MURA may sell old ERA building to credit service firm

A building once destined for the wrecking ball in downtown Medford could become the new headquarters for Southern Oregon Credit Service and Rogue Valley Billing Service.

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency might sell the 5,100-square-foot, former ERA building at 201 W. Sixth St. for $325,000 to $390,000, depending on a pending appraisal. MURA purchased the property in 2003 for $552,000 as part of plans to create additional parking downtown.

The property sits behind the Britt Festivals' headquarters and was formerly used as a dance studio.

Brian Watkins, president of Southern Oregon Credit Service, said he's been looking for a long time for the right home for his business, currently located in a leased building at 841 Stewart Ave.

The Sixth Street building will give him another 1,000 square feet, and the area where the dance floor is located would be ideal for the company's call-center operations.

He has 22 employees in Medford, with three other employees in offices in Grants Pass and Roseburg. "It's so functional, and it works fine for our needs," he said.

Many of his clients are located in the downtown area, and the location will provide easier access to the courts, he said.

Because of the price, Watkins said he is buying the building "as is."

The heating and air conditioning system will have to be replaced, and some work needs to be done on the parking area, which is sometimes used for those going to the Britt Festivals offices. He said his business would need all the parking spaces for employees and customers.

Watkins said people have the impression that collection agencies do well in a recession.

"We have double the amount of work, but our rate of return is only up by 6 percent," he said.

The unemployment rate has been hovering around 13 percent, and it is difficult to get people to pay their bills when they don't have work, he said.

The new building will be a good financial move and will position the company better for when the economy turns around, he said. "We've held our own as things get tough," Watkins said.

Bill Hoke, deputy city manager, said MURA purchased the property so it could be used for a possible parking area.

Since then, the city, which took over administration of MURA this year, decided it would be better if a business purchased it and renovated the building, which has fallen into disrepair.

"The real thing about urban renewal is it's supposed to eliminate blight and create jobs," he said.

The MURA board, composed of Medford City Council members, hasn't decided how proceeds from the possible sale would be spent.

Selling the building will not only put the building back on the tax rolls, but create jobs in the process, Hoke said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or e-mail

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