What is hip? Maybe soon, downtown

If it works in Portland, why not Medford?

Food carts have become a downtown fixture in oh-so-hip PDX. They get written up in national publications, and are even featured on downtown walking tours for tourists.

Medford's version won't be quite as elaborate — we don't have the population base to support dozens upon dozens of mobile food vendors — but the vision of Doug "Digger" O'Dell has promise.

O'Dell wants to convert a former front-end alignment shop into a small tavern, and rent spaces in the parking lot to at least six food carts, providing electricity. The property at the corner of Eighth Street and Riverside Avenue was most recently a used-car lot.

The location should be just right to attract Rogue Community College students, already a core customer base for about eight food carts scattered around downtown. Clustering the vendors in one place should benefit all of them by generating plenty of foot traffic.

Meanwhile, the rest of downtown appears poised for new ventures to move in as work continues to finish the park blocks in the The Commons. The One West Main project surrounding the Evergreen parking structure will start construction this summer. When it is finished, it will bring the corporate headquarters of Pacific Retirement Services, Rogue Disposal and Recycling and ProCare Software into the downtown. Jackson County's health services building, replacing the just-demolished post office structure at Eighth and Holly streets, will add even more to the concentration of workers downtown.

Scan Design Furniture, which closed its store at West Main and Fir streets when the housing market collapsed, has announced it will reopen.

Along with that positive news, at least one entrepreneur plans to open a new business on Main Street. Clint Orchuk is betting downtown is ready for an artisan-style coffee shop.

From artisan coffee to ethnic treats from food trucks, the downtown is steadily emerging from the slowdown of the Great Recession and showing signs of growth. The kind of revitalization envisioned when the Medford Urban Renewal Agency began 25 years ago can be seen throughout the downtown core. The fact that businesses are independently deciding to move into the area is evidence of that success.

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