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Save Our Village: Wizer Block revisions 'not enough'

Local group opposes 'overdevelopment,' says redesigned complex is still 'too big' for city's core


by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lita Schiel Grigg and Leslie Pirrotta have a different vision of Lake Oswegos Block 137 than the one being proposed by developer Patrick Kessi.Ask Lita Schiel Grigg and Leslie Pirrotta about their vision for the future of downtown Lake Oswego and two things become immediately clear: The founders of Save Our Village insist that they do not oppose development, and they do not like Patrick Kessi’s plans for a retail and residential project on the city’s Block 137.

“I am very happy and pleased with the development of this town over the past 20 years,” Grigg will tell you. “But the kind of development proposed would be good in the Pearl District, not in Lake Oswego.”

That’s the message Save Our Village brought to the city council last year, exerting enough pressure to persuade Kessi and his Evergreen Group to go back to the drawing board and design a new plan for the former home of Wizer’s Oswego Foods.

And that’s still how the group feels after seeing Kessi’s revised plans, which were delivered to the city last week and unveiled on the website keeplakeoswegovillagevibrant.com.

“Overall, the plan is still the same,” Grigg said this week. “It is three times as big as it should be, it is 80 percent residential, and there is little retail space. The primary issues are still evident. The proposed structure is three times the size of the existing building.”

Adds Pirrotta, “This plan would overwhelm our downtown and forever change the charm and character of Lake Oswego.”

Grigg, Pirrotta and a third co-founder, Tana Haynes, attended the initial planning session for the project in early 2013. “I went there thinking, ‘Oh great! There’s going to be development in Lake Oswego,’” Pirrotta said.

Once the women viewed the plans, though, their elation turned to dismay. The proposal included too many housing units, not enough retail space and, at five stories, was just too tall, they believed.

And so they formed Save Our Village, enlisting 300 volunteers in a campaign to stop what they considered to be “overdevelopment” of the city’s core. Soon there were little yellow signs posted in yards all over town, featuring a frowning cartoon building and a slogan that said, “Stop Overdevelopment in Lake Oswego.”

Protesters gathered on downtown street corners, waving signs in front of a 60-foot-tall helium balloon designed to illustrate just how high the proposed development would rise. A raft of letters were sent to area newspapers. And perhaps most effectively, Grigg went door to door to tell her neighbors what the plan entailed. The result: a three-inch-thick red notebook, filled with hundreds of letters supporting SOV’s stand.

In February, Kessi asked for an open-ended continuance and a chance to try again.

The new plan, announced last week, eliminates the development’s fifth story, adds multiple facades to reduce the project’s outsized feel and incorporates a more traditional “village” architecture style to give it a more Lake Oswego feel. The number of residential units would be reduced by 21 -- to 207 -- and commercial space would be increased by 30 percent.

It is not enough, the Save Our Village leaders say.

“It’s still a stack-em and pack-em apartment complex,” Grigg said, and only slightly smaller in size and density than the plan the organization found so objectionable in the first place. “It doesn’t matter how they dress it up. It all boils down to one thing: It’s too big.”

Grigg and Pirrotta object to charges that their group is against development of any kind. They say they just want the city to stick with what has worked well over the past 30 years.

“The city code has worked successfully as a guide for development in Lake Oswego,” Pirrotta said. “But this new plan is a game changer. I’m afraid this development will change the direction that Lake Oswego is going and affect future developments.”

What would make the Save Our Village leaders happy?

“It would have two or three stories, green spaces and 30 to 70 living units in the true Lake Oswego style,” Pirrotta said. “We will work diligently to preserve the style and look of Lake Oswego village.”

SOV has received donations from hundreds of people and some local businesses, Grigg said, and the organization will work to increase support over the coming weeks.

Both women said they plan to attend a July 7 meeting, where the Development Review Commission is expected to consider the Wizer Block’s future. The fight may not end there -- “I see it playing out in a court of law,” Grigg said – but the Save Our Village leaders say they will do everything they can to make sure their voices are heard.

“We plan to stay the course,” Grigg said.




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  • 22 Aug 2014

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