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Lake Oswego's West End Building: Its time for Plan S (part 2)

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO JEFF GUDMAN

'Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.' - Victor Hugo

In May I promised the details of Plan S - selling the West End Building. By adopting Plan S the city gets physical consolidation of city services, a replacement police/emergency center, lower ongoing maintenance charges, an opportunity to repurchase the WEB and a better than decent chance of recovering a significant portion of the $20 million spent to purchase the building.

Plan S follows:

2011 - Commit to selling the WEB.

2011 to 2012 - Coincident with the rebuild of city hall, move on a temporary basis, all city hall employees to the WEB.

2012 to 2014 - Rebuild and expand the existing facility. The city owns ¾ of the block on which city hall sits. Based on the most cost effective result either remodel the existing city hall to meet existing deficiencies or tear down the existing building and rebuild on the ¾ block. The city gets physical consolidation of city services, a new emergency and police center and lower ongoing maintenance charges.

2014 - All city employees at the WEB return downtown.

2014 - Sell the WEB with a right of first refusal. WEB proponents rightly point out the merits of the location. Selling the WEB with a right of first refusal gives the city the opportunity to purchase the building when it comes up for sale in the future.

Because we did not have WEB long term financing the bank is calling the tune and we are dancing to the beat of their drummer. The bank now requires principle repayment of the $20.2 million line of credit. The city must make annual minimum principle payments of $850,000. By 2014 the line of credit may be reduced to $16 million. At the same time, the commercial real estate market is more likely than not to have recovered. The city may sell the WEB for $16 million (or more). Therefore, sale of the WEB may not require additional city resources and repayment of the remaining line of credit.

The financing of city hall can be done substantially, if not completely, with Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) monies. This is particularly the case if the new city hall is done as a mixed use facility. Rebuilding city hall may not equal economic development. But, if we make the case that Sundeleaf Plaza, Millennium Park Plaza, the replacement fire station and a new library generate economic development, then a new mixed use development city hall will too.

Plan S has costs. It is the operating costs in retention of the building between now and 2014 and the cost of moving employees to and back from the WEB. There are limits as to how much LORA money can be used. The city will want very good legal counsel. Some LORA projects will not be done. The biggest risk remains prolonged recession in the commercial real estate market, not the carrying cost of the property

The benefits are a new city hall, physical consolidation of city services, a new police and emergency center, lower ongoing maintenance charges and an opportunity to repurchase the WEB. Lastly, the city gets back to what it needs to do, like the Lake Grove Village/Boones Ferry plan, parks, library services, pathways and road maintenance.

The time for Plan S has come.

Jeff Gudman is a member of the Lake Oswego City Council. He notes that his views are his alone and not those of the council.