archive photo Municipal authorities could expand a commercial area in the city center to include high-density housing projects.
Medford officials could expand a downtown shopping area to help attract much needed high-density housing projects.
âWe are seeing great interest in the development community for housing around the city center,â said Harry Weiss, executive director of the Medford Urban Renewal Agency. âThere is a huge need. “
MURA’s board of directors, made up of city councilors, agreed last Thursday to seek approval from the Medford Planning Commission to integrate three large properties just north of Fourth Street into what’s known as Central Business Overlay, which stretches from Fourth to 10th Street, and from North Oakdale Avenue just beyond Riverside Avenue.
The superposition, which is a kind of zone or district which designates the city center, allows more flexibility in the projects. The downtown amenities have no height restrictions, allow unlimited density, and do not require off-street parking.
The downtown area currently ends at Fourth Street, but Budge McHugh Plumbing Supply owns a property on the other side of Fourth and wants to market that property to developers.
Likewise, Pallet Wine along Fir Street also wants their property to be included. Another group of properties just north of Pallet would also like to be included in the downtown area.
Budge McHugh also owns properties located at the former Habitat for Humanity location on Fir Street, across from the Mail Tribune. These properties are inside the downtown area.
Weiss said Pallet Wine is currently expanding its barrel storage facilities and has long-term plans to continue its expansion efforts.
Weiss said MURA may seek further extensions to the downtown area in the future.
âIt’s the kind of thing from a regulatory standpoint that improves their market value,â he said.
Many councilors have expressed their interest in continuing to pursue an urban route in the area where the expansion of the downtown area is proposed.
âI love the idea of ââthe urban bike path,â said councilor Sarah Spansail.
Councilor Kevin Stine questioned why MURA was considering expanding into these three properties rather than incorporating a larger strip of properties outside of downtown.
âSince it’s mapping season, we’re putting three units in charge,â he said.
Responding to Stine at the meeting, Weiss said there had been discussions about going all the way to Jackson Street and down to Central.
However, getting approval from these many owners would be a substantial process, he said.
In this case, three companies approached the city directly and requested to be included in the downtown area, Weiss said.
Eventually, the city may have to consider expanding to Jackson, but Weiss thought it best to do so gradually as owners express interest.
But councilor Eric Stark said: “I think we should consider expanding the central business district.”
City staff said it would be difficult to communicate with so many landowners and felt it was best to wait for landowners to approach the city.
âThese (three) owners want to move forward,â said Kelly Madding, Deputy City Manager.
She said the city should provide information to other landowners explaining the benefits of being part of the downtown district.
MURA board members have expressed support for the inclusion of the three properties
âI see, especially the Budge property, a huge potential for something to happen there,â said councilor Tim D’Alessandro.
Contact freelance writer Damian Mann at [email protected]