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Evaluating the plan for the Wizer property

Lake Oswego was initially developed when zoning regulations sought to separate residential, commercial, and industrial uses, and the automobile linked home, work and the shopping center. Not long ago, it became apparent to many city planners that this separation was not always ideal; in fact, the New Urbanism movement grew out of the need to provide a different way of thinking about city planning. From this perspective, “complete communities” could contain housing, work places, shops, entertainment, schools, parks and civic facilities — all essential to the daily lives of residents — within easy walking distance of each other. There is now an opportunity to create such a new residential neighborhood in downtown Lake Oswego that will provide residents with the alternative of a more urban/pedestrian way of life.

I think it is useful to review how the Wizer Block 137 proposal meets the 10 principles currently recognized as fundamental to good urban planning.

1) Walkability. Leaving the car in the garage and walking for what you need is good for your health as well as your property values. Clearly, the proposed development provides a highly walkable neighborhood for many more Lake Oswegans.

2) Connectivity. The present Wizer building breaks up any connection between Blocks 136 and 138. The new buildings provide an attractive pass-through that will tie the three blocks together.

3) Mixed-use and diversity. The proposal will add residences to the current array of shops, restaurants, and offices on Block 138, thus producing the first true mixed-use neighborhood in Lake Oswego.

4) Mixed housing. The development will offer a range of sizes and prices. Admittedly, there is a need for a broader mix, but more varied housing options in the downtown area will likely follow.

5) Quality architecture and urban design. The architects are considered some of Portland’s best and have offered a variety of styles in keeping with established guidelines.

6) Traditional neighborhood. By this is meant a neighborhood organized around a recognizable center with a quality public space. With Millennium Plaza Park and Lake View Village already in place, this neighborhood is already halfway there.

7) Increased density. This is the feature that scares some people, but density is the key to walkability, efficient use of services and resources as well as more frequent face-to-face encounters with other people.

8) Smart transportation. More residents will live close to the transit center and will likely make greater use public transportation.

9) Sustainability. The building will be LEED certified.

10) Quality of life. I predict that the residents of the redeveloped Block 137 will find it a great place to live, work and play. A pedestrian-friendly neighborhood will offer more opportunities to get to know other people and form meaningful relationships. It can provide more freedom and independence for children and the elderly. The location is close to the lake, bike trails, parks and nature. The development will involve more efficient use of tax money with less spent on spread-out utilities and roads.

In short, we have the opportunity to build an alternative, pedestrian-friendly residential neighborhood in Lake Oswego, rapidly becoming the preferred option by many people of all ages. Let’s do it.

Robert Sack is a resident of Lake Oswego.

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