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An uncertain future on the Wizer block

Contention and confusion surround proposed redevelopment plan


by: VERN UYETAKE  - Glass Butterfly owner Phil Chizum said the Wizer's redevelopment was still unfinalized, despite recent discussions between developers, property owner Gene Wizer and the city.The proposed redevelopment of the Wizer’s shopping center has already sparked public interest, outcry and concern — especially among the store owners and employees of the block’s other businesses. To them, the future remains unclear.

ZGF Architects and W&K Development have set September 2014 as a prospective dig date, but the plans — which call for the construction of multistory, mixed-used buildings with 200-plus housing units — are neither finalized nor approved.

In the meantime, no one in the Wizer’s mall has formally been given notice to vacate. At least, not yet.

Which leaves some, like Glass Butterfly owner Phil Chizum, optimistic.

“It may sound like a done deal,” Chizum said, “but despite what you read in the newspaper, it may, or may not, happen.”

With 12 full- or part-time employees, Chizum’s clothing boutique is the largest shop in the Wizer’s complex.

According to Chizum, everything from zoning issues to public protest or financing difficulties could sink the development project. And with a six-month lease (and no notice from property owner Gene Wizer), the Glass Butterfly has no reason to continue anything but business as usual.

“I haven’t given up hope yet, and I want my customers to know that,” Chizum said.

The Glass Butterfly has been open for business in Lake Oswego for 29 years.

Fred Squire, who owns Squire Antiques, said he operates his business with the same outlook.

“I’m not a worrier. Never have been. Drives my wife nuts, but I don’t worry. I just don’t,” Squire said.

With two part-time employees, Squire said that if a move does come, he’d look for a smaller space in the same area. Until then, he’ll carry on.

But not everyone on the block shares Chizum and Squire’s “wait and see” attitude.

To portrait photographer Derrik Ollar and chiropractor Dr. Scott Abrahamson, relocating isn’t a matter of if — only when.

“It looks like the deal is done,” Abrahamson said.

Ollar agreed. “I fully expect this to happen,” he said.

Ollar, of Ollar Photography, and Abrahamson, of Lake Oswego Chiropractic, are both self-employed professionals who operate modest, successful practices. by: VERN UYETAKE - Photographer Derrik Ollar said the Wizer's teardown was a matter of when, not if.

With limited overhead costs and relatively smaller space requirements, both say that moving, while difficult, isn’t deadly.

“It’s an enormous expense. But I also knew it was a possibility even going in here,” Abrahamson said. “You’re always taking a risk, no matter where you are. So, it’s doable.”

Both Ollar and Abrahamson said they knew from the start to not get too comfortable.

“(Wizer) has always made it clear that something would happen to the property. Nobody was blind to this,” Ollar said.

Ollar has occupied his studio for four years; Abrahamson, 10. Neither owner thinks he’ll move far.

“LO Chiropractic of West Linn isn’t really going to work,” Abrahamson said.

So while the planned development’s design still needs a vote of approval from the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency — and then a public hearing from the Lake Oswego Development Review Commission — Ollar said the move-out date for Wizer’s tenants is more finalized than not.

“It’s gotten around that, sometime in late spring or early summer ... (Wizer) will want us all to move out,” Ollar said.

If that happens, hourly employees like Cris Soltero may be hardest hit.

Soltero, an employee at El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant, said that conflicting rumors made verifying anything impossible.

“We hear different versions every single day,” Soltero said. “Different stories from the customers, the paper, the people at city hall. We don’t know who to believe anymore.”

Lake Salon hairdresser Mindy Martinez agreed.

Martinez said that the recent coverage and the resulting confusion and contention regarding the proposed sale of the Wizer mall has negatively affected business at the Lake Salon.

Martinez thought the plan was to move too, eventually — but to where, she didn’t know. She thought she’d have at least another year in the Wizer’s location. Beyond that, she wasn’t sure.

According to Martinez, most of the salon’s clientele thought that the business had already closed down.

“It’s been slow since the first article ran,” Martinez said. “Can you write that we’re still here?”



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