. Bob Pennell / Mail Tribune - Bob Pennell

Falling land prices boost development

JACKSONVILLE — Falling land prices are breathing new life into a real-estate development that faltered when it came out of the gate just as the housing market collapsed three years ago.

Medford developer Laz Ayala acquired 25 lots in May from Sebren Development Inc. for $550,000. The development was called The Farms of Jacksonville when it was announced by original developer Brendan McDermott, CEO of Sebren and a Jacksonville native.

Ayala rechristened Phase II and Phase III of The Farms as Keegan Gardens, saluting the nearby historic Keegan House. A dramatic drop in land values made the development possible, Ayala said, and makes its townhouses much more affordable.

"Building costs are down right now," Ayala said. "If you can buy dirt at the right price you can go out and build something and make money. It made sense."

The original 23 townhouses were marketed for between $350,000 to $400,000 three years ago. Now a 1,350-square-foot, 2-bedroom, 21/2;-bath unit built by contractor Ryan Blackwell will start at $189,900.

"Obviously, Jacksonville is a very desirable place to live," said Vic Nicolescu of the Alba Group at Keller Williams Realty Southern Oregon, which is marketing the project. "The market didn't support this type of product in the mid-$300,000 range, but we believe it will support this kind of project when it's less than $200,000."

Ayala said he and Blackwell recently completed four 1,400-square-foot rental houses on Beekman Avenue in Medford. Ayala expects to have model units at Keegan Gardens available late this year.

Ayala said the new unit floor plans allow entry through the living room, rather than the kitchen as with the first phase and driveways will have a cobblestone appearance instead of blacktop. He said about a half-dozen of the 23 original units in Phase I remain unsold.

"They're basically the same size," Ayala said. "We just tried to address some of the functional issues."

With construction starting on the west side of the development and working north, Ayala hopes to sell an average of one unit a month.

"We talked to people about the location and the type of homes, and frankly, they didn't think this looked liked Jacksonville," Nicolescu said. "So we tried to address that in the second go around."

In recent decades, Jacksonville has competed with Ashland as the county's highest-priced housing market.

"It's tied first and foremost to tourism," Nicolescu said. "Jacksonville has that historic quaintness and Britt. When friends and family visit Jacksonville, they think 'I'd love to live here.' We're trying to give those folks a cost-effective way of doing so."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail

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