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Searching for balance on aging Cedar Street

We live at the end of Cedar Street in the second-oldest neighborhood in Lake Oswego. We are told that iron-ore workers moved up the hill to our neighborhood to escape the smoke and soot from the furnace in the 1870s. We are fortunate to have a scattering of older homes from that era. In the 1950s, a number of homes were added to our street, but little new construction has occurred since. We are a neighborhood that has seen very little change for many, many years.

Our family has lived on Cedar Street since the 1940s. Our roots are deep. Two generations of Freepons and Craigs have happily raised families in our close neighborhood with cider parties, Halloween traditions and sharing among friends.

But we have also watched a consistent and gradual aging of the homes and the neighbors. Several homes had no foundations, one home partially burned, and several had mold and rats. Treasured neighbors passed away or moved to care facilities. We wanted to prevent unplanned, piecemeal infill with mega- mansions, so for the past 22 years we purchased these aging properties as they became available. Throughout the years, we have retained some rentals, removed the worst of the homes, and maintained the empty lots. It has been many years of satisfying work. But our next generation does not live in Lake Oswego and we look forward to downsizing. We will build a smaller home on Cedar Street.

Almost five years ago, we began to talk with experts and to visit sites throughout the Northwest to learn how others handled the challenge of balancing the new and the old in aging neighborhoods. The Lake Oswego Sustainability Advisory Board identified our property as ideal for smaller homes. Smaller lots with smaller homes are prevalent in the neighborhood now. It is adjacent to Freepons Park (named after the family) and it is easy walking distance to the grocery store, post office, restaurants, coffee shops and Hallinan Elementary School, as well as a nearby Tri-Met stop. Professionals repeatedly advised us that a growing number of homeowners want to downsize in “walkable neighborhoods.”

Consultants prepared preliminary plans for us detailing legal development options. They ranged from extremely dense development to “McMansions” on large lots. We were counseled that a middle ground, mimicking the existing neighborhood of smaller lots, was the best option.

We sold our property to a builder who embraces the idea of smaller footprints on legal lots that abide by all building code requirements. The rebuilding will be a two-step process. The adjacent previous rental properties will have new homes this year. In a year or more, new homes will be built on our family property. The interest in purchasing one of these homes has been incredible. Many Lake Oswego residents want exactly what the experts foresaw — a smaller footprint.

But change is difficult for all of us. We will be leaving our family home and our neighbors will be welcoming new neighbors to properties where no one has lived for several years. Finding balance in our aging neighborhood is a challenge; bringing new homes into the middle of a street where no change has occurred for almost 60 years creates misunderstandings. Some vocal opponents have never met with us, talked with us or learned the history. Other excited supporters want to be on the list to live here. We welcome discussion with anyone who has any questions.

Infrastructure improvements will be made. Our end of Cedar Street will be rebuilt to higher standards, and a storm sewer line will be increased in size. Extensive engineering studies have been conducted to address all other development concerns. We enthusiastically support the neighbors’ earlier recommendation that Bickner Street be converted to a pedestrian walkway to guarantee the safety of our many walkers.

The revival of Cedar Street has been thoughtfully planned. A balance can be reached so our neighborhood’s livability is improved and our street is renewed and vibrant. We look forward to having our next home in this desirable neighborhood.

Dave Craig and Debbie Freepons Craig are longtime Lake Oswego residents.

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