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Agenda & Minutes

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Medford Urban Renewal (View All)

Medford Urban Renewal Agency Board Study Session Agenda & Minutes

Thursday, April 11, 2019

April 11, 2019

Immediately following City Council Study Session
City Hall Medford Room
411 8th Street, Medford, Oregon

The meeting was called to order at 6:38 p.m. in the Medford Room, City Hall, 411 W. 8th Street, Medford with the following members and staff present.
Chair Kay Brooks; Board members Clay Bearnson, Tim D’Alessandro, Dick Gordon, Kevin Stine, Michael Zarosinski; City Manager Brian Sjothun, Executive Director Harry Weiss, Deputy City Manager Eric Zimmerman, City attorney Lori Cooper, Deputy City Recorder Winnie Shepard
Members Alex Poythress, Eric Stark were absent.
Emerging MURA Project Opportunities in the Liberty Park Area
Executive Director Harry Weiss displayed a MURA boundary map and noted the study area spans from the railroad to Biddle Road and McAndrews to Jackson. The frontage on Court Street and the southwest corner of McAndrews and Court are excluded from MURA jurisdiction. 
A draft plan should be completed by the end of June and return to Council in September or October.
  1. Status of Liberty Park Neighborhood Plan Update
The Liberty Park Neighborhood Plan is a neighborhood vision plan and not a MURA capital projects plan, although it identifies priority opportunities for MURA funding.
The core of the Liberty Park area consists of modest, affordable housing, 85% of which is investor‑owned rental units as reported in census data.It is surrounded by major arterial roadways that are at odds with the residential character of the neighborhood, and restrict multi-modal pathways and overall connectivity with adjoining areas. New residential potential is limited by an inconsistent utility infrastructure.
  1. Internal Circulation and Connections to Adjoining Areas
To improve internal circulation and connectivity, Mr. Weiss suggested enhancing and creating new crossings of boundary roads, prioritizing sidewalk installation, increasing street lighting, reducing speed within the Liberty Park area and the surrounding streets to 20 mph, installing traffic calming measures and improving alleys.
Better connections t
  1. Riverside, Court & Central as Neighborhood Sensitive Urban Streets
Mr. Weiss believed the biggest obstacle is Central and Riverside running on both sides of the Liberty Park area. These roads function as high-speed arterials dominated by automobile oriented land uses as highways rather than mixed-use urban streets that complement the residential core of Liberty Park.
In addition to aesthetic improvements along Central and Riverside, Mr. Weiss strongly recommended slowing traffic by reducing lane width, installing traffic calming devices or other means. He also advocated the extension of the two lane configuration of Central north from 4th Street to the intersection of Court/Central/Edwards. This would accommodate a dedicated bicycle facility on Central as well as potential on-street parking that will further calm traffic and reduce speed.
Changes of this type would be desirable for Riverside as well; however, modifying Riverside necessitates a strategy that addresses Riverside from Stewart to Highway 62 and re-envisions the Highway 99 corridor. Change at that scale would require substantial funding and a significant commitment of years to execute, but would have an enormous impact in redefining the urban core of the City and improve the gateway entrances to the community.
  1. Development Nodes
Mr. Weiss advised that MURA funding could be used to identify and create two development nodes: one on Riverside and one on Central. The Riverside node could be tied to the access to a new bridge across Bear Creek and then direct development around that location. There are other potential development areas surrounding current investments in the area. MURA could continue to create a development pattern for urban street frontage in the area. 
  1. Affordable Housing Conservation & Infill
Housing is a primary purpose under Oregon urban renewal law. A neighborhood housing strategy should conserve existing housing while providing opportunities for new construction that increases the diversity of housing types at various economic levels. Liberty Park provides a significant concentration of “naturally occurring affordable housing” which should be conserved/rehabilitated, and augmented on smaller infill sites with Missing Middle Housing types and ADUs. Multi-family housing would be appropriate along Central and Riverside, particularly in combination with new development at strategic nodes
  1. Project Evaluation Criteria & Benchmarking
Mr. Weiss reported that applications for the MURA advisory committee continue to be received. After appointments are made, the committee will need direction from the Board.  He recommended three primary frames of reference: the statutory purposes of urban renewal, the ability to connect to and build upon previous and planned improvements (both private and public), and the potential to leverage the financial resources of MURA with other sources of funding and programmatic incentives (CET, MUPTE). Mr. Weiss advised that the advisory committee will seek the input of other City boards and commissions as well as partner agencies to support and achieve MURA goals.
Board comments and questions:
Board Chair Brooks liked the ideas regarding traffic calming, facilitating community development to create a more residential feel to the area, and the additional crossings new Kids Unlimited and Options. She suggested creating a school zone around Kids Unlimited.
Board Member Gordon noted that although connectivity is important, the City needs to abide by the recently approved TSP. He preferred spending as much on housing as possible and believed that connectivity would occur over time. Board member Gordon also recommended the City offer incentives to builders interested in building low-income housing.
Can the City purchase and build housing directly?  Mr. Weiss advised that the City could create social housing, cooperative housing or a community land trust; however, there are legal risks involved.
Board member D’Alessandro pointed out that Central and Riverside are Medford’s only north and south bisector and are used for freight and public transportation. He voiced a safety concern with reducing the width of travel lanes for freight trucks and public transportation vehicles.
Mayor Wheeler noted the Liberty Park area is basically an enclave, so he liked the connectivity ideas and the potential different routes. He suggested using MURA dollars as an “attractant” to builders and developers. MURA needs to increase development interest in the area.
Board member Bearnson liked the idea of using development nodes to potentially stimulate development in the surrounding area. He felt that MURA should not be used in place of other funds that are dedicated for the same purpose such as public works infrastructure (sidewalks and street lights) as that should be paid by the City and not MURA funds.
Mr. Weiss advised that the focus area did not include much emphasis on connectivity to the north, as feedback indicated a preference for connectivity to the downtown area and parks, versus shopping areas to the north.
There were no objections to Mr. Weiss continuing his work on creating a potential project list.
100.  Adjournment
         There being no further business the meeting adjourned at 7:38 p.m.
Winnie Shepard, CMC
Deputy City Recorder

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