The Medford Urban Renewal Agency purchased a portion of the Red Lion Inn for a parking lot shown at the left of the photo. They had hoped there would be up to $700,000 left to put toward the Hawthorne Park remodel and to improve the Bear Creek Greenway. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Bob Pennell

What should MURA do with $700,000?

Urban renewal dollars are almost tapped out, forcing tough choices for Medford officials who find they don't have enough money left to finish all the parks and parking-lot projects they envision.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency had hoped there would be up to $700,000 left to put toward a Hawthorne Park remodel and to improve the Bear Creek Greenway this summer.

A million dollars remain in the budget for the project, which could cost up to $1.7 million to complete.

MURA hoped to spend another $700,000 to finish two parking lots on two downtown properties purchased last year.

To complete all the projects, the MURA board would need about $1.4 million.

On Thursday, the MURA board learned it will have an estimated $700,000 left once it completes more than a half-dozen projects, including a new intersection at Fourth Street and Central Avenue.

Chris Corcoran, MURA board chairman and city councilor, said he considers the remodel of Hawthorne Park a priority.

"It's a crown jewel," he said. "It's the ribbon on the package that was urban renewal."

MURA was created more than 25 years ago and has invested more than $70 million into downtown revitalization efforts, with more than half the money spent on parking.

When MURA established Hawthorne Park as a priority a few years ago, the two properties that would become parking lots weren't even in the picture.

MURA purchased the Dollar/GMC property at 225 S. Riverside Ave. last year to provide about 100 additional parking spaces for college students. The buildings on the property are scheduled to be razed in the future.

MURA also purchased more than three acres last year at 56 N. Riverside Ave. Buildings that used to be part of the Red Lion Inn have been demolished.

Corcoran said the city Budget Committee will meet in May, and he hopes to get some direction to help prioritize the projects.

Also, the Budget Committee will make a recommendation about where to obtain the additional $700,000, potentially from the city's budget, which is separate from the MURA budget.

"If the city's going to cough it up, where's it going to come from?" Corcoran said.

The remaining $700,000 is just an estimate based on dollars remaining in MURA's budget. Corcoran said he hopes a firmer number can be provided by May.

The Medford Parks and Recreation Department also hopes to fine-tune the plans for Hawthorne Park to bring down costs. Construction could begin sometime this summer.

Hawthorne Park, which has been plagued by crime and vagrancy over the years, could get a spray pad, basketball courts, artwork and two dog runs for small and large dogs.

A new playground area for children is to be built near Jackson Street, where the spray pad is planned. New walkways are to be built throughout the park, along with new lighting and a new restroom. Improved irrigation equipment and many new plants would be installed, as well.

Medford officials also want to complete the parking lot at the Dollar GMC property in time for the opening of school in the fall.

The parking lot will be needed because 75 percent of the Evergreen parking garage will be occupied by employees of the businesses that will move into the One West Main building under construction at Main and Fir streets.

Alison Chan, city finance director, said the city and MURA likely will work out the funding hurdle so the projects aren't delayed.

"They will be done," Chan said. "It's just a matter of where the money would come from."

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

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