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Downtown Medford Association Launches “Census” to Cultivate Relationships and Improve the Area in Various Ways

The Downtown Medford Association sent out a “census” to assess downtown priorities. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Just as most people have an opinion on Medford’s triple-digit heat wave, it’s also not hard to gauge their opinion on another topic: the state of downtown.

Take Vicki Macormic, owner/broker of Finish Line Real Estate, whose office has floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking West Main and Grape streets. Sure, it’s prime downtown real estate, you might say, but it didn’t come without broken glass as a result of hectic nightlife or even homelessness preventing him from entering his business.

“When I’m here alone, more often than not I lock myself away,” said Macormic, adding that the situation has improved with the arrival of a new owner.

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

The Valley realtor was recently asked to be a ‘block captain’ for the Downtown Medford Association, which is conducting a ‘census’ of business owners.

“Polls really give you the research behind the feelings that sometimes you already have and want to make sure you’re on the right track,” said Anne Jenkins, acting executive director of the Downtown Medford Association. “We are not here to serve ourselves. We are here to serve downtown.

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

The five priorities are: “Advocating, Representing and Engaging on Downtown Issues”, “Attracting New Business and Residents”, “Downtown as a Gathering Space for Events”, ” Third Fridays, Education and More,” “Safety and Cleanliness,” and “Embellish Flowers, Baskets, Holiday Lights, Murals, and More. Each priority was crafted from four Downtown Medford Association committees focused on different aspects of the downtown core.

“These are some of our priorities that we’ve heard from some traders,” Jenkins said. “We’re trying to assess whether this is the direction the majority of people filling out this survey would like us to continue to take.”

For its part, Macormic completed the census on Thursday. She placed “advocating, representing and engaging on downtown issues” as her first priority, while downtown beautification was fifth.

“It was a good (census) – at least they ask us what we think,” Macormic said.

One issue not explicitly mentioned in the survey is parking, another issue the realtor raised on Thursday. His team’s busy schedules that involve showing homes all over the valley aren’t conducive to the city’s limited hours for on-street parking. Macormic said his team agrees the designated parking lot is too remote and expensive.

Despite the multitude of problems facing the city center, Macormic said the situation has improved.

“For a while it was really bad, and I feel better now. Last night I was here until 9:30 p.m. myself, and it didn’t scare me,” said Macormic.

While she said she believes the Downtown Medford Association stands up for business, others don’t quite think that way — and that includes fellow downtown realtor, Scott Welch.

“All of the (census) questions seem relevant, but the most important question that should be asked and answered is missing, and that is the one regarding (the) fear factor,” Welch said.

“In these times, people are afraid to enter public places without knowing that safety measures are in place. I think if (the Downtown Medford Association) is serving the consumer, then first of all , this should be resolved.

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

“There’s no security, and it’s a scary situation, actually,” Welch said. “There’s a mentality here downtown that says, ‘You better watch out for yourself. It’s not good.”

He said he did not believe the Downtown Association would address the security issue.

“For one thing, it wasn’t a census item,” Welch said. “Secondly, it’s because of past performance. There is no indication that they intend to do so, and they have not done so in the past. I am critical.

Although he disputes that only one postcard was distributed to his company and not to him personally, Welch said he would complete the census.

“The census is important to the Downtown Association because without it they navigate without a map or a compass and just blow in the wind,” he said. “They need to have this information to understand and have the direction they need to be successful.”

The survey, published online until August 15, can be viewed here: rb.gy/gatpc2.

Contact journalist Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno.

David H. Henry