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Wizer Block: dead space or a new beginning?

I write this both from the perspective of being a long-time resident of Lake Oswego and an urban planner experienced in real estate development.

This community is at a crossroads. The practical choice is to come together to support an attractive, mixed-use development plan that will be a major asset to our downtown and to our tax base, or we can choose to dig in with our differences and watch as the black hole known as the Wizer Block sits as lifeless dead space. I think the choice is clear: In the big picture, we can either choose to expand our downtown with an exciting new addition to the existing Lake Oswego Village. Or we can say “No” and allow a sad dead space to continue being dead space for years to come.

Real estate development is a difficult process and often a risky financial undertaking. A developer has to move a project through many layers and many hurdles. For more than a year (and 100 meetings; imagine that!), Patrick Kessi has gone the extra mile to listen to the community and what we want. Now developer Kessi, the City and community of Lake Oswego have jointly come up with a development plan that is visionary, fits our future demographics and will be a major asset to our tax base.

If this newly redesigned Wizer Block project is not approved, it is unlikely that future developers will see the Wizer Block as an attractive business proposition. The message to the development community will be: “Forget it; Lake Oswego is too difficult. There are better options.” The Wizer Block will be dead space for years to come. No life, no energy, nothing to offer Lake Oswego residents.

Imagine the Wizer Block coming back to life. Imagine the restaurants, the shops, the walkways and the art. Imagine the new energy and the new residences — the young professionals & the empty nesters strolling our downtown, day and night. Who would go back to 2004 and downtown without Lake Oswego Village? In five years, LO residents will wonder how we survived so long without this new addition. What the heck was going on?

Now is the time to be bold and not afraid of change. Some change is good. This development will be a major net gain for Lake Oswego. Yes, there will be some additional traffic. Such is the case in the Pearl District. But who would argue the Pearl is not a great addition to Portland’s urban life?

We have a choice: the sad status quo, or move forward. LO: Seize The Day!

Will Denecke is a Lake Oswego resident.

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