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A new design for the Wizer Block

Developer Patrick Kessi and the Evergreen Group respond to criticism with lower density, more commerical space and more parking


by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Redesign of Wizer Block buildings.Addressing complaints that its previous design was too big and too dense, Evergreen Group has submitted a new vision for the Wizer Block in downtown Lake Oswego that it hopes will be viewed as more compatible with the city's architectural style.

Developer Patrick Kessi said this week that the new design reflects "the best suggestions" from feedback gathered at three public hearings and more than 100 meetings with neighborhood groups, business and community leaders and city officials.

Kessi said the new, "scaled down" design was submitted to city planners last week. It eliminates a planned fifth story, which would have required an exception to current city code. The redesign also includes multiple facades to reduce the project's outsized feel and incorporates a more-traditional "village" architecture style — two elements that sparked intense opposition to the project's original design.

If approved, the three-building, 290,000-square-foot development would replace the existing Wizer's retail center on a site located next to Lake View Village and Millennium Plaza Park. It would include a mix of residential units and commercial space, as well as a variety of outdoor gathering spots and a conservatory that would face Oswego Lake.

Evergreen's redesign for the development, which is also known as Block 137, includes a 30 percent increase in commercial space and a greater street presence for retail shops. A row of townhomes originally slated to run along First Street have been scrapped in favor of storefronts, which should prove more complementary to Lake View Village across the street, Kessi said.

“The city wanted more commercial space, so we replaced the townhomes on the pedestrian walkway with commercial space,” Kessi said, adding that the pedestrian-only walkway will be 27 to 37 feet wide.

Townhomes still will run down Second Street, Kessi said, but they will face an existing residential complex. At its highest point, that end of Block 137 would reach no more than 48 feet.

While the city places a height limit of 60 feet on such structures, Kessi said Block 137 won't reach that high anywhere in the development. “The highest point is 58 feet,” he said.

The redesign reduces the number of residential units by 21, from 228 in the original proposal to 207. Sizes range from studios to three-bedroom apartments, some offered with optional dens. The largest units are up to 2,000 square feet, Kessi said.

Block 137 is meant to appeal to two distinct demographics, Kessi said: empty-nesters looking to downsize, and young professionals wanting to try out the Lake Oswego lifestyle. To that end, the development will include three areas for outdoor barbecuing, a bocce ball court, putting greens, a fitness center and a conservatory that will face the lake.

There are 1.3 parking spaces allotted to each residential unit, Kessi said. The project also allocates 135 spaces for public parking.

To counter charges that the previous proposal was out of sync with Lake Oswego's downtown aesthetic, Kessi said the new design would reduce the development’s mass and maximize traditional village architecture and design characteristics.

“We worked with the city architect, Rich Farrington, and really developed distinct facades that adhere to the Lake Oswego traditional village architecture,” Kessi said.

That has meant giving the design more pronounced elements of the English Tudor, Arts & Crafts and “Oregon rustic” influences that mark much of the downtown core’s motif. In a complete reversal of the previous design’s uniform facade, street-facing units now are broken into three distinct segments, each reflecting a slightly different, more modern take on the English Tudor aesthetic.

Kessi is confident his firm’s design responds to community feedback.

“It’s a shared vision, thanks to all the meetings we’ve had with city staff, the Development Review Commission, community leaders and other organizations to really bring vibrancy to this area,” Kessi said.

Will the changes be enough? Initial responses from Save Our Village suggest there might still be a fight ahead (See story, Page A1), and a 20-day period for public comments could come as soon as July.

But Kessi said he is confident Evergreen’s new design addresses the earlier concerns and is compatible with the rest of downtown Lake Oswego.

“We’re the last piece of the puzzle for this end of downtown, and we’re really connecting Lake View Village with the west part of A Avenue — really connecting the blocks,” Kessi said.

For more information about the project, go to keeplakeoswegovillagevibrant.com.




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