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'I choose redevelopment'


The Wizer Block 137 has been in the Wizer family since the mid-1950s. In the 1980s, the city of Lake Oswego approved a tax increment financing district for commercial infrastructure improvements, i.e. streets, sidewalks, street lighting, etc. Wizer

This paved the way for private development to take place on Block 138 or Lake View Village. The private investment of these commercial buildings, coupled with  public investment for a parking garage that serves both the Millennium Plaza Park and area businesses, has helped to make Lake View Village a successful addition to our downtown.

The Wizer block, or Block 137, has been designated by the city for redevelopment since the 1990s because of its location between two already redeveloped blocks, Block 138 (commercial) and Block 136 (commercial and residential). This led to the designation of Block 137 as a mixed-use zone by the city.

In 2003 LORA (the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency) and I were searching for an experienced mixed-use developer for Block 137. An adviser and I chose Gerding/Edlen (G.E.D.), a large local developer with a lot of mixed-use experience.

But after two and a half years using several architect firms, G.E.D. stepped aside because the economics were not feasible due to an increase in construction costs. In early 2008, the city introduced another developer, Trammel-Crow (T.C.R.), a national developer, to revitalize the Wizer block. However, almost a year later, the economy came to a halt and Trammel-Crow could no longer move forward with the proposed project.

When the economy improved, remodeling became more relevant for the existing building. An architect firm developed a plan using the current structure, working within the city’s limited remodeling codes. At the time, this was the only plausible plan for the building. Remodeling would mean keeping the existing exterior the same with new tenants and leases of 15 or more years. But long-term leases meant no redevelopment.

In addition, the present building is not retail friendly and to change its configuration is cost prohibitive. Plus, remodeling codes would further limit parking.

Therefore, the city and LORA continue to support redevelopment of Block 137, and I believe the opportunity and time is now to move redevelopment forward. On Aug. 13, 2013, LORA voted to pursue current plans for the property put forth by developer Evergreen Group LLC because they meet the criteria of economic development that provides upscale housing and quality retail in downtown Lake Oswego. The proposed project moves on to the city’s development review commission in December 2013 to determine if this project meets city development code requirements.

For more than one year, the developer and architects have worked with city staff and the community to bring forth all facts and details of the project. The height of the buildings does not exceed the city code of 60 feet. Another fact to consider is that retail traffic generates more traffic than housing. The current retail space on Block 137 is 70,000 square feet. The new retail space is only 28,000 square feet (60 percent less), which means less traffic for this part of the project.

Currently, the city is faced with two choices for Block 137: 1) Redevelop the property with a tax base 12.5 times greater; or 2) Remodel the present shopping center, essentially keeping the building the same. I choose redevelopment.

For more on the project, visit buildourvillage.com.

Gene Wizer, Lake Oswego, closed the downtown Wizer’s Oswego Market in September after 65 years of operation by his family. Plans for the block containing the store, Block 137, will be reviewed by the Lake Oswego Development Review Commission in December.