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If Wizer plans fail, 'we could be looking at a big box store'

A longtime resident of Lake Oswego, I have been active over the years in efforts to revitalize our downtown. However, downtown has lagged behind the needs of the community and its residents.

We have grown from a small town of almost 15,000 when I moved here in 1970 to a city of 37,000 now. Lake Place Shopping Center (across from Lakewood Center for the Arts) replaced the Dee Thomason car lot in 1985 and the Village Shopping Center was remodeled in 1986, but it didn’t add much in the way of new businesses. As our community has grown, our existing businesses have not grown at the same rate. They have struggled with the critical mass that attracts shoppers away from the community: Washington Square, Costco, Bridgeport Village and now Walmart.

From 1991 to 1998, when I was on city council, the development proposal for Block 138, next to the Wizer Block, was being hotly debated. Many of those opposed said that its density was too much. The buildings were too tall. The traffic impact would snarl our downtown streets. The development would destroy our village character. That development became our very popular Lake View Village.

I believe maintaining our current status quo is what will destroy our village character. Many of our downtown businesses that a lot of us patronize still struggle and some can’t make it. Empty storefronts and the way it is are not what we need for our downtown to thrive. Our downtown today doesn’t provide enough diversity and critical mass to attract much of the community.

The Wizer block development with public parking, as well as parking for the residences, pedestrian walkways between the buildings, architectural interest, public art and more shops, will enhance the liveliness of downtown Lake Oswego. The people living in the residences will help our local businesses by shopping in the downtown. This proposed development provides 30 percent more parking than the city requires. Once parked, users can travel by foot instead of car. Residents of the development need not use their cars at all.

People who are critical of the Wizer block development for its height, traffic and density bring up some of the same issues that were brought up about Lake View Village. However, the Wizer block developer and their architectural team are honoring Lake Oswego’s building and development codes in their plans to develop the Wizer block. They are building within the height and density requirements of the city. The proposed height of the buildings meets the code requirements. It is only the number of stories within the allowed height that requires an exception. This development is suited to the block and the buildings that surround it. The development also incorporates Lake Oswego’s recommended architectural styles. Lake Oswego is fortunate to have an outstanding architectural firm with not only quality design but quality materials planned for this development.

I know several people who would love to become residents of this development with choices of one, two and three bedroom apartments ranging from 650 to 1,500 square feet. If this development does not happen, we could be looking at a big box store.

As an involved resident of Lake Oswego for more than 40 years, I look forward to this exciting development of the Wizer block and all the good it will do for our community.

Heather Chrisman is a resident of Lake Oswego and a former Lake Oswego city councilor.

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