The Medford School Board approved purchase of Cobblestone Village off North Riverside Avenue for Central Medford High School’s future home, as the Medford School District prepares to convert its present building into a third middle school.
“I’m thrilled about the property that we found,” said Cynthia Wright, board chair. “It will be a wonderful environment for an alternative school.”
Purchase of the 2.7-acre property will cost the district $3,050,000 before renovations begin to prep the retail and restaurant site to serve students. Most of the cost can be covered with funds from district reserves, said Brad Earl, Medford School District’s assistant superintendent of operations, and the district will explore financing options to cover additional costs.
Though Central will move out of its home, at 815 S. Oakdale Ave., by the time the next school year begins, tenant leases and site remodeling at Cobblestone Village will likely push back the school’s entry into the new building until December 2020, district officials estimated.
“We want to take the time,” said Principal Amy Herbst, adding that the school will find a temporary place for the first few months of school. “It’s worth it to me to take the time to have a good outcome.”
The final destination of a number of programs and offices that are currently housed in the Oakdale building, including district administration, remains undetermined, officials said.
“This piece of property allows us to have some options,” said Bret Champion, district superintendent.
“We’d like to keep those things together,” Wright said.
Herbst said she was enthusiastic about the Cobblestone Village property “right off the bat.”
“It really checked a lot of the boxes that I had wanted,” she said.
The outdoor courtyard spaces, she said, could allow students to continue cultivating a community garden, which they do now at the Oakdale property. Students could also access commercial-grade kitchens in one of the rental spaces that was once occupied by a restaurant.
“We have an amazing culinary arts teacher and program,” Herbst said. “For our population, that life skill is very important.”
The Roseburg-based business that owns Cobblestone Village put the property on the market in December 2019. The Valley School, a Montessori middle school chartered by Medford School District, was housed in the former restaurant space from 2015 until midway through 2018. It moved to 857 Valley View Drive, in Medford after that.
The new location doesn’t have a gym, but Herbst said she plans to push for a fitness center.
“One of the top priorities is that we’re able to fulfill all the requirements for a high school diploma, but we also can think outside the box,” she said.
The Medford School District Education Center on Oakdale Avenue, where Central students and students in alternative or special education programs have coexisted with district administrators and partner organizations, contains about 250,000 square feet.
Central classrooms and offices occupy 44,215 square feet, according to the district’s most updated long-range facilities plan. Administrative offices take up another 42,395 square feet, the document states.
To hear Herbst and Facilities Manager Ron Havniear tell it, the occupants have had more than enough room to stretch out.
“They had a little bit of luxury here,” Havniear said. In searching for a new place that could be converted to a school, “we really looked at the functionality, what spaces do they need.”
Cobblestone Village contains about 34,000 square feet, Earl said. The purchase also includes a 0.12-acre parking lot nestled behind the property at 1215 Niantic St.
Next, district officials will work with the tenants that are leasing space on the property to figure out what the district’s legal obligations might be upon assuming ownership.
Earl said that Cobblestone Village contains 35 rentable spaces, 28 of which are occupied by 24 different tenants.
The district had not yet received lease information Wednesday, Earl said. District employees working with the seller don’t yet know the length of each lease or the obligations, he said.
“Once we get a look at them … then we’ll know what we’re facing,” he said.
Among the tenants are a few hair and nail salons, a restaurant, and Resolve Center for Dispute Resolution and Restorative Justice, to name a few.
A couple of tenants contacted by the Mail Tribune said they had been informed that the property was up for sale.
“If we’re successful at closing, we’re not looking to send them into the cold streets,” Earl said.
Pending a 45-day due-diligence period, during which district officials will inspect the property and the paperwork completely, the school district will assume ownership of the property.
“I hope that everything works out and we are able to obtain it after our due diligence process,” Wright said. “It’s not a ‘this’ll do’ kind of space, it’s a great location, a great space.”