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Safeco becomes a done deal as city buys land

The city of Lake Oswego closed a $20 million deal with Safeco Insurance Friday, purchasing the company's 14-acre campus on Kruse Way just days after expanding a contract to plan a community center there.

The $20 million price was negotiated between Safeco and city officials in April. Safeco listed the Kruse Way property for sale after announcing plans to relocate in fall 2005. City officials said they weren't taken seriously in subsequent offers to buy the property and took the first steps to condemn it in December, forcing a deal. Safeco accepted the city's $20 million offer after three months of talks.

Brant Williams, director of community center development for the city of Lake Oswego, said insaapections turned up no problems on the site and the deal went through as planned.

The transfer of the land came two days after the Lake Oswego City Council stepped up efforts to plan for a community center there, voting July 5 to increase a contract with BOORA Architects by 57 percent.

The city originally paid $167,300 to BOORA in March for analysis of the Kruse Way campus and its facilities. That contract also included planning for a potential library and recreational facilities, landscape design and a review of costs for a community center. The firm is working with a 20-member citizen steering committee on the design.

The $94,612 expands public outreach for the project and probes private development on a portion of the 14-acre campus. Williams said the city could sell a portion of the land for private housing, small-scale retail or a hotel, recouping some of the cost to buy it.

'We have two parallel tracks here. We have the steering committee looking at the community center … and we'll see what opportunity exists for additional development to also be added to the site,' Williams said.

The Community Center Steering Committee has met three times to date. Eight more meetings are planned before the committee is scheduled to make recommendations in September.

In outreach efforts, the group recently received more than 1,000 responses to a survey about community center needs.

The committee next meets Wednesday to review options for libraries, including whether to close the current downtown library or create a branch on Kruse Way. The meeting takes place at 6:30 p.m. at the newly acquired Safeco building, 4101 Kruse Way.