Article from the Mail Tribune (2006)
"The 10-story Lithia Motors corporate headquarters, on Bartlett and Fourth streets, will be 170,000 square feet, more than twice the size of the 83,000-square-foot Central Library. Hall, who has been hired for preconstruction services to help design the building system, said his company has worked on five-story buildings, but nothing this tall.
The headquarters building will anchor The Commons, a nine-block redevelopment project that will fill the blocks roughly between Central and Riverside avenues and Third and Sixth streets. In addition to the 10-story building, The Commons will include residential buildings, retail stores and restaurants, a parking garage and three urban park blocks. Lithia, the city of Medford and the Medford Urban Renewal Agency formed a partnership to create The Commons.
Mark Rivers, the Boise, Idaho, real estate developer hired by Lithia for the project, said one of the attractive components of the building will be the eye-catching glass.
"It will reflect the different colors and textures of the sky, which will give the building a changing personality," he said. The top floor, which will have office and meeting space, will have a rounded roof design.
George Kramer, chairman of the Oregon Heritage Commission and historic preservation consultant, has provided input on the design. He said the building has a two-story cornice line and pedestrian-level storefronts, outlined in brick, that will be compatible with existing storefronts downtown. The building has other elements that break up the mass of the tower.
He said the historic treatments make it a good fit in Medford.
"If you think a 10-story building is going to stick out like a sore thumb, well, this is a 10-story building," he said. But great care has been taken to design a building that has its roots in traditional downtown, he said. "I would have difficulty imagining a more compatible 10-story building within this block."
Rivers said he is also seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED promotes sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency and indoor environmental quality. He said the plan is to use environmentally sustainable building products and furnishings.
The multiblock site has been occupied predominantly by Lithia car dealerships, many of which were recently relocated to the company's new auto mall on Highway 62 near the Medford airport.
Demolition to make way for the park blocks is set to begin this year, said Rivers. The Greyhound bus station will be moved temporarily to a parking lot owned by MURA on Grape Street between Fifth and Sixth streets, behind the Mail Tribune. Demolition of the bus station along with seven other buildings was approved by the city in July.
Rivers said it's too soon to say what businesses will occupy the retail space, but added there is a waiting list of people wanting certain spaces.
Construction of the building is scheduled to begin in the spring, with completion in early 2010. The dates have been moved back, but not significantly, said Rivers.
"Every project of this magnitude undergoes slight schedule shifts along the way," he said. "We're still very pleased with our partnership with urban renewal and the city of Medford — all the parties are blazing some new trails."
2009/2010 Update via the Mail Tribune
Lithia Motors has secured two lenders to help launch construction of Medford's downtown Commons, a project that includes the company's future corporate headquarters.
The joint project to build a 65,000-square-foot headquarters and park space on city blocks between Sixth Street and Bartlett Street is funded by Lithia and Medford Urban Renewal Agency with hopes of revitalizing downtown.
Lithia President Bryan DeBoer would not disclose the exact amount of the loans or the names of the West Coast lenders, but he said the loans will cover up to 80 percent of Lithia's $15 million share of the project.
MURA is contributing another $14 million to the project in the form of infrastructure, property acquisition and development of two park blocks adjacent to the headquarters.
The project includes construction of Lithia offices, 8,000 square feet in retail and dining space on the first floor, two city park blocks and a pedestrian thoroughfare through the Sixth Street city parking garage.
Medford's OgdenRoemerWilkerson Architecture and Interior Architects of Seattle have been working for the past six months on the design of the building.
Demolition of existing buildings is set to begin before the end of the year. Construction of the new building will start in the spring, with completion of the headquarters slated for fall 2011, DeBoer said. He estimated construction of the headquarters would employ about 200 people.
Plans for the project have been languishing since 2006. Since then, the Lithia building has been scaled down from a 10-story tower to four stories.
The corporate headquarters will consolidate about 300 of Lithia's downtown Medford employees. In that sense, the project won't bring new blood to downtown, but city officials are hopeful the concentrated staff will generally bring more economic activity and interest in the downtown center.