Wizer space could change dramatically


Should plans pan out for redevelopment of an A Avenue store, Lake Oswego's downtown could see new shops, apartments and a boutique hotel by 2011.

A national development firm unveiled its plans for Wizer's grocery store at a meeting of the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency Tuesday evening.

Poised to apply for permits and begin neighborhood outreach, representatives of Trammell Crow Residential first offered a preview of plans for the block.

Known to bureaucrats as Block 137, the site is bordered by A Avenue to the north, First and Second streets to the east and west and Millennium Plaza Park to the south.

Developers envision apartment buildings facing Second Street, retail buildings fronting A Avenue and First Street and a hotel overlooking Millennium Plaza Park.

With parking pushed to two floors below ground and a series of courtyards planned between buildings, the project builds on an already-bustling pedestrian atmosphere.

It also reverses a condo conversion trend in Lake Oswego, adding 190 to 195 'luxury' apartments to an area where a significant portion of rental stock has been converted to condos in the last three years.

At first glance, the partnership between Trammell Crow Residential and Gene Wizer, the local grocer and owner of the land, appears promising.

Unlike previous proposals before it, the idea is financially feasible. Past plans for redevelopment of the block have stalled on financial hiccups and on local politics.

In 2006, a Measure 37 claim filed by Wizer became a bargaining chip in an effort to lure $7 million from the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency for the site. Wizer was paired with Washington-based Gerding Edlen and proposing a similar mix of retail, housing and possible office space.

The Measure 37 claim charged that the city's 60-foot height restriction on downtown buildings impeded Wizer's ability to turn a profit on new projects, particularly without public investment.

He sought a $7 million parking subsidy to bridge the gap between the project's cost and its expected returns for investors.

Wizer and Gerding Edlin severed ties when the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agen-cy refused to grant the money.

At the time, the Lake Oswego City Council was stumping hard for affordable housing. The Lake Oswego city councilors also serve as directors of the redevelopment agency in this city. They opted not to subsidize the project because condos inside were priced at $575 to $600 per square foot.

Two previous public investments in downtown parking lots - one inside Lake View Village and another at the corner of B Avenue and First Street - also eliminated a need for more public parking.

Wizer said Tuesday he gave up on redevelopment plans in 2007 and began plans to remodeling the grocery store instead.

'It's an old building and we kind of let it go for a while because we've been through 5 or 10 developers over the last 15 years' trying to make redevelopment work, Wizer said.

Once he shifted focus, Wizer said Trammell Crow Residential came calling.

The company proposed a project with considerably less concrete. Its reliance on an alternate pool of investors make for 'a much tighter ship,' Wizer said.

He expected the project would meet most city height requirements.

Trammell Crow Residential has built similar mixed use projects in Portland, including Tupelo Alley on Mississippi Avenue in Northeast Portland and The Merick in the Lloyd District.

The company also builds high rises, including the Alexan in South Waterfront. A mixed-use project by the same name begins on Boones Ferry Road later this month.

The plans for new development in downtown Lake Oswego still must clear several rounds of review by city planners and satisfy nearby neighbors.

Wizer was proceeding cautiously on Tuesday but said he was optimistic that the proposal would have success.