How's downtown, everyone?

·4 min read

Aug. 2—Just as most people have an opinion about Medford's triple-digit heat wave, it's also not hard to gauge their views on another matter: the state of downtown.

Take Vicki Macormic, the owner/broker of Finish Line Real Estate, whose office features floor-to-ceiling windows looking out onto West Main and Grape streets. Sure, it's prime real estate for downtown, you could say, but it hasn't come without broken glass as a consequence of rambunctious nightlife or even a homeless person blocking her from entering her business.

"When I'm down here by myself, most often, I will lock myself in," Macormic said, adding the situation has gotten better with the advent of a new building owner.

And being downtown has its happy moments, like when Macormic fills balloons with helium for the annual Pear Blossom Parade, which she can see from her office.

The valley Realtor recently was asked to be a "block captain" for the Downtown Medford Association, which is in the midst of conducting a "census" of business owners.

"Surveys really give you the research behind the feelings that, sometimes, you already have and you want to make sure you're on target," said Anne Jenkins, interim executive director of the Downtown Medford Association. "We're not here to serve ourselves. We're here to serve the downtown area."

The association mailed information about the census to approximately 600 people located downtown, according to Jenkins. The census asks participants to fill out their contact information and rank five priorities in order of importance.

The five priorities are: "Advocate represent and engage on downtown issues," "attract new businesses and residents," "downtown as gathering space for events," "Third Fridays, education and more," "safety and cleanliness" and "beautify flower baskets, holiday lights, murals and more." Each priority was conceived from four Downtown Medford Association committees focused on different aspects of downtown.

"These are some of our priorities that we've heard addressed by some merchants," Jenkins said. "We're trying to gauge if this is the direction that the majority of the people who are filling out this survey would like us to continue to go."

For her part, Macormic filled out the census Thursday. She put down "advocate, represent and engage on downtown issues" as her first priority while beautifying downtown was fifth.

"It was a good (census) — at least they're asking us what we think," Macormic said.

One issue not explicitly stated on the survey is parking, another issue the Realtor raised Thursday. Her team's hectic schedules that involve showing homes all over the valley isn't conducive to the city's limited times for street parking. Macormic said her team is in agreement that designated parking is too far away and expensive.

Despite the multitude of issues facing downtown, Macormic said the situation has gotten better.

"For a while it was really bad, and I feel better about it now. Last night, I was down here until 9:30 at night, myself, and it didn't scare me," Macormic said.

While she said she believes the Downtown Medford Association is sticking up for businesses, others don't quite feel that way — and that includes another downtown Realtor, Scott Welch.

"All the questions (of the census) seem relevant, but the most important question that should be asked and handled is missing, and that's one that regards (the) fear factor," Welch said.

"In these times, people are afraid to go into public places without some assurance there are security measures in place. I think if (the Downtown Medford Association) is serving the consumer, then first off, that should be addressed."

He noted how when his office closes up shop at night, his employees usually walk in pairs to avoid altercations with anyone who might be looking for trouble downtown.

"There is no security, and it's a frightening situation, actually," Welch said. "There's a mentality here, downtown, that says, 'You better watch out for yourself.' That's not good."

He said he does not believe the Downtown Association will tackle the security issue.

"For one, it wasn't an element of the census," Welch said. "Secondly, it's because of past performance. There's no indication that they intend to, and they haven't in the past. I am critical."

Although he takes issue with the fact that only one postcard was distributed to his business and not him personally, Welch said he will fill out the census.

"The census is important to the Downtown Association because, without it, they're navigating without a chart or compass and just blowing in the wind," he said. "They've got to have that information to understand and have the direction they need to succeed."

The survey, posted online until Aug. 15, can be found here: rb.gy/gatpc2.

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or kopsahl@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.