By DAMIAN MANN
The wait is finally over: Work is beginning on an office complex that will surround the Evergreen parking garage on West Main Street in downtown Medford.
A groundbreaking ceremony with almost 200 people was held Friday by three local companies that have joined forces with the Medford Urban Renewal Agency to build the 116,599-square-foot office complex.
“This was a project waiting to happen,” Mayor Gary Wheeler said. “It was worth the wait.”
Pacific Retirement Services, Procare Software and Rogue Disposal and Recycling will build the $8.3 million, four-story One West Main complex on the site bordered by West Main, Fir and Eighth streets and the railroad tracks. After the building’s shell is completed, the three companies expect to spend several million dollars more on the interior.
Two other attempts by the city to attract building projects for the Evergreen site have failed over the past seven years, frustrating city officials who were trying to discourage blight.
“This is the third go-round,” Wheeler said. “I think this one will stick.”
He said the downtown is on the verge of a turnaround, pointing to other projects such as the year-old Lithia Motors headquarters and the Jackson County Health Services building, which is under construction.
Wheeler said an announcement will be made shortly on plans for the Red Lion Inn property, which is near the Lithia Motors building and is being purchased by a group that includes Lithia executives.
Brian McLemore, president of Pacific Retirement Services Inc., said the idea of joining forces with Procare and Rogue Disposal originated with a casual conversation during a plane ride with representatives from the other two companies.
“This is the culmination of two years of ideas and concepts,” McLemore said.
He said he’s been in negotiations with retail tenants who would occupy the first floor of the building, which faces Main, Fir and Eighth streets.
McLemore said prospective tenants are interested in the location because it is close to other downtown businesses.
Representatives from Procare, Rogue Disposal and PRS say they will be happy to have their respective operations under one roof and in the downtown.
Dick Gordon, board chairman for MURA, said these kinds of projects take a long time to materialize, adding he remembered when the Crater Lake Ford showroom was located on the building site.
He said he was particularly encouraged by the size of the One West Main complex, which is larger than the 70,000-square-foot Lithia headquarters.
“Downtown Medford is growing,” he said. “We’re not going to be stagnant like other towns in our region.”
Stephen Gambee, chief executive officer of Rogue Disposal, said that throughout most of its 65-year history, the company’s headquarters was one block away, at the corner of Main Street and Grape streets.
“This is truly a homecoming,” he said.
Adroit Construction of Ashland will mobilize equipment and materials on July 15, with construction starting on July 22.
Construction should take a little over a year. The building was designed by Ankrom Moisan Associated Architects, based in Portland,
Because the building will occupy most of the space, parking lanes on Main Street and Eighth Street will be blocked to provide space for construction equipment. Fir Street between Main and Eighth streets will be closed during construction.
In the middle of September, a travel lane on Eighth also will be closed temporarily to allow enough room for a crane to be set up while steel girders are put in place.
“It will be a lot of fun seeing this erector set grow and be built,” said Jeffrey Blum, president of Procare, which creates child development software.
He said his company is the smallest of the three, but he said he looks forward to consolidating two separate buildings near the airport into one in the downtown.
The agreement between the companies and MURA sets aside 200 spaces in the Evergreen parking garage, which will be enveloped on three sides by the office building. The companies will lease another 100 spaces at $10 a month per space.
MURA will provide a $2 million incentive to build the One West Main complex.
City officials have pursued various private partnerships to build around the Evergreen garage.
A proposal for a six-story retail, office and residential project known as the Winetrout Building was shelved in 2002 over legal issues.
The parking structure was completed in 2006, but a residential and commercial project known as Bella Vita died in 2008, done in by a prevailing-wage dispute and then the onset of the Great Recession.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email email@example.com.
This story originally appeared in Medford Mail Tribune.