A Transformation in Lake Oswego
by: Vern Uyetake, Jacob, 25, toured the Villas on Lake Oswego with a group of friends last Thursday. Looking for an affordable buy on the lake, the first-time homebuyer saw opportunity in the project. Below: Docks are included with some of the units.

A lakeside condominium's debut on the real estate market played out like a local episode of Melrose Place last week: Calypso music on the water, catered eats, cocktails and a parade of classy-looking people, all trolling one of the hottest development projects in recent history: Villas on Lake Oswego.

Yet in spite of the lime tablecloths and the matching cocktail napkins, the opening of sales at the villas also opened avenues for more than Lake Oswego's nouveau riche.

Two other demographics: Young and old - both groups city officials have wrung their hands over for more than a year - appear to be finding a niche here.

The Villas, formerly the Bay Roc apartments on State Street, are the first of their kind on Oswego Lake: A condominium conversion with attached boat slips and common areas on the water.

Prices on the project - which offers condo units in a remodeled but roughly 40-year-old building - appear to be paving a path onto the lake for those with limited funds and may also ease a lack of socioeconomic diversity in this town that, year by year, is increasingly older, childless and white.

The Villas project by MK Development, which also converted the Terrace Apartments on State Street, transformed 60 units of the Bay Roc Apartments for sale through the project, keeping 49 rental units without lakeside views. Of those for sale, 50 percent sold in the first week, some to first-time homebuyers.

With asking prices starting at $140,000, a low figure for lakeside property, the project looks so far like a foot-in-the-door for those who want lake access but are limited in their pursuit. With prices ranging up to $499,000, the Villas also seems to be catching the eye of downsizing seniors and buyers in the market for a summer Oregon home, according to Betheen Verbiest, a real estate broker with John L. Scott.

'We've had a lot of people who live on the lake and are looking to downsize but want to keep their boat or just be near the lake,' Verbiest said. 'Also there's people in Oregon who own a home like in Palm Springs and they want to live here in the summer and in Palm Springs in the wintertime.'

Those potential buyers browsed the site last Thursday in the project's market debut, touring six different floor plans that ranged from 485-square-foot studios to townhouses with 1,177 square feet. Sixteen condos include attached boat slips. Four additional boat slips are available for sale separately.

Inside, the condos include new appliances, refinished birch hardwoods, new color schemes and carpet. On the flip side of the complex, bottom floor units come with garden patios. Those who buy in pay monthly fees for utilities like water and sewer, Lake Corp fees and maintenance of common areas, which includes a communal dock just a swim from the city's Lakewood Bay park.

Buyers like 25-year-old Jacob, who asked that his last name be withheld, said the set-up was ideal for a first purchase in the Lake Oswego market.

'I think it's great because you get lake access at the most reasonable price. If you look around, you're looking at $1 million to get on the lake right now,' he said.

With parents in the community, Jacob was interested in buying locally, getting the most for his money and also looking for an active lifestyle. He said he wasn't sure whether living south of Portland would make sense and saw a future of $30 cab rides into Portland for entertainment. He was also naturally cautious of an ownership mix that included both young and old buyers, with few in between. But Jacob was excited about what looked like an opportunity to grab a lakeside property at an affordable price and weighed his options.

'It would be interesting to see whether they hold their value, go up or go down. Seems like they'll be at the top of the market right now,' he said.

But Bob Galante, director of the Lake Oswego Redevelop-ment Agency, said the Villas are likely to hold their value or climb as new construction generates more interest in flats downtown.

'It's likely that when some of the newer projects come on line in the next year or two, some of these prices will increase dramatically, so its an opportunity to buy a condo on the lake - some with a boat slip - for prices that are at or below the cost of new construction. It does provide kind of an affordable option that also puts people on the lake.'

Developer Marty Kehoe said the Villas were priced to sell fast. A silent bidding process was maximizing values on the properties during the open house and, while sales agents wouldn't say how much the bidding stretched asking prices, they did say most fell within close range of those numbers.

'Time is money,' said Kehoe, who has sold 40 percent of condominiums converted from apartments at the Terraces on State Street this summer, about a mile down the road.

Kehoe said the converted units only cost money while empty and aimed to sell the properties quick. He said inquiries from prospective buyers mirrored demographics at last week's open house, where visitors bought 30 units, half the properties for sale.

'It's a lot of young people who want to live on the lake or have lake access for under $300,000, as well as the baby boomers who can afford to spend a half a million as well as have a boat slip two steps out the front door,' Kehoe said

Rob and Marilyn Dressler, who visited the Villas open house, fell neatly into the category of downsizing lake-lovers. The semi-retired couple sold their Devil's Lake home just five years ago and, despite living close to the water in Foothills ever since, miss their lakeside view.

'The absolute greatest two advantages of the Villas is access to the lake, that's a major plus, and the other is walking downtown,' Rob said. 'It's perfectly ideal for someone who wants a boat and wants to walk downtown.'

They saw the Villas as a potential investment property that could also serve as their summer home.

They weren't sure late last week whether they would join the mix of new owners at the Villas on Oswego Lake, but, like others, were eager to gauge the potential of this latest lakeside option.

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