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Too big for Lake Oswego?

Plan to build 228 apartments downtown raises some worries

by: VERN UYETAKE - The city block now home to Wizer's market in downtown Lake Oswego could eventually be home to hundreds of apartments, as well as retail spaces.Now that the citizens of Lake Oswego are becoming more and more aware of the new development planned for Wizer Block 137, they have one question that stands out above all: What effect will more than 200 new apartments have on Lake Oswego?

This was evident at the public meeting held by ZGF Architects last week at Our Lady of the Lake Church. It was the second public meeting about the development that will replace the venerable building of Wizer’s Oswego Foods, and approval was expressed about the progress ZGF had made on the plan since the first meeting. The revised plan calls for a “less institutional feel” to the proposed buildings, a buffer zone on Second Avenue, addition of an extra access way, and planting new trees.

The idea is to transform the commercial property long owned by Gene Wizer into housing and retail spaces with parking underneath. Long eyed by the city for redevelopment, the Wizer block is sandwiched between Millennium Plaza Park, Lake View Village, which houses the restaurant Tucci and other businesses, and a few dozen three-level townhomes.

However, the central issue is the tentative plan to build 228 apartments, a number that has varied by about 15 units during discussions in recent months.

Regardless of the final number of apartments, that will mean a drastic change for downtown Lake Oswego, and a number of people at the meeting voiced reservations that this would put too many people in too little space and have a negative effect.

“This is the opportunity to be creative,” said Tom Grigg. “We have one of the best town squares in the nation. There is a place for this kind of development in Lake Oswego, but not in our town square. The city will get the same money if they put it somewhere else.”

“The scale is overwhelming,” said Peter Davis, a member of the Evergreen Neighborhood Association, which sponsored the meeting. “Having 228 apartments is just going to overwhelm everybody, and that is not even including the traffic that will result. It does not make one bit of sense to me. It’s too, too big.

“At first we heard there would be some upscale condominiums. Now it’s 228 units, and they’re all apartments.”

Grigg urged caution about a development that would have such far-reaching and lasting effects on Lake Oswego.

“When it’s done there will be no turning around,” he said. “This will determine the future of Lake Oswego. I don’t see this as a really good fit for us in the future.”

David Staczek, associate partner with ZGF and chairman of the meeting, said that his firm’s plan has conformed to all requirements set by the city of Lake Oswego. He also pointed out that there is still plenty of time for public input.

“We’re halfway through the design process,” he said. “We would like you to stay involved.””These are quality people trying to do a good job,” said John Turchi, a former Lake Oswego city councilor. “We need to work with them.”

Still, Turchi believes a lot of work needs to be done on the plan.

“It is still too large and too dense for this space,” he said.

As first reported in the Review, developers plan to ask the city’s urban renewal agency for assistance with the project, and two meetings are coming up to discuss involvement of the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency.

The LORA board, made up of members of the city council, will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to consider a development agreement for the project. Then, at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 27, the board is scheduled to consider a proposed design development plan that could guide how the project ultimately looks.

Both meetings will take place at city hall, 380 A Ave.

Past story: A plan for 'luxury' and 'timelessness' in downtown LO

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