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North Anchor plan is making a move

by: VERN UYETAKE The former Lacey’s bar at 500 First St. is the focus of a deal that is part of the North Anchor project.

City officials have worked out a deal to lease and possibly eventually buy the former Lacey's bar at 500 First St.

Jane Blackstone, Lake Oswego's economic development manager, said the site is key in assembling properties for the North Anchor project, a major urban renewal effort that could change the face of the north side of downtown.

'Of any property to start with, that's the one,' Blackstone said. 'It's the pivot point, whether the project goes down First Street or the other way.'

Officials can't identify a specific configuration for the project until they have a better idea of which properties they will be able to acquire, but the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency is focused on scenarios that include a new public library and parking facility in conjunction with private retail development in the vicinity of First Street and B Avenue.

The former Lacey's site could play a key role in any of those plans.

'It's a really important property,' Blackstone said. 'In any of the scenarios, it's the linchpin. It's a great start at assembling a site that would work.'

The property is owned by Barry Cain, whose company, Gramor Development, developed Lake View Village on the south side of downtown - the project the North Anchor will essentially counterbalance.

Under the agreement reached with Cain, Lake Oswego will lease 500 First St. for two years for about $11,750 each month, with an option to buy the property at any point during the two-year term for $2.35 million.

Part of the city's long-term plans for redeveloping its urban core, the North Anchor has been moving ahead in the planning process over the last year.

The idea is for the new public-private development to act as a catalyst, increasing the number of people patronizing downtown businesses, spurring economic activity in general and raising property values - and, eventually, tax revenue - in the area.

While the building at 500 First St. is now vacant, others that could be part of the final plan have tenants ranging from offices, a hair salon, travel company, locksmith, dry cleaner and automobile repair service to restaurant, catering and bakery operators.

The redevelopment agency has hired Right of Way Associates Inc. to help with the project. The company provides right-of-way acquisition and relocation services to government and nonprofit agencies, low-income housing developers and public utility agencies in Oregon and Washington.

Depending on the final plan, the North Anchor project could cost anywhere from $36.9 million to $71.8 million, not counting property acquisition. The public share could range from 100 percent for a new library only to 56-64 percent for a mixed-use development.

A tentative project schedule has the LORA board, made up of the city council, approving a financing plan in May 2012, following completion of site assembly, a refined concept plan and cost estimates.

The remaining timeline would depend on the financing plan. For example, if a taxpayer-backed bond issue is needed to help fund the new library and parking, the city would vote on the measure in November 2012; if approved, developer selection, design and construction of the project would take another two and a half to three years.