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First Addition lives up to its name

Neighborhood is named one of the top 10 neighborhoods in U.S.
by: Sam Bennett,   
Homes such as this on Ninth Street are typical of a new breed in First Addition – designed to meet the demands of buyers who want more space.

Although the First Addition neighborhood in Lake Oswego changed as the housing market heated up in the last several years, the neighborhood still maintains its charm.

Lisa Shaw-Ryan, chair of First Addition Neighborhood Association, said new houses have added to the eclectic mix of homes that has always defined the neighborhood.

'I see a lot of variety - of old and new,' said Shaw-Ryan, who lives in First Addition. 'It's a phenomenal neighborhood.'

That viewpoint apparently is shared by the American Planning Association, which last week announced that First Addition has been named one of the top 10 neighborhoods in America.

The association selected First Addition because of its 'dedication to community values and priorities, recognition of the neighborhood's past and a commitment to plan and create a high quality of life in the future,' according to Jane Heisler, director of public affairs for the city of Lake Oswego.

APA Executive Director Paul Farmer said the neighborhood combines walkability, housing variety and access to transit, all of which are 'the building blocks that make FAN a functional and desirable place.'

The neighborhood was first platted in 1888 to house workers of the Oregon Iron and Steel Co. First Addition includes a grocery store, adult community center, elementary school, library and park, fire station, post office, mixed-use retail and multiple and single-family dwellings.

'What makes it so desirable is its relationship to downtown,' said Shaw-Ryan. 'People want to live in an area where the amenities are grouped together.'

In recent years, First Addition has seen an influx of different styles of architecture and larger homes.

As housing prices skyrocketed in the last few years, developers have bulldozed some 1,200-square-foot cottages and replaced them with homes nearly three times the size in square footage.

'The land prices in First Addition really demand that,' said Lake Oswego Mayor Judie Hammerstad. 'It's hard to build a small house on a large lot and make it pencil-out. People are not going to spend half a million dollars on land and live in a bungalow.'

The city has made changes to the building code, to address setback issues as well as height and streetscape requirements.

Some developers choose to 'max-out the code,' Ryan-Shaw said, referring to building to the maximum size allowed.

Developers also have razed older homes on double lots and replaced them with two homes. A typical lot size in First Addition is 6,000 square feet.

'The tradition now is that families and couples want larger homes,' said Shaw-Ryan.

She said the neighborhood association remains 'vigilant' in its monitoring of new construction in First Addition.

The association is also vigilant when it comes to the city's consideration of moving its library, possibly to the West End building.

'We're not in support of moving the library,' she said. 'The library is a symbol of the neighborhood.'

Shaw-Ryan, who lives across from the library, said it's the sum total of all First Addition's amenities that make it desirable.

'It has good bones, but the people who live and work here are what make it special,' she said.