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Wizer Block proposal: Don't get high on high density

There is a new street drug trying to enter our commercial center in downtown Lake Oswego. It’s called High Density.

Like Ecstasy and cocaine, High Density gives the false promise of a better tomorrow, the promise of “vibrancy."  But the vibrancy of High Density will be more like the painful light sensitivity of a migraine headache. Rose-colored sunglasses won't dim the glare.

Our downtown will need lifelong rehab if the recently resubmitted Wizer Block plan is approved this summer, and giving in to the temptation of High Density will permanently leave users wondering, "Why did I try this?" The new, revised Wizer plan is minimally different from the original, but developer Patrick Kessi is marketing his new plans as "all fixed." Well, he’s giving us a "fix" alright.

Members of the Development Review Commission were astute enough to see that the original Wizer plan needed to be flipped to focus primarily on retail/commercial space, not on housing.  Some commissioners also requested breaking one building up into smaller units, but this was not done in the latest revised plan.  Not even close.

Although the roof lines do look improved, the revised plan still calls for four levels of dense apartments and just a bit more retail square footage. And the total square footage of the revised plan remains disproportionately large, compared to neighboring buildings (where Zeppo and Tucci are located) on roughly the same size lots.

Kessi has hired national-level political strategists to sell you on “Pearlizing” downtown Lake Oswego, including Elaine Franklin and Len Bergstein. Why does Kessi have to bring in big political spin masters from Portland to sell his project?   Because his revised project can't stand on its own merit. Watch for their upcoming marketing efforts, which will try to persuade you with a "Folks, it's all fixed now” message and a “vibrant" website. But remember: Just because they keep saying it doesn’t make it true.

The addiction to High Density that Kessi is trying to push on Lake Oswego is just the latest temptation offered by Portland developers.  We need to stand by our city code for the original East End Downtown Development Plan and keep a core, four-block commercial district in downtown.

Sorry, Mr. Kessi. Commercial/retail dominance and smaller buildings is our city's written plan.  Your revised plan is too massive and residential, no matter how you spin the facts.

Yes to redevelopment.  No to overdevelopment.

Tana Haynes is a Lake Oswego resident and one of the founders of Save Our Village. 

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