City administrator Mike Morgan of Madras rolls the numbers off like a stockbroker in the midst of a frenzied bear market.
“Four hundred ninety-six family wage jobs with full benefits coming to Deer Ridge Correctional Institution. Fifteen new subdivisions within the city limits under construction review or under construction process compared to nineteen in Bend and twelve in Redmond.
“How about nearly 4,000 new homes, including 1,900 in Yarrow, over the next 15 years in Madras? Not bad for a small town, uh?”
Actually, it’s a bit overwhelming. In case you haven’t noticed, the City of Madras is experiencing an explosion of growth never before seen in this sleepy Jefferson County community that is merely following the tremendous growth spurts in Bend and Redmond.
“The fuse has been lit,” Morgan said. “What so many have been predicting for this town is finally happening, and the numbers don’t lie.”
Nor do your eyes deceive. The region’s appeal to mid-career entrepreneurs, young retirees, baby boomers and simply folks just wanting to leave the big city behind has finally hit Madras where signs of growth, expansion and development are virtually everywhere you look.
The southern gateway is in the midst of transition with the final plans for Jefferson Square, a $6 million project planned just north of the Highway 97 and Highway 26 junction, being developed by Scott Goodrich on a 3.88-acre empty parcel next to a Shell Gas Station.
Another nearby empty 22-acre lot is the future site of The Stockyards where owner Chet Antonsen wants to convert a former auction yard into a shopping center.
The core of downtown Madras is evolving with plans for Rite-Aid, Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken coming aboard and $14 million in urban renewal agency funds being utilized to improve facades and storefronts of existing businesses; improve the northern entry into town and purchase blighted properties.
What’s more, the longtime downtown eyesore, The Hump, has been flattened at Fourth and D Street to make way for an undisclosed development that Morgan says will begin before the end of summer.
Former Madras Mayor Rick Allen and a group of local investors are finalizing plans for a three-level, 16,000 square foot office and retail building in the heart downtown that Allen says “will rival anything that you see in downtown Bend.”
If you go west, you’ll find the city’s newest attraction for youngsters—the Madras Bike and Skate Park—that will become the premier outdoor venue in the state following a $350,000 investment to make it the only illuminated facility in Oregon.
At the northern entry to town, a 20-acre development directly across the street from Safeway will include the 72-room Cross Keys Station Hotel & Conference Center and an adjoining series of retail and office spaces.
Travel east of the downtown corridor and you’ll likely do a double take with a series of subdivisions, a new aquatic center, 18-hole municipal golf course and the master-planned community of Yarrow taking shape.
Still not convinced? Well, there’s two roundabouts completed in the emerging eastside neighborhood with a public arts commission, coupled with private funding from the Madras Land Development Company, planning sculptures of a grizzly bear and red-tail hawk for the two roundabouts near Yarrow.
The Madras culture could be further enhanced if a billionaire philanthropist with a world-renowned art collection follows through with plans to partner with local citizens in creating a cultural center in town.
Robert Pamplin Jr., whose collection includes Wild West, Civil War, American Indian and Asian art, would like to make some of his most valuable pieces available at a new museum under consideration by the Jefferson County Historical Society. The Central Oregon Heritage Center could become a major attraction for tourists.
What’s happening here? Morgan says the explosion is merely an extension of the phenomenal growth that has swept Central Oregon over the past decade.
“The market has always been here, but few ever tapped into it,” Morgan said. “What triggered the sudden interest in Madras was essentially three things.
“First, Yarrow’s master-planned community on 890 acres with Brooks Resources, Jeld-Wen Properties and Taylor Northwest behind it gave Madras instant credibility. We’re talking about a dynamic trio building a sustaining development over the next 15 years. It showed a quality investment in this town.
“Second the caldron of economic development throughout Central Oregon finally found its way to Madras and it’s on high heat.
“And third, Deer Ridge Correctional Institution with its $22 million annual payroll and family wage jobs put the final stamp of approval. What town wouldn’t want 496 recession-proof jobs?”
Allen, now a broker with Lowe’s Commercial Properties after serving two terms and seven years as the city’s mayor, said it was simply a matter of the growth moving from the middle to the outside when asked about the sudden interest in the city.
“It’s the way the world works,” he said. “Bend grew to the point where everything had to spread out, so the growth went to Redmond and now Madras,” he said. “At the same time, prices and construction costs throughout Deschutes County drove the medium and smaller investors out.
“Couple those factors with a re-investment downtown, Yarrow building 1,900 homes and the prison coming and you can see why it was our turn.”
Morgan says the Oregon Department of Corrections campus-style facility, located three miles east of the downtown corridor on 453 acres, will have a three-year impact on the community once the first inmates arrive at the minimum-security facility in September.
“When the prison opens, you’re going to see a surge of new home acquisitions in this town,” he said. “Eventually, about 80 percent of the prison employees will be living in Madras and surrounding communities.”
Morgan has a bird’s eye view of the new residential construction east of town from the back deck of his home near Jefferson County Middle School. Below, he has a daily, up-close view of the excavation, grading, sewage and waterline additions and the framing of new homes.
“There are actually 40 subdivisions in various stages in Madras with homes priced from the high $100,000’s to the high $200,000’s,” he said. “I’m not saying that all of these will eventually be built, but we’ve got 40 of ‘em on the drawing board.”
Morgan invites a reporter to take a spin in his Jeep through the sagebrush and juniper trees along dirt roads to witness the activity firsthand. He rattles off the subdivisions and number of homes planned in procession from Strawberry Heights to Sunrise Estates to The Ridge without skipping a beat.
“Yarrow put the stamp on development, and most of the others followed,” he said. “Bill Bliss was actually the first home developer to take a chance on Madras by building a quality and affordable home. What’s really nice is that most of the developers are adding trails for the kids and creating a safe environment for families at their own expense.”
While the homebuilding market is sizzling, Allen foresees some challenges transforming the commercial downtown core because higher land prices and construction are not equating to higher lease rates.
“We’ll go through a transformation period because the lease rates haven’t kept up with the higher land and building prices for new projects,” he said. “We have an immature commercial market in Madras at this time and will continue to have an immature market until lease rates go up.”
Allen believes it is still a good time to invest in Madras but adds that investors need to be patient.
“You’re going to have to be willing to believe and take the leap,” he said.
Meanwhile, Morgan believes the sky’s the limit for the city. And he feels fortunate that everyone can still enjoy the city skyline.
“I like the way we’re going,” he said. “We’re building like crazy, but still maintaining a vista environment with farms and open prairies to the west with the backdrop of the mountains. For a little town, there’s a heck of a lot going on.”
Building Boom Hits Madras
City administrator Mike Morgan estimates that nearly 4,000 new homes are planned within the city limits over the next 15 years. The city recorded 398 new building permits in 2005 and 2006, so city officials should be prepared for a future wave of growth. Here’s what’s coming aboard:
Yarrow1,900 single-family or multi-family units
Strawberry Heights220 single-family homes or town homes
Cascade View Estates220 single-family homes
The Ridge170 single-family homes
Roadrunner60 single-family homes
Morning Crest50 single-family homes
Grizzly50 single-family homes
Sunrise Estates40 single-family homes
Kinkade Crossing30 single-family homes
Oak View Estates20 single-family homes