City staff, chamber support a proposal the developer insists is good fit for downtown core

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Developer Patrick Kessi says his plan for the Wizer Block completes the village in a way the city envisioned when it set the code for this block.A city staff report recommends approval of developer Patrick Kessi’s redesigned proposal for downtown Lake Oswego’s Wizer Block and the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce this week voiced its support for the project.

But one week before the mixed-use redevelopment plan goes before the Development Review Commission, Kessi himself is leaving nothing to chance.

The developer held an informal chat at Chuck’s Place on Monday to answer any lingering questions about his proposal and to shore up support for the July 21 DRC meeting, where a seven-member advisory board will review whether Kessi’s modified design is in compliance with city development codes and design regulations.

The commission also will decide whether it will grant four requested exceptions to Community Development Code standards: an allowance for ground-floor residential units in an area zoned East End General Commercial; a reduction in the amount of storefront glazing, or windows; an allowance for a retail parking entrance on First Street; and an allowance for shared private and public parking onsite. The redesign also seeks to remove 25 trees from the property.

The city’s 120-day decision window for the proposal closes on Oct. 28.

Kessi appears to be on the right track. A revised staff report issued July 11 recommends approval of the updated application, provided it meets several conditions, including replacing a flat roof in one spot with a pitched roof and ensuring that residential parking totals include a minimum of 53 guest parking spaces. In addition, the report calls for a 12-foot-wide pedestrian corridor through the east-west pedestrian walkway.

Responding to charges that his design for the Wizer Block (officially known as Block 137) is not a good fit for Lake Oswego’s downtown core, Kessi told The Review this week that his proposal completes the east end of the village with a building that is certainly compatible with planners’ goals.

“It shares the vision of a mixed-use block, which was established by Lake Oswego code,” Kessi said. “The Lake Oswego zoning code calls for exactly this kind of development. We are within the permitted uses, and our proposal is well within the allowed height and density.”

Because of that, Kessi said he was confident that downtown Lake Oswego had the infrastructure in place to handle the residents who will live in the project’s 207 apartments.

“We conducted a comprehensive traffic analysis that demonstrates all transportation facilities will continue to operate well with our proposal,” Kessi said. “With residents so close to retail, many car trips will be eliminated.”

Critics of the plan, including the more than 300 members of Save Our Village, disagree and continue to call Kessi’s proposal “overdevelopment.” Despite changes that decreased the number of residential units by 21, opponents say the redesign is still triple the appropriate size and would overwhelm downtown, altering “the charm and character” of Lake Oswego.

Undeterred, Kessi said the design captures the feel the city envisioned for the block, and he emphasized its green cache. “It has 27-percent landscaping, more than the 15 percent required by code and almost double the 14.4 percent at Lake View Village,” Kessi said.

The design is completely to code, Kessi argued, and he offered a side-by-side comparison with would-be neighbor Lake View Village.

“At Lake View Village, they applied for 236,852 square feet of parking, retail and office,” Kessi said. “At Wizer, we are applying for 291,963 square feet of residential, office and retail. All Wizer parking is below ground, so it does not contribute to the mass of the building above ground. All Lake View Village parking that is above ground is visible as part of the building mass and was calculated as part of that mass in the land use final approval.

“Both Wizer and Lake View Village have three buildings,” Kessi added. “Both create the appearance of more than three buildings through setbacks, plane changes, material changes and breaks in roofline. Both also have height ranges. Wizer’s height ranges from 46 feet to 58 feet. Every peak at Wizer’s is within the allowed height limit, with no exceptions to height required.”

Overall, Kessi said, the new design “embraces the best suggestions of the community, the Development Review Commission and the city. It completes the village in a way the city envisioned when it set the code for this block.”

Both sides will get a chance to make their case on Monday. Public testimony — pro, con and neutral — will follow presentations by city staff and Kessi’s development team. Kessi will then have another opportunity to answer questions before the commission begins its deliberations. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at Lake Oswego City Hall, 380 A Ave.

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