Lake Oswego bank gives way to new park

Crews will tear down U S Bank on the edge of Lakewood Bay

Lake Oswegans will get a glimpse of their namesake lake in July when crews demolish the U S Bank building east of Lakewood Bay, opening up views from State Street.

The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency voted Tuesday, June 3, to demolish the 10,000-square-foot city-owned building at 120 State St. and begin working toward a future park on the site, with construction set to begin in about a year.

The agency commission is made up of the Lake Oswego City Council.

Developing the lakefront park has been on the city's task list since 2003, when a master plan called for a public square on the lake's edge. LORA commissioners approved a contract for the design of the lakefront park in April 2007, handing an exclusive contract to the creators of Millennium Plaza Park.

Those plans envision future acquisitions along Lakewood Bay and eventual sweeping views of the lake.

Voting to implement that vision with the demolition of the U S Bank building this summer, however, was a contentious decision that drew two no-votes from LORA commissioners Frank Groznik and Kristin Johnson.

Each said the building ought to stay standing until city officials are certain there is no short-term use for it. Councilors are slated to assess the city's real estate holdings in the coming months and will thereafter decide which buildings to sell, renovate and keep.

Both Groznik and Johnson were unconvinced there would be no short-term need for the U S Bank building during possible renovations of other city-owned facilities.

But those arguments fell flat with commissioners more inclined to push forward with the long-held park vision.

Commissioner Ellie McPeak said it was a mistake to build a building where the US Bank now sits and public action would be necessary to open views of Oswego Lake.

'This is the opportunity to deconstruct the building, we have the money, we will gain an asset that is now hidden, we approved the project,' McPeak said.

Mayor Judie Hammerstad, reflecting on past upset over projects in the downtown area, urged other commissioners not to blink.

'It seems to me to revitalize the community and to build in amenities that make people want to live here, visit and shop, it makes it a more interesting place to live,' she said.

Groznik and Johnson were unmoved and encouraged a postponement. Both voted against the decision to demolish the building this summer.

'I'm not in a hurry to build a park. I know other people are, I'm not. In the next two years we are going to be looking at our facilities needs and we may need to place some city services there temporarily,' if renovations are required at city hall, Johnson said.

'My vote tonight is not about the $50,000, my vote is about the timeline. I think eventually the building needs to be taken down. But I don't think it needs to be taken down in July,' she said.

The $50,702 demolition contract was awarded to Konell Construction and Demolition, the low-bidder on the job. Konell also put heavy emphasis on recycling and recovery of materials and use of low-emission diesel equipment.

Funds for the demolition and for future planning for the park come from the LORA budget, which is funded by a portion of property taxes from the city's downtown redevelopment district. The money is separate from the city's general operating funds and cannot be used for anything other than scheduled improvements within the district.

Bob Galante, director of the redevelopment agency, said a final phase of design, including public input, is still ahead. That phase is projected to cost $480,000, also paid by LORA funds.

Two studies are also scheduled before those designs can move ahead. Planned are a study of how traffic noise will impact lake residents once the U S Bank building is removed and an assessment of the wooden pilings below the building to gauge their stability.