By DAMIAN MANN
Downtown Medford will reverberate with the sound of construction this summer if the city approves two massive office complexes that would transform the skyline.
“We could see the two biggest projects Medford has seen in 20 years start at the same time,” said Brian McLemore, chief executive officer for Pacific Retirement Services, which is moving downtown.
The Medford Site Plan and Architectural Commission will hold public hearings at noon Friday in City Hall regarding a 117,000-square-foot corporate office project — around the Evergreen parking garage — known as One West Main, and for an 86,170-square-foot Jackson County health services building at the former post office site.
Each building is larger than the new Lithia headquarters on Riverside Avenue, which opened last year.
The health services building, which also features a six-story parking garage, will cost about $28 million. The former post office and federal building is being demolished.
The One West Main project, which will become the corporate offices for Pacific Retirement Services, Rogue Disposal and Recycling and ProCare Software, will cost $9 million. The building will be attached to the Evergreen garage, which cost $10.2 million when it opened in 2006.
While there are still issues to resolve before building permits can be issued, the Medford Planning Department has recommended the Site Plan and Architectural Commission approve both projects.
The One West Main and health department buildings will bring an additional 600 to 800 people to the downtown every day, McLemore said.
He said the transformation of downtown Medford that received a boost from the Lithia headquarters should accelerate when the buildings open for business in 2014.
“You can already start to see it,” he said. “The Pear Blossom this year — many people thought it was the best ever.”
McLemore said he likens the changes in Medford to the kind of transformation that took place in the Pearl District in Portland.
He said daytime activities will increase, eventually spilling over into the evenings. Eventually, McLemore predicts housing will be built in the downtown, citing the plans by the Jackson County Housing Authority to build a 50-unit complex at Sixth and Grape streets as a good start.
McLemore said the One West Main project should start by late June if it gets approved by the city.
“The last big issue is getting the financing together,” he said. “And, that should happen fairly soon.”
The three partners will build the $9 million project with the help of $2 million obtained from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. Each of the businesses will then obtain its own financing to finish off the interior of its floor. PRS will have the second floor, ProCare will have the third and Rogue Disposal will have the fourth.
McLemore estimates it will require another $3 million to $4 million to complete the interior work.
The first floor will be leased out to various retail businesses, including possibly a restaurant. McLemore said he hasn’t signed any tenants yet, though he has talked to several prospects.
Ankrom Moisan Architects Inc. of Portland designed the building.
Harvey Bragg, senior deputy county administrator, said the county is just waiting to receive permits from the city.
“Our guys are on site,” he said. “As soon as they get the demolition done, they’re ready to go. We’re just going to move as fast as we can.”
The county has hired JE Dunn of Portland to build both the health center and the garage. JE Dunn has fenced off the area around the old post office and has been demolishing and carting away debris. ORW Architecture of Medford has designed the parking garage and health services building.
Bragg said a major materials order is scheduled for delivery in early July, so the county is hoping to have the permits in hand well before then.
Commissioner Don Skundrick said the health services building will provide a streamlined, one-stop location for many county residents.
He said this is one of the largest projects the county has undertaken in recent memory.
In addition, the two new buildings will bring more people to the downtown, complementing the Lithia headquarters and The Commons project several blocks away.
“The Evergreen and health services buildings together dwarf that project,” he said.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.