Talent moves on Gateway development

TALENT — The Talent Urban Renewal Agency will buy the Mei Sum restaurant property on Highway 99.

The purchase is seen as a key to the Gateway Project, a 4.23-acre area bordering West Valley View Road and Highway 99 that is viewed as a way to enhance downtown. 

The agency approved the purchase at its meeting Wednesday and approved wording for the criteria that will be used in selecting a developer for the project.

TURA is not seeking detailed proposals or plans in its Request for Expressions of Interest from developers, but is looking for a vision of what might be developed on the site and adjoining properties. A broad range of deal structures will be considered, including public/private collaborations.

Urban renewal consultant John Southgate of Portland expects the Request for Expressions of Interest to be released this Wednesday. Submission of proposals would be due around Sept. 20. TURA’S board would likely make a selection by early November, and an agreement with the developer would be expected by March or April.

Talent Maker City had advocated for inclusion in the Gateway Project, but board member Ken Baker expressed concern that the criteria, as written, required that a maker space be included. Baker proposed an amendment to the criteria that was adopted that portrays a maker space as an example of a type of facility that might be built.

“I can’t agree with making it a requirement. I want to see this (maker space) project work on its own merit," said board member John Harrison. “This is a very strong project. Any developer that ignores it is going to be foolish.”

Southgate, in an Aug. 2 memo, had advised against a requirement that a maker space be mandated because potential developers might be deterred from making submissions.

“It’s still possible (developers) could come up with an even better idea, and they could certainly present that to us, but this is something that is very important to the community ... (and) the language of the comprehensive plan supports it,” said board member Ryan Pederson.

Other criteria include a preference for mix-used, multistory development, capacity to contribute to the financial stability of TURA and the city of Talent, a commitment to community engagement in design, and demonstrated experience in project development and financing.

One provision in the 20-page RFEI is that right-of-way must be retained to complete a long-planned third leg of a roundabout that would link West Valley View Road to Wagner Street to provide additional access to downtown.

TURA negotiated with the Talent Irrigation Distinct for more than a year to acquire TID’s site for the third leg. TID borders the roundabout that already links West Valley View and Main Street. TID rejected a $1.5 million offer by the agency in March. A driveway into the TURA project area off the roundabout would become part of the link to Wagner Street.

Southgate had recommend the purchase of the Mei Sum property after the agency earlier acquired two parcels of commercial land totaling 3.59 acres for $1,295,000. The parcels surround the Mei Sum location on Highway 99. The board approved a six-month rental of the building to Mei Sum, as development would likely not begin until next spring at the earliest.

Jack Latvala of Star Properties, real estate agent in the transaction, said he could not disclose the selling price because the sale hasn’t closed. He said it was close to the $600,000 asking price.

— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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