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City needs to take a higher road to redevelopment

Twhere are two problems with the city’s procedure for redevelopment: 1) early identification harms existing business and reduces private investment; (2) the city disregards the problems it creates for existing businesses. Seeger

I have owned and operated Upper Crust Bread for 14 years. We love our customers. In 2007, we moved to 41 B Ave., which sits in the middle of the proposed new library.

The city process identifies multiple possible redevelopment areas years in advance, which creates enormous uncertainty for businesses in those areas. That uncertainty causes reduced private investment and growing vacancies that are difficult to fill. The longer the process is delayed, the worse the situation. Possible redevelopment also creates a cloud on business leases, which interferes with the owners’ ability to sell the business.

For businesses in the redevelopment areas, the situation is made worse by the city’s disregard of the consequences to those local businesses.

In 2010, city employee Jane Blackstone organized a meeting of local B Avenue business owners, and had a city consultant tell us about the proposed North Anchor Project. Near the end, he told the room full of local business owners: after the redevelopment, the city would fill retail space with national chains. It did not want “mom & pop” operations because they supposedly weren’t usually open the right hours. We also received handouts that purported to outline our rights: (1) “at least 90 days notice” before requiring businesses to move; (2) City would pay up to $10,000 to relocate our businesses.

The messages I received: (1) UCB was not welcome, (2) when the city was ready, UCB would have to get out of the way, and (3) I’d have to pay for most of the relocation costs myself (The cost to bring the 41 B location up to USDA code exceeded $100,000, so $10,000 wouldn’t cover much).

Eventually, Blackstone acknowledged the city is required to compensate long-term tenants for the loss of their leases, and the $10,000 limit on relocation has key exceptions. By that point, one of our neighbors already had moved out.

In July 2012, the city bought the 41 B building, but the uncertainty — the limbo — continued. I immediately approached the city about negotiating a termination of UCB’s lease — which has 5 years remaining. The city refused to guarantee that UCB can remain for the 5 years, and also refused to negotiate an end to the lease. I tried multiple times to get the city to discuss various options. Until they read a draft of this opinion piece, the response was “no — UCB is bound by the 5 years remaining on the lease until the city decides it wants the space vacated.”

I like libraries and understand the benefits of redevelopment. However, the methods used by city employees are abusive and drive small businesses out of Lake Oswego.

At this point, it is just too late; relocation would result in the loss of UCB’s retail business. I really appreciate all of the support from the people of Lake Oswego, but Nov. 21 will be our last day of baking. My mom and I deserve a 2012 Christmas free from this city battle.

If you think the city’s behavior is unacceptable, please let them know.

 Alice Seeger is a West Linn resident who owns the Upper Crust Bread Co. in Lake Oswego.

(Editor’s note: Christine Kirk, public affairs manager for the city of Lake Oswego, responds: “The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency (LORA) appreciates and recognizes the value of the businesses in the area of the North Anchor Project at First and B and regrets that Ms. Seeger feels that circumstances have caused her to close her business. However, we do feel a need to respond to certain statements made regarding the North Anchor redevelopment process and to state clearly that no city actions have been motivated by review of Ms. Seeger’s Lake Oswego Review opinion piece.

 “The First Street North Anchor Project has been identified in the East End Redevelopment Plan since 2004.  As part of the project, LORA has recently acquired North Anchor properties through voluntary sales, subject to existing leases. LORA has communicated with each tenant to explain the redevelopment process and relocation benefits.  Understanding businesses’ need for information and a timeline, LORA staff will also talk with tenants after the November library bond election, which will help define next steps for the project. 

 “Tenants have been informed that if they need to be relocated, they will receive relocation benefits, including actual and reasonable relocation expenses, which are not limited to $10,000. In addition, if LORA asks tenants to relocate their business prior to the end of their lease, LORA will work with them to agree upon terms for ending the lease. We’ve encouraged tenants to not make any decisions until more is known about the project and the timeline for moving forward.

 “An important goal of the North Anchor project is to add vitality to downtown Lake Oswego with a mix of uses, including small-scale retailers.  Local ‘mom and pop” and small businesses are key contributors to the downtown’s character and vibrancy.” )



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