SkyPark may fly again

SkyPark, Oregon Architecture drawing

A housing project known as SkyPark that was proposed to be built above a downtown Medford parking lot has fluttered back to life after several failed attempts to get city approval.

The 26-unit housing complex would be constructed on a platform 12 feet above a public parking lot at the corner of Central Avenue and 10th Street. In 2015, the project estimate was $3 million, but developers say they haven’t calculated a new estimate.

“The whole thing has a long way to go,” said Mark McKechnie of Oregon Architecture in Medford.

At 6 p.m. Thursday, in City Hall, 411 W. Eighth St., the Medford Urban Renewal Agency, a body composed of city councilors, will hear the latest idea from McKechnie at a study session.

Under the original proposal, last discussed in 2015, Oregon Architecture of Medford and Ashland developer Allan Sandler formed a corporation known as Sky Park Medford LLC to build the project, which would have had 20 two-bedroom units, five three-bedroom units and a single one-bedroom. Each unit was proposed to have two baths with the exception of the one-bedroom, which would have had one bath. Units would have been priced from $150,000 to $250,000.

McKechnie said he’s working with a new developer but he didn’t want to reveal the name or other details of the project until he met with the MURA board.

He said the latest version of the project is very similar to the original idea.

The project would still require 26 dedicated parking spaces in the lot, which is used by students and others in the downtown.

Councilor Dick Gordon said he’ll have to see what the latest proposal for the project involves before he can make a comment.

“Yes, there were a lot of issues last time, including parking underneath the structure, the lease and sale of the apartments, and the security and safety of the neighbors,” Gordon said.

In 2015, MURA signed off on the project, selling “air rights” for $1 for everything above 12 feet in the parking lot across from the Medford library.

MURA would have provided a 50-year lease for land in the parking lot for the columns and entrances for the building on the ground floor. Eventually questions over the lease and parking scuttled the project.

Neighboring businesses objected to the elevated structure because they thought the covered parking area would attract vagrants.

“The parking was the sticking point previously, and we are hoping to address that up front,” McKechnie said.

The parking lot has 75 spaces but would have been increased to 78 under the previous design proposal, despite the columns and entrances needed to support the two- and three-story building.

The units would require 26 parking spaces, leaving a net of 52 spaces for the public. Some local businesses worried that the residential complex would require more than 26 spaces, causing potential parking problems.

McKechnie said there might be discussion of a parking mechanism that would allow the stacking of vehicles to add extra space. He said it would be relatively simple to operate.

When the project was first proposed in 2014, the Medford Site Plan and Architectural Commission agreed with some residents that the project could generate parking problems, and it also found the residential design wasn’t suitable for the downtown. Some SPAC members thought the project didn’t have a high enough density for the downtown.

Initially, many councilors on the MURA board thought the project was suitable for the downtown.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

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