Event planner Susan Coby shows off the Imperial Events Center ballroom, which features hardwood floors and a raised stage. The center on North Front Street is in a building that served as a fire horse livery in the 1890s. - Bob Pennell

Restoration gives Medford unique setting for events

In the 1890s, the Arenas Building on North Front Street was a livery housing the horses that pulled fire engines for the Medford firehouse.

Now building owner Grant Alexander has remodeled the space midway between Main and Sixth streets into a stylish event hall for all sorts of occasions.

The Imperial Event Center is a three-room gathering hall on the second floor of the building, including a 3,000-square-foot ballroom with a large stage. The ballroom is across the hall from a 2,000-square-foot multimedia meeting room, which features big windows overlooking Front Street, flat-screen televisions, speakers and wireless Internet.

"This is a unique space," said event planner Susan Coby, "I don't think there's a place in Medford that's quite this cool."

Alexander named his new venture The Imperial after a brothel that existed in the early 1900s on the property next to his event center, now occupied by a U.S. Bank drive-thru ATM.

Alexander and a partner bought the building from the Veterans of Foreign Wars organization seven years ago, with plans for a full makeover.

A remodeler for 18 years by trade, Alexander knew exactly what he wanted to do when he began work on the space in 2009.

"I wanted to be able to invite my mother to a place like this," said Alexander, referring to the change from a dark dimly lit space for veterans to gather, to today's shining hardwood floors and warm tones.

With no noise restrictions for the building's location, the space is open for music, dances and other potentially loud events. The center includes a commercial kitchen, appliances and separate men's and women's bathrooms.

"I have this pipe dream of having a big party here with a swing band," said Alexander. He designed the space to work for many occasions, to provide an alternative to holding gatherings in a bar.

"You can bring your kids here, there are no lottery machines and alcohol is optional," Alexander said. He does not have a liquor license, leaving the option open to potential clients, who can hire a licensed alcohol server and purchase liability insurance if they choose to have alcohol served at their event.

The multimedia room is complete with flat-screen televisions, a projector for Powerpoint presentations or slideshows, a sound system, wireless Internet and closed circuit television cameras.

Rates vary for renting the space due to the highly customizable capabilities of the venue, but daytime rates for the ballroom are about $65 an hour and $35 an hour for the multimedia room. For evening access to the center, the ballroom will cost about $1,500, while the multimedia room costs about $500 for the evening. Refundable and non-refundable fees are also associated with renting the space.

The original brick building was built in 1896, and has been reinforced to meet earthquake codes.

"I can't believe this place hadn't burned down," Alexander said, noting the old faulty wiring he discovered during the remodel.

Alexander is almost finished remodeling the ground floor, which he has converted into a 4,500-square-foot bistro that he hopes to sell to local restaurateurs.

"I built a building inside the building," said Alexander.

The site has been home to many bars and businesses in the past and Alexander said during the remodeling he pulled up three layers of bar, discovering evidence of previous fire damage and many silver coins from before World War II.

Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486 or

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