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Mixed-use project 'exactly what belongs' on North Anchor site

So says developer and Lake Oswego resident Vanessa Sturgeon, whose proposal includes a hotel, apartments, parking and retail space


REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Lake Oswego resident Vanessa Sturgeon says the community is responding well to her proposal for a mixed-use project at the North Anchor. Im looking forward to spending time with people who are interested in the project, she says, and hearing their opinions. Vanessa Sturgeon wants to change the face of the city-owned North Anchor blocks while addressing downtown Lake Oswego’s lack of accommodations.

Her Sturgeon Development Partners may have been the only group to respond to the city’s request for proposals last summer, but the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency was pleased with early-stage designs for the $31.2 million mixed-use project.

Sturgeon’s plans call for a four-story, 90-room boutique hotel with about 5,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space and one level of below-ground parking; across the street, a four-story mixed-use building would include about 60 apartments or condos, retail space and more below-ground parking.

The City Council agreed with those ideas, voting earlier this month to negotiate a development agreement with Sturgeon’s group for the North Anchor site, which sits on the east and west sides of First Street, just north of B Avenue. It includes three parcels purchased by LORA for $5.43 million and totals about 34,800 square feet.

Sturgeon, who has lived in Lake Oswego for 14 years, comes with a unique pedigree in commercial real estate development, having learned the ropes from her grandfather, Tom Moyer, the late Portland business owner and commercial developer. Sturgeon rose through the ranks, becoming president of TMT Development in 2010 and later founding Sturgeon Development Partners with Nick Fritel and Robert Pile.

This week, she spoke with The Review about the challenges ahead for development in downtown Lake Oswego, as well as community and industry-wide reaction to her vision for the North Anchor.

Q: You took over TMT Development in 2010. What was your career trajectory like?

A: I earned an undergraduate degree in communications with a focus on journalism, and then I went to Willamette University’s joint program (in law and business). Two years in, my grandfather — he was 82 at the time — asked if I would consider coming back and working for him sooner. He felt I could learn more in the two years with him. So I did. I finished business school at night, but I never finished law

school.

It was the right decision for me, although I learned a lot about contracts and how to work on those kinds of things because of law school. It was a good supplement, although it is really hard to have half a

degree (in law) hanging out there.

Development is a cross-section of so many different industries, and I really enjoy working with all different kinds of people, from the construction folks to architects to engineers to tenants. It’s really fun, and every day is different. So it’s been a really exciting career. There’s nothing else that I would really rather be doing.

Q: What prompted you to move to Lake Oswego after graduate school?

A: I loved the community. The people in Lake Oswego are so nice and the schools are incredible. We love Lake Oswego. We are so happy that we chose to plant our roots here. We have four boys that are in the Lake Oswego School District, and we’re thankful they get that education. We enjoy our camaraderie with our neighbors and the community in general. We’re not likely to live anywhere else until we’re in an old folks’ home.

Q: What inspired you to propose a hotel project for Lake Oswego’s North Anchor?

A: I knew that a hotel was needed because I live in the community. So I started calling hotel folks about the project when we were putting together our response to the (request for proposals) that was issued by the (Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency).

These hotel development people are in the Los Angeles area for the most part, but when I would get to the point in the conversation where I would say “proposal for a hotel in downtown Lake Oswego,” both of the chains I was talking to — Starwood and Hilton — interrupted me and said, “We know all about downtown Lake Oswego. We know you need a hotel badly. We know the Kruse Way market is served, but downtown is in desperate need of a hotel, and we are interested.”

These real estate folks get to know the areas that are underserved, because they have a goal to establish roots in those areas. That told me that that part of LO truly was underserved and on their radar. I thought that was fascinating. And encouraging, that we had the vision to go for a hotel. We’ll work on striking deals with many different hoteliers, so we can find the right fit.

Q: What kind of community reaction have you seen in response to your proposal?

A: There’s a high level of interest. So far, people seem to be responding well to the fact that the project is mixed-use and smaller in scale. I’ve received a lot of emails and phone calls from people reaching out. I’ve already been invited to the Rotary Club and to a neighborhood association meeting. I’m looking forward to spending time with people who are interested in the project and hearing their opinions.

Q: Are you at all concerned by the recent controversy around the Wizer Block? Litigation is still pending on Block 137, even as construction is underway.

A: Of course that’s a concern. That said, I think the litigation was pretty clear, that the zoning laws are what they are. The zoning really is a contract between the developer and the city and the neighborhood, so they understand what can and what likely will be built there when they buy.

I think that ultimately, that’s the basis for the decision for me now, the code. I think that we’re going to be able to work through it, because this neighborhood is interested in a mixed-use development, and that’s exactly what belongs there.

Contact Saundra Sorenson at 503-636-1281 ext. 107 or ssorenson@lakeoswegoreview.com.

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