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City begins debate on redevelopment plans for Wizer block

Development review hearing will continue Jan. 29


Lake Oswego Block 137, also known as the Wizer block, is under consideration for redevelopment. The shopping complex now next to Lake View Village and Millennium Plaza Park would be replaced by three buildings featuring a mix of retail and residential spaces.A couple hundred people packed into Lake Oswego City Hall Wednesday night to debate plans for the Wizer block downtown.

The longtime home of Wizer’s Oswego Foods and a longstanding city target for urban renewal, the property is now the proposed location for a new upscale development featuring a mix of retail spaces and high-density rental housing.

Wednesday's hearing was before the Lake Oswego Development Review Commission. If the proposal is approved, the existing shopping center would be demolished and three buildings erected in its place on the block, which sits next to Lake View Village and Millennium Plaza Park as well as townhomes and other redeveloped lots.

The project would need exceptions to city regulations to have some residential entries on the ground floor, a reduced amount of storefront window area, a retail parking entrance on First Street and a fifth floor on a portion of each building. It would also remove 25 trees, though developers plan to preserve a maple tree at A Avenue and First Street at the request of community members.

Critics of the plan say the development is too big and too dense and would damage the village feel of downtown Lake Oswego. While the project currently includes 217 rental units, likely a mix of apartments and condos, it could have as many as 228 apartments in the end. The buildings would also have more stories than typically allowed.

Others have taken issue with the concept of urban renewal. Lake Oswego’s urban renewal agency, whose directing board is made up of the city council, gave its stamp of approval to the project in August, committing up to $5.9 million in public financial assistance in hopes of creating a ripple effect of economic activity and boosting property values downtown.

Proponents say that even if the buildings have an extra story or two, they’re still under the 60-foot height limit, and they’d be broken up by internal walkways; they’d also have more landscaping than required. Parking would be tucked underneath and would include spaces for the public.

Property owner Gene Wizer has partnered with W&K Development on the project. Patrick Kessi of W&K said the project would offer economic benefits such as 100 new, permanent jobs and a broader property tax base to benefit all Lake Oswego residents.

“This is a long-term asset for everyone,” he said, noting 60 people had already contacted his company in hopes of moving into the new development — including many who already lived in Lake Oswego but who are looking to downsize. “They want to stay connected to this community.”

David Staczek, project designer, said the development would provide “a walkable, upscale lakeside living experience,” including sustainable features aiming for LEED platinum certification, an environmental rating.

City planners have recommended approval.

This week, development review commissioners this week raised questions with the project's designers.

They expressed concerns about traffic impacts, building height and some of the materials shown in proposed designs and some questioned the large proportion of residential space compared to retail in the proposal. The 28,000 square feet of commercial space represents about 10 percent of the total development.

They also asked about parking set aside for alternative forms of transportation. While 67 bicycle parking spots are required, and 74 are provided by the plan, the city has no requirement for motorcycle parking, they found.

Dozens of people signed up to testify about the project Wednesday night, leading commissioners to continue the hearing to a later date, when they’ll finish taking input and debate whether the project meets city rules. Only those already signed up to speak will be able to testify at the hearing, which is set to resume at 4 p.m. Jan. 29.


By Kara Hansen
News editor
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