Packing plant is already drawing potential buyers

Whether an agriculture-related firm or outside investor buys the Southern Oregon Sales packing plant, don't expect the 80-year-old facility to sit idle.

Potential buyers have toured the site and more are on their way, said Mark Issley of CB Richard Ellis, the world's largest commercial real estate services firm.

"First, it's a great location inside the urban-growth boundary of Medford and it's inside a commercial zone that serves south Medford, Phoenix, Talent and Ashland," Issley said. "It's got close access to three premium West Coast retailers — WinCo, Fred Meyer and the future Super Wal-Mart. You don't have that near the (Rogue Valley) Mall or out Crater Lake Highway."

The 110,000-square-foot facility's historic location is also attractive to buyers, he said.

"It could be reconstructed into a signature-type building, an office, hotel, restaurant, medical office or retail," said Issley, who lived in Medford six years but now calls Newport Beach, Calif., home.

The packing facility's open-beam Douglas fir construction allows investors several options.

"If you sold the equipment, the retail building in front and timber, it would reduce the cost of developable dirt to $7.50 per square foot," he said.

He said the city has indicated it would consider a zoning change for retail, office, medical or senior care use.

"Vision is a part of it," Issley said. "Can you get a good cash flow for the time it takes to redevelop the property? That's yet to be qualified because it's never been used for anything but packing and cold storage."

On the downside, the flooring isn't capable of handling forklifts, HVAC systems and other standard features in modern buildings. It would also need an earthquake retrofit.

Fruit Growers League director Bill Eckart is crossing his fingers in hopes the old packing house will see sorting lines this time next year.

"I would really like to see Ron Meyer or somebody in the industry keep the shed going," Eckart said. "If we have another (large crop) year like this year, I think we would have more fruit than the three other packing houses can handle."

Historically, he said, Harry & David has acquired packing houses and cold storage facilities as they went out of business.

"Right now," Eckart said, "I think it's 50-50 possibility that it will stay in the industry."

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