Medford's downtown revitalization

After a year of deliberation, the Medford Urban Renewal Agency board approved a hotly debated list of 14 projects Thursday that are designed to revitalize the downtown area.

The MURA board set aside $11.5 million in redevelopment dollars that will set the projects in motion.

The single biggest amount is $2.85 million for renovations needed for the two downtown parking garages.

A $2 million incentive has been set aside to attract a developer to build something around the Evergreen Parking Garage on Evergreen Way off of Main Street.

The board earlier voted to set aside $1.1 million for a master plan and future development of Hawthorne and Bear Creek parks.

In the most significant change from preliminary proposals, MURA board members removed $950,000 that had been earmarked for a downtown fire station.

Local businesses pushed for more support from MURA for the revival of the Holly Theatre, and they got it.

MURA already provided $100,000 to the Holly Theatre for a facade renovation that began this week. On Thursday, MURA committed an additional $200,000 to repair a broken ceiling truss.

"It has been a great week for the Holly," said Ron Kramer, executive director for Jefferson Public Radio, which owns the theater.

The MURA board, made up of City Council members, will participate in a lighting ceremony after the Holly's replica of the original marquee and neon sign is installed by April 2012.

One of the most controversial expenditures is $1.8 million for the Fourth Street and Central Avenue intersection. Many local business owners and residents have voiced strong opposition, saying the project won't help revitalize the downtown.

Mark Millner, who is with the Heart of Medford Association, criticized funding a new intersection.

"I don't see people jumping up and down that they've got a $1.4 million intersection at Fourth and Central," he said.

Millner said the Holly is one of the most important items on the list that would provide a real catalyst for improving downtown.

"It's bogus, in my opinion, that you can't support it more," Millner said. "This project screams urban renewal."

Brian Porter, owner of Porters Restaurant, said local businesses are strongly supporting the Holly Theatre, offering to donate portions of proceeds from food and drinks.

He said he thinks the combination of the Holly and the remodeling of another building owned by Jefferson Public Radio on 10th Street will pump at least as much life into the downtown as The Commons project, which features the Lithia headquarters.

"In terms of a little vitality, I would probably give my nod to the Holly," he said. "People like to go out to dinner then to the theater," he said. "Or, they like to go out someplace after the theater for a drink and dessert."

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email

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