Concept plan for Mazama Industrial Park. Click here to zoom in.

CRESWELL – New life is being breathed into a 2.2-acre property just off Interstate 5, and soon residents will see a transformation unfold in that corner of town. 

The former Super 8 Motel building at 345 E. Oregon Ave. has been receiving TLC since June 2020, when real estate investors Jim St. Clair, Kerrie Johnson and Daniel Basaraba bought the property with the intention of developing housing and commercial space.

Those plans are well underway, Basaraba said, and said they aim to open by the end of the year. It would offer approximately 13 commercial units on the bottom floor and 51 residential units on the second floor, 12 of which will be two-bedroom units.

“We are hoping to bring these apartments to market as some of Lane County’s most affordable units,” Basaraba said.

The building already has one business leasing the former lobby room. Known as “Connors Corner,” the space is being leased to TJ’s Restaurant owners Bob Jensen and Patrick McCallum, who intend to turn the space into a deli-type restaurant, with food delivered from their restaurant just a stone’s throw away. The space will also include a “sidewalk cafe,” according to the applicants.

“We believe that this additional space will serve to cement (Jensen’s) place as a valued, local business owner,” Basaraba said. 

Despite some reservations, council on Monday approved a liquor license for Connor’s Corner.

The council first reviewed this application at the December meeting. Staff was directed to hold the application until the February meeting, allowing city manager Michelle Amberg time to visit with the applicant regarding occupancy of the proposed site.

Council was – and some still are – concerned with the property owners not having a certificate of occupancy, a document that is used to establish whether or not the structure is in livable condition. 

The building has needed more than a spruce up since the motel caught fire twice in three days in November 2018. The former owners, Inder Pal Singh and Satinder Pal Singh, were charged with first-degree arson for the motel fires. The 25,536-square-foot building has been gutted and renovated since its sale in 2020, but based on Amberg’s assessment, the building has a ways to go before it is deemed “livable.” 

“We don’t know when the building will be sufficiently meeting our codes and our building permit requirements for them to run as a business,” Amberg said. “I don't get the impression that it will be soon; there are several important aspects of the development that need to be addressed before issuing a certificate of occupancy.”

Basaraba said he is confident the property will be in full swing by the end of the year.

Connors Corner can’t use its liquor license until that certificate is issued. Jensen said on Tuesday that he wanted to secure the license “sooner than later” so that he knows how to further develop the physical space and his business plans. 

Some councilors and staff felt the request was putting the cart before the horse. “It is an unusual request but it … doesn't break any codes,” Amberg said. 

Stram agreed. “The timing is odd, but it's not a violation. I don't really think we have a basis for denying it.” 

“I am not questioning the integrity of the applicant; I simply want to see the intended use of the building solidified … before accepting the license,” councilor Tammy Schuck said.

Mayor Stram motioned to approve the license; the motion passed 4-2. Councilors Alonzo Costilla and Schuck voted in opposition. 

Other developments are underway that aim to better improve that section of town. 

The City has been eyeing the area between the former motel and TJ’s to create a right-of-way to extend fully through the old Bald Knob Mill property to Mill Street, possibly extending all the way to Highway 99, Basaraba said. He and his partners have since bought the old mill property to the south of the old motel, calling it “Mazama Industrial Park.”

“With our ownership of these two adjacent properties, it behooves us to take a thoughtful and well-planned approach to their future development,” Basaraba said. 

The property owners and the City have come to “mutually agreeable terms” regarding the right-of-way. “We agree that a roadway through our property would be a positive step in combating traffic congestion and attracting industrial and commercial businesses to the heart of the City,” he said. 

He noted that historic records show the mill employed 200 people at one point. 

“We believe these two projects will help shape and grow Creswell from being primarily a ‘bedroom community’ into hosting many family wage jobs as Lane County and I-5’s newest industrial park,” he said. “We hope that the City will support our efforts to grow the tax base by providing opportunities for quality employers to locate here and also providing housing for their workforce to locate here.”