Redevelopment of Wizer block moves ahead
Designs show plans for new apartments, shops and parking downtown
The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency board on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to a plan that could transform the Wizer property downtown into a full-block residential and retail development.
The LORA boards decision did not represent approval of the overall project, city officials said. Instead, the 6-0 vote will allow developers to finalize designs so they can formally apply for permits they need to build the $92.6 million project, which requires the urban renewal agencys approval because it will rely on up to about $5.9 million in public financial assistance.
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 citys urban renewal districts, including the east end district downtown. It typically has seven members but has yet to fill a vacancy created by Councilor Mike Kehoes recent resignation.
Acting as a LORA board member, Councilor Donna Jordan said redeveloping the Wizer block could bring big benefits to the city, and she gave credit to architects from ZGF Architects and real estate developers from W&K Development, who presented their latest proposal for building designs this week.
Im very impressed with what were seeing, Jordan said. I think theres been a lot of attention paid to requests from residents. ... Weve heard from folks who are worried about what this is going to do to downtown, but I think it is actually going to be a contribution to downtown.
The city has long eyed redevelopment of the Wizer property, home to Wizers 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 project is also supposed to provide some more immediate public benefits, including a new pedestrian street cutting through the block between First and Second streets, a smaller walkway branching off that path and linking it to Evergreen Road, and a mix of public and private parking tucked beneath the development.
Spanning the entire block, the development would include three separate four- to five-story buildings with up to 228 high-end apartments or condos. In addition, the development would include up to 28,000 square feet of retail space. Each building would have its own distinct look inspired by either the English tudor, Oregon rustic or arts and crafts style.
Tuesdays hearing did not offer an opportunity for the public to comment, although an earlier hearing drew dozens to testify. While many residents have been enthusiastic about the propertys proposed transformation, many have also voiced concerns about the size and massing of the project, the type and number of residential units and the potential impacts on traffic and parking in the area - plus the number of new pets that would likely move in with their owners.
A few of those issues arose again at this weeks meeting.
Councilor Karen Bowerman, serving as a LORA board member, said the development would likely bring 200 dogs to downtown.
I saw your doggie shampoo area in the basement, she said, referring to one of the apartment complexs likely amenities indoors. Thats great, but you need something (outside) too, I suspect. ... It needs to be somewhere.
While the complexs residents would have access to an outdoor courtyard with a putting green, a bocce court, outdoor dining areas and a two-sided fireplace, Councilor Jon Gustafson noted the closest grass for dogs to relieve themselves appeared to be across the street at Millennium Plaza Park or a short walk away at Evergreen Park. He suggested ensuring a planting strip would be created for residents to use.
I dont want the closest doggy bathroom to be our wonderful park at Millennium Plaza, Gustafson said.
Patrick Kessi of W&K Development said the new homes would definitely be pet friendly and that pet-waste bags would be posted by ex its. Later, architects mentioned the possibility of providing an absorbent mat in the covered parking area as well.
Redevelopment agency board members also took issue with the design of a particularly prominent corner overlooking Millennium Plaza and sitting across the street from St. Honore in Lake View Village.
The corner has proved vexing for architects, who admitted to trying as many as 85 different shapes as they tried to accommodate a 45-degree angle meant to fit with the plaza while sticking to the overall design of that building, which features a gabled roof.
Officials also requested plug-in stations for electric vehicles in the parking lot, which developers said theyd likely provide, as theyre shooting to meet the gold level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.
Developers noted they also plan to incorporate some historical elements such as mosaics in the existing Wizer building, which was designed by renowned local architect Richard Sundeleaf. They might also reuse wood decking, and they plan to work with the citys arts council to place about eight new pieces of public art around the site.
Councilor Skip ONeil suggested possibly building an arch over the new public path and naming it Wizer Walkway to pay homage to Gene Wizer, the propertys longtime owner.
David Staczek, the projects lead designer, liked that idea.
Thats a beautiful notion, he said.
Lake Oswego Redevelopment Director Brant Williams said the LORA boards ideas would be taken as suggestions as developers and architects finalize their designs, which they will then present to the citys development review commission. The development review commission will then hold public hearings, allowing citizens to weigh in on the designs and potential impacts.
If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in September 2014, and the project could be finished two years after that.
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