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Rowing club suggests former US Bank building for new clubhouse

The Lake Oswego Rowing Club Foundation has found what could be the perfect place to practice: Oswego Lake.

But there are a few catches: The lake is private, and using it requires permission from the Lake Corporation.

A spokesperson for Lake Corp did not return a call for comment.

Another catch is that the rowing club would like to launch from and have its headquarters in the former US Bank building at 120 N. State St.

The city already planned to raze the bank building, to make way for a park.

'That's not why we bought this building,' said Mayor Judie Hammerstad, referring to converting the building into a boat storage space and headquarters for the club.

Demolition is slated for this spring, which is why the rowing club is hoping to change the city's mind about putting a park where the bank building is.

'This would be the perfect boathouse, if it were gutted,' said Seth Miller, vice president of the rowing club. 'It already has the arched windows that could be converted to doorways.'

John DeCosta, a resident on Lakewood Bay and local Realtor, said developing a park on that property 'in the middle of a recession seems like a very strange way to spend city money.'

'A park certainly isn't the highest and best use of that property,' he added.

The rowing club has been using the building's second floor for the last couple of months, since US Bank relocated to 333 S. State St. The club uses space on the second floor for offices and working out.

Miller said he hatched the idea when he read in the Lake Oswego Review that the city was going to demolish the building. The club's dock is at the Charlie S. Brown Water Sports Center on the Willamette River, just south of the Ram Restaurant in Lake Oswego.

Miller also will need to convince the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency, which meets Tuesday, to delay awarding a design contract to the landscape architecture firm MacLeod Reckord. LORA is scheduled to make that decision on Tuesday.

MacLeod Reckord has begun design of what is tentatively called Lakefront Park, where US Bank's former building is.

Although the building is slated to be demolished this spring, construction on the park wouldn't begin until next year. LORA purchased the US Bank property for $2.1 million.

It may work well as a park. But from the rowing club's perspective, the property is a perfect launching point for its boats.

The lake is superior for rowing because the Willamette River's current gets stronger in the winter, and there is debris, Miller said.

'The lake is a safer environment, and it gets minimal use by motor boats in the winter,' he said.

The rowing club, which has about 75 local high school members and 20 adults, practices in the early morning and late afternoon during its rowing seasons. If the club moves to the lake, it would only use it in fall, winter and spring, Miller said.

A small class practices from 5 to 7:30 a.m. and a larger class rows from 4 to 6 p.m. A coxswain steers and keeps rowers on pace by speaking into a microphone, which is connected to speakers next to each rower.

The US Bank building is the club's first choice. The club is also looking into launching from Lake Grove Swim Park, but that site has no existing building to store the carbon fiber shells.

Ideally, Miller said, the club could get a five-year commitment from the city and Lake Corp.

The bank building would store the club's 16 boats, eight of which are 60 feet long. 'We would stack them four-high in racks,' he said.

Miller's re-design concept for the bank building would be to re-skin it to resemble a New England boathouse, like Boston University has.

He said the 20-year-old rowing club has won various medals and been a springboard for rowers who have successful collegiate careers.

Asked whether she had given the proposal any thought, Lake Oswego City Councilor Kristin Johnson said she found it 'interesting.' But she didn't want to take a position before she learns more, and before this weekend's city council goal-setting retreat.

Hammerstad was more definitive in her disapproval of the boathouse idea.

'We bought it with re-development funds and we need to complete the plan,' she said.