‘Food desert’ gets help: Medford news, weather, sports, breaking news

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency has agreed to buy property along North Riverside for housing, access to Bear Creek and a market.

The Fiesta on Medford’s North Riverside Avenue is part of an area being planned for revitalization in the Liberty Park neighborhood. Plans include a market near the restaurant, a pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek and an apartment building. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency voted Thursday to buy the Pacific Survey Supply property, at 908 N. Riverside Ave., as part of revitalization efforts in the area. [Jamie Lusch/Mail Tribune]

The Medford Urban Renewal Agency on Thursday unanimously approved the $1,275,000 purchase of a Riverside Avenue property to help spark redevelopment in this often-overlooked area of ​​Medford.

“I consider this area a food desert in terms of market availability,” said Tim D’Alessandro, MURA board member and city councilman. “If we put something there, it would be a benefit to our community.”

MURA hopes to attract a developer who can build an apartment complex of up to 45 units, and the owner of Restaurant La Fiesta wants to build a neighborhood market. A proposed pedestrian bridge over Bear Creek has also been proposed.

Last May, MURA delayed the purchase contract until an environmental assessment of the property could be carried out.

At the time, a preliminary environmental review found stains and hydraulic fluid around the Pacific Supply property, which is not uncommon in the downtown area.

A more thorough assessment found minor instances of groundwater and soil contamination, but no significant environmental or financial risks to future redevelopment.

It used to be a car dealership and repair shop.

The city has bought other properties in the past, particularly downtown, and paid to clean up environmental problems.

One of MURA’s goals over the years has been to take troubled properties and improve them, Medford Commons being one example.

Board member and MURA advisor Mike Zarosinski had previously expressed concern about overpaying for a property that had potential environmental issues.

“I’m pretty sure this is a good buy for us,” he said Thursday.

In 2021, the Pacific Supply property was appraised at $1.45 million, but the owners agreed to take the reduced price.

With the option agreement approved, MURA is on track to purchase 908-920 N. Riverside Ave., which includes the Pacific Supply building and is one acre in size.

The various properties involved in the revitalization also include 1.7 acres owned by La Fiesta Restaurant, as well as the Kids Unlimited administrative offices.

Fiesta originally proposed a 17,000-square-foot market on its property along Bear Creek.

MURA has proposed a land swap to allow La Fiesta to build the neighborhood grocery store closer to Riverside on the Pacific Supply property, freeing up the area along Bear Creek.

This would allow for a possible creekside apartment complex and pedestrian bridge to be built. MURA hopes to attract a developer to build the 45 units.

MURA has been working to develop more needed housing around downtown Medford and in the low-income Liberty Park neighborhood where the La Fiesta development is proposed.

One of MURA’s biggest goals is to rebuild the Liberty Park neighborhood with $18 million that will be used to leverage state and federal grants for a variety of projects.

Some of the money has been used to convert a hotel into housing for fire survivors and the homeless.

MURA has bought and demolished several nuisance buildings in the Parc de la Llibertat neighborhood, and the city has been installing new sidewalks on some streets.

A proposed flagship project by MURA is a $48 million low-income apartment building on a 3.25-acre property on Central Avenue next to Les Schwab.

The four-story complex would have 115 one- to three-bedroom units.

Contact freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.

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