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Opposition to Wizer block renovation rises

Evergreen board hopes to smooth differences at Wednesday meeting


by: SUBMITTED IMAGE: ZGF ARCHITECTS - This rendering of the view from First Street and A Avenue shows one of three new buildings proposed in the redevelopment of the Wizer block downtown. Each of the three buildings would represent a different architectural style, in this case, Oregon rustic. One would be entirely residential, while the other two would feature a mix of rental housing and retail offerings.Heated. Spirited. Vociferous.

These are some of the words that could be used to describe the Sept. 30 meeting of the Evergreen Neighborhood Association. Instead of the small attendance common at such meetings there was a crowd estimated at 110 to 150 people who filled the meeting room at Our Lady of the Lake School, and it was because the object for discussion was the building plan for the Wizer block renovation.

Almost everyone in attendance had a comment or suggestion — mostly against the project project spearheaded by W&K Development that would build 228 apartment units and new retail space in the heart of Lake Oswego.

“It is fair to summarize that the majority is not happy with the current proposal,” said Paden Prichard, chairman of the neighborhood association’s board of directors. “There were lots of comments and lots of suggestions.”

The city has long eyed redevelopment of the Wizer property, home to Wizer’s Oswego Foods and surrounded by other redeveloped lots. The site is near Lake View Village, Millennium Plaza Park, townhomes, shops and restaurants. Its redevelopment is expected to spur more economic activity downtown and provide more property tax revenue to the city.

The survey taken by the neighborhood board showed that 69 percent of Evergreen residents at the meeting disagreed with the new development concept as presented, while 57 percent thought the project should not exceed two stories above retail space and the residential portions should not exceed four stories at any place. Just 10 percent of those polled agreed with and supported the project as presently designed. by: SUBMITTED IMAGE: ZGF ARCHITECTS - The city's Block 137 is also known as the Wizer block because it is owned by Gene Wizer, whose market in the complex is considered by many to be an institution. A new development could bring new housing, retail and parking options to the location, which is next to Millennium Plaza Park.

“The survey was pretty doggone accurate,” Prichard said. “No comments were left out.”

The complaints took aim at the project’s size, height and scale, the proposed number of units and potential traffic. Plus, Prichard said, “People were not excited about the style.”

Spanning the entire block, the development would include three separate four- to five-story buildings, each with its own distinct look inspired by either the English tudor, Oregon rustic or arts and crafts style.

That leaves the Evergreen neighborhood with a full agenda for the next meeting on the topic, set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Our Lady of the Lake School. Board members also hope to clear up what they believe are misconceptions about the board’s role in the project.

“The board is not really pushing for it,” said Carol Radich, acting secretary for the board. “There has been a misconception that the board favors the project.”

To clarify the board’s position, Prichard said he would explain his own involvement with the project since the beginning.

The city’s code on what is permitted on the project will a key topic. Prichard and Radich say there has been misunderstanding of what the city actually allows to be built.

“The city code does permit four stories as long as the upper stories are residential,” Prichard said.

Patrick Kessi of W&K Development said there have been some serious misunderstandings about the plan. He attended the Sept. 30 meeting, and he plans to attend the meeting on Wednesday.

“Getting the proper information out would be a great way to start,” Kessi said. “We’re committed to four stories, which the permit allows, and we’re also under the height limit of 60 feet. We’re doing 228 units, which is also within the permit limit.”

Again, the meeting will be open to the public, and, Radich said, “Everyone can go and express their personal opinion.”

There will be one stipulation for conducting the meeting.

“Only neighborhood residents can speak in the first part of the meeting,” Prichard said. “Some people from outside the neighborhood spoke at the last meeting.”

by: SUBMITTED IMAGE: ZGF ARCHITECTS - A pedestrian street would run through the proposed redevelopment of the Wizer block downtown.While Wednesday night’s meeting may settle some disagreements, opposition to the Wizer block project has become so strong in recent weeks that a new organization called Save Our Village is now pushing for drastic changes in the plan (see related story).

“The goal is to go through the formal development process so an acceptable recommendation can be made to the development review commission,” said Brant Williams, redevelopment director for the city of Lake Oswego. “LORA (Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency) approved the development agreement in August, but the DRC must make the decision on what will go to the city council.”

The redevelopment agency board, made up of the city council, is charged with making decisions to invest in projects and programs aiming to generate more private investment in the city’s urban renewal districts, including the east end district downtown.

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin on redevelopment of the Wizer block project in September 2014, and the project could be finished two years after that.

The development application wasn’t yet complete as of early this week, but officials believe the DRC could hold public hearings on the project in December.

Save Our Village forms

Some citizens of Lake Oswego were happy when they first heard that redevelopment would be coming for Block 137, also known as the Wizer block downtown. They are not happy now.

The result is a new organization called Save Our Village, which is dedicated to putting the brakes on a project that could build 228 new apartments and retail space on the site of the old Wizer’s market. They charge that the development would drastically change the character of downtown Lake Oswego and that key aspects of the plan exceed city limits.

Leaders of Save Our Village include Lita Schiel Grigg, Leslie Pirrotta and Tana Haynes.

They are urging Lake Oswego residents to write letters to the Lake Oswego City Council, Development Review Committee and the Lake Oswego Review to voice support for Save Our Village. City officials believe the DRC could hold public hearings on the project in December.

“If people are interested in our cause, we encourage them to go to send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ,” Grigg said. “This is an ever-expanding project.”



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