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Community focus on sustainability 'misses the mark' with Wizer's

The Wizer’s building has been a part of the fabric of downtown Lake Oswego and a part of the community’s collective memory for 53 years. Culver

In 1960, the year the city’s name was changed from “Oswego” to “Lake Oswego,” The Oregonian announced the grand opening of a new million-dollar shopping center. The Wizer’s Oswego Food Center was the city’s first covered shopping mall. It was described as an “ultra-modern” design and the central court featured fountains, skylights and mosaics depicting the outdoor activities Lake Oswego has to offer.

Richard Sundeleaf, the architect who shaped our town more than any other, designed this building. Actually, the reason I proposed that the city’s newest park be named after Sundeleaf was to honor his work and thereby hopefully save his legacy. I can see it is not quite turning out as I intended.

The Sundeleaf-designed Lake Grove Shopping Center on Boones Ferry Road recently gave way to new construction and now this one may be slated for demolition.

Also, the Lake Oswego Preservation Society was awarded a $5,000 Clackamas County Community Partnership Grant to create a treasure hunt of historic commercial buildings in Lake Grove and downtown. Photographs of architectural details will serve as clues and participants can combine the treasure hunt with dining and shopping. This is a unique way to bring attention to the architectural treasures in our city while also promoting heritage tourism and economic development. As part of this grant, the society will be conducting walking tours of the downtown historic commercial buildings. Wizer’s is one of the 15 buildings we will feature — if we hurry.

Reduce, reuse, recycle applies to buildings as well as to bottles and cans.

There is a focus on sustainability in the community, but it misses the mark by not including our largest objects — buildings. Once the interrelationship among economic development, sustainability and historic preservation is understood, it becomes clear that the most sustainable choice is to adapt this midcentury building to a new use. Let’s not let a landfill be a final resting place for this unique structure.

Even if the ultimate plan is not to adapt this midcentury building to a new use, we believe there is a wonderful opportunity here for creative thinking. An exception could be made to the LORA-required architectural styles so some of the distinctive brickwork of the façade and other midcentury design elements could be incorporated in the new structure. The overall design could pay homage to the existing building instead of replacing it with a building style that never existed in the downtown. It’s interesting that Appendix A of 50.11.001, which defines the LORA Lake Oswego Style, contains 15 illustrations and every single example of these styles is residential, not commercial. This project presents a unique opportunity to remain true to our commercial built heritage.

Adapting the existing building or even incorporating some of Sundeleaf’s design would be a win-win approach. It would honor the architect’s legacy, it would be a more sustainable choice and it would keep diversity in our downtown buildings. Cities are not built at one time; they are and should be an eclectic mix of styles and ages. This diversity plays an important part in making a community unique and uniqueness is key for attracting residents and visitors alike.

Marylou Colver, Lake Oswego, is president of the Lake Oswego Preservation Society and is submitting this on behalf of the society.




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