The Tipping Point

We just posted four articles to our blog, ( from major publications – all focused on Southern Oregon. One article has Ashland listed, and another has Jacksonville listed, as the top towns in the US to visit. The other two both talk about our wine industry – one noting the awards we received from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and the second stating that we are among the top 12 underrated wine regions in the world – yes, world!

Living in Southern Oregon for the last sixteen years, I have seen great articles from Sunset, Smithsonian and the New York Times, but what’s up with the speed and frequency at which these articles are being published and all the great press Southern Oregon is getting? It makes me think about Malcolm Gladwell’s book, “The Tipping Point.” In his book, he talks about the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point. It explains how ideas, products, behaviors or places suddenly spread like viruses do. Could it be Southern Oregon has hit “The Tipping Point?”

When driving through the Rogue Valley, you can’t help but be impressed by the pace at which we are growing, from retailers to restaurants, from vineyards to tourists, from hotels to houses.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival has reached an all-time high with a generous gift from Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft. OSF continues to have sold-out crowds to all their eleven yearly plays and hosted their 20-millionth visitor in 2015. The Randall Theatre of Medford is expanding to include a second theater in Jacksonville in the Calvary Church on Fifth Street. Medford will also see the opening of the Holly Theater as it reaches its renovation goals.  So, combine our growth in live theater, our ever-exploding wine scene, and all the outdoor activities we offer and you become a great destination for both tourists and retirees.

On the retail and restaurant fronts, we have seen the new Northgate Marketplace double in size with Home Goods, Dick’s Sporting Goods, RAM and Mod Pizza restaurant chains. We are also about to get a Cracker Barrel and a 5 Guys soon. In Grants Pass, they just got a Red Robin and their own In & Out Burger. All of this just after the Common Block restaurant opened in the Commons. What’s amazing is all the property across Hwy 238 from Northgate has sold and is being developed into another shopping center. The Medford Center is about to get a facelift and Costco has been given the go-ahead to build a larger store in Central Point.

Of course there is no stopping our wine scene as we have seen both DANCIN and 2Hawk expand and now four new wine tasting facilities have opened. Irvine Family Vineyards added a partner and opened a wine tasting facility on their 28-acre vineyard at 1614 Emigrant Creek Road in Ashland. Pebblestone Cellars, after winning many prestigious awards, has just opened a large barn-like wine tasting room facility at 1670 Pioneer Road. Schultz Wines has opened their first wine tasting facility in a completely renovated 1940’s farmhouse on their 60 acre vineyard and farm in the Applegate Valley at 755 Slagle Creek Road. Lastly, Augustino Estate winery created a treehouse tasting room along the Illinois River at 320 Brown Road in O’Brien and also acquired the Bridgeview Tasting and vineyards on North Applegate Road in the Applegate Valley.

To accommodate this growth, we are seeing new hotels popping up everywhere and new flights and services added to our airport. The Neuman Hotel group opened the Ashland Hills Suites & Hotel as well as buying the Nunan Estate to make a boutique hotel. Hilton is building another hotel in East Medford off of Barnett Road and a new riverfront hotel has been approved next to the Tap Rock in Grants Pass. It also looks like the Coquille Indian Casino and Hotel has been approved by the Federal Gaming Commission.

Our airport is experiencing a record number of travelers and starting in April, United is flying 737’s directly to San Francisco every day instead of the Sky West puddle jumpers. In addition, American Airlines is coming to the Medford airport but the details are sketchy.

All of this growth and lack of building during the recession have led to a record low inventory of homes for sale and a shortage of rental homes with a vacancy rate hugging one percent. The single family residential market is hot and real estate prices are closing in on all-time highs. Homes priced right are going pending as soon as they are listed and we are in for a near record year in both the number of homes sold and the price at which they get sold for.

So have we hit the Tipping Point? Is this the boiling point, the moment of critical mass where we see our small valley transform into a mecca for culture, shopping, wine and outdoor activities? The change in the air is palpable as our valley just keeps getting better.