Shopping center construction pushed back

Construction is likely to wait an additional six months on Northgate Centre, a large commercial development planned on the old Medco property in northwest Medford.

"We expected to be in construction next March, (and) now we're probably looking at June or July," says Steve Morgan, managing partner of the 42-acre shopping center Alba Village on the property.

"Every one of the major retailers that isn't here wants to be here," Morgan says. "If you're the head of marketing or store expansion for someone like Borders, Best Buy or Bed and Bath, every day you look at 43 regions across the country and are looking for which ones will offer the best returns the quickest."

Flat retail sales and continuing housing woes have created angst on Wall Street, which means quarterly earnings by publicly held merchandisers are drawing more scrutiny than usual.

"All of the sudden chains that planned to open 60 stores this year are now at 30," Morgan says. "It doesn't mean anything, but it means everything. All of this has probably slowed things up six months. We're working like busy little bees on this thing and it's been terribly frustrating, but we've come too far not to keep rolling."

Morgan says negotiations in the next few days should pave the way for an announcement of major tenants next week.

The project won't be in phases, but will start on the north and west areas near Highway 238 and Central Avenue and move toward Court Street. A general contractor has yet to be picked.

— Greg Stiles

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