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A brief history of the Kruse Way Corridor, city and Mormon church

Editor's note: Local developer and spiritualist Nick Bunick was asked by city of Lake Oswego officials to compile the history of how the Kruse Way Corridor and Westlake area were created for the city's archives. After doing so, he shared a copy with the Lake Oswego Review.

Bunick is the husband of local Realtor Mary Jo Avery.

Because this piece is different than a regular citizen's view, the Review is waiving its regular word limit in order to share the information with our readers. Bunick's piece originally referred to himself in third person; in the editing, we changed that back to first person.

We are going back in time, before 1976, and the construction of Kruse Way Boulevard. Lake Oswego was then a small, sleepy town, with only two access routes, one being on a two-lane road from Portland called Macadam Avenue, which ended at State Street in Lake Oswego. The other access was south of the city, on Boones Ferry Road, which is where the current Joe's shopping center exists.

It was difficult to get into the city of Lake Oswego at that time. As a newcomer to Oregon, (I) still remember moving to Portland from California in 1963, and asking a woman in a Safeway store in Portland how to get to Lake Oswego. After about 15 seconds of thought she replied, 'you can't get there from here'.

How did the Kruse Way Corridor come into existence, which is probably the most important event that occurred and influenced the future of the city Of Lake Oswego?

In the mid 1950s the Mormon Church purchased approximately 350 acres of land whose western border abutted the I-5 Freeway and its eastern border, Carman Road. The church originally thought the property would make a great site for a future university. As time went on, the church real estate administrators realized that was not the best use for the property. On two different occasions in the late 60s and early 70s, the city of Lake Oswego tried to annex the 350 acres into the city. Both times the church resisted the annexation, and both times the courts decided in favor of the church, ruling that their property could not be forced into annexation.

In 1976 the State of Oregon and Clackamas County began the construction of the Kruse Way Boulevard, on land that had been the southern portion of the church property, which they acquired through condemnation. This was to become the gateway into the city of Lake Oswego from I-5. In the process of constructing the boulevard, the state and county put in a medium beginning on the Carman Road intersection all the way to I-5, with no breaks in the medium. In essence, the 300 acres still owned by the church, when developed in the future, would only have the ability to have a right turn exit towards the freeway.

The church responded by filing an injunction on the construction of Kruse Way Boulevard. For many months the unfinished road sat, filled with gravel and rock on either side of the medium, waiting for the matter to be resolved in a courthouse in Oregon City. At that time (I) had a land development and home construction company located in Raleigh Hills in Portland. One day in June of 1976, three men arrived at (my) offices unexpectedly, introducing themselves as the land managers from Salt Lake City, Utah, for all properties owned by the Mormon Church in the United States. Soon after, the church and (I) agreed that (I) would be the agent for the church in trying to resolve the present dilemma between the church and the government agencies.

Several weeks after, (I) attended a court hearing for the suit, and was asked by Scott Parker, who was the county attorney, if (I) was willing to negotiate a settlement with the representatives of the state and county that were also present. A settlement was agreed upon, which required the government agencies to open up the mediums in two locations that (I) selected to the 300 acres, which today are known as Westlake Drive and the other is the access road to Centerpointe and the Mormon temple. (I) selected those locations in order to create tree-lined streets as well as because of its proximity to I-5.

Shortly after the road resolution, (I) signed a contract with the church to be responsible for the master plan and development of the 300 acres. One day, shortly after, while driving through Lake Oswego with (my) children, (I) asked them for ideas as to what to call the development. (My) oldest daughter, barely in her teens, suggested since it was west of the lake, why not call it Westlake, a name now known throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Because the feelings between the city and church at that time were quite tense, the church still did not want to annex the property into the city. (I) negotiated an agreement with both the city and the church, to allow the property to be processed through the city system, while it still remained in the county. If at the completion of the processing all three parties were pleased with the results, the church (would) sign an agreement with the city that they would then allow (me) to annex the property into the city.

The process took from 1976 until it was finally approved in 1981, five years later. Many amusing and some not-so-amusing events took place during that five years of processing Westlake. It appeared to (me) that every environmental group in the state had decided to fight the approval of the project, each for its own reasons. Some claimed that it was the only place in Oregon in which ash and oak trees grew side by side, even though (I) was able to identify dozens of other places within an hour's drive.

The League of Woman's Voter's decided to make the denial of the development of the property a major priority of their organization, and with the aid of an attorney, Frank Jocelyn, who donated his time for free, opposed the approval at every meeting. A woman from Southern Oregon claimed she was in charge of the rare plants species in the state and that two Latin named plants were growing on the property, and should be protected at all costs. The city required (that I) have a survey done for these two rare plants on the entire 300 acres. Several months and $16,000 later, the arborists' report was submitted to the city, stating they could not find these two rare plants, which also had not been seen in the state of Oregon in the last 100 years.

And then there were the mushrooms. Three or four people had discovered there were psychedelic mushrooms growing in the open fields. This information found its way one day onto the front page of the Review. Shortly (there)after it was not unusual to find many dozens of people picking mushrooms on the property every weekend.

During the five-year process, the city staff developed the idea that 20 percent of the 300 acres should remain as open space. (I) suggested that 13 acres of the 20 percent could be a public park, which the staff agreed to. (I) then negotiated with the church that the cost of (my) purchasing 13 acres of the 300 acres be transferred to the remaining 287 acres so the (church) would be in a position to donate the 13 acres to the city free and clear of any debt or liens. Several years later, upon request of the city, the church and (I) donated the 13 acres to the city, which today is one of the most versatile and well-used parks in the city. Westlake Park is located on Bunick Drive in Westlake, off of Avery Drive, a street (I) named after (my) wife, Mary Jo Avery, a prominent Realtor in Lake Oswego, (my) hometown outside of Boston.

Also, during this processing, the church asked (me) to set aside 10 acres in the northwest corner of the 300 acres to be designated for conditional use, which today is the site of the Mormon Temple.

Shortly after the approval of Westlake in 1981, the 14 property owners on the southern side of Kruse Way Boulevard approached (me) and asked (me) to create a master plan for their properties, and to process it for approval through the County of Clackamas. Those 14 properties now are the office campus on the southern side of the Kruse Way Corridor, including Meadows Road, and have since been annexed into the city of Lake Oswego.

Westlake has been recognized as one of the finest land developments in the Pacific Northwest, which includes hundreds of beautiful single-family homes, attractive apartment houses, the Centerpointe commercial buildings located in the western portion, the Westlake Plaza shopping center in the middle of the neighborhood, owned by the Bunick family, the attractive well-used Westlake Park and dozens and dozens of strolling and jogging lanes throughout the neighborhood.

The commercial portion of the Kruse Way Corridor, both in the north and south side of Kruse Way Boulevard is considered the finest commercial development in the Greater Portland area, and attracts tenants and rental rates equivalent to downtown Portland. And Kruse Way itself provides access, not only to I-5, but also connects to 217 and all the locations west of Lake Oswego.

It is hard to imagine what the city of Lake Oswego would be like, if the above events did not take place.

Developer Nick Bunick is a resident of Lake Oswego.