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Wizer Block: Here we go again

I am responding to a recent “Hello L.O.,” the City of Lake Oswego’s official newsletter. By cutting off part of the proposed Wizer Block development in a photo, the publication gives a misleading impression that the proposal resembles the mass and scale of Lake View Village. It does not.

The new Wizer Block proposal is three times the size of Lake View Village.  Why does it matter? With malls dying, people look for picturesque towns as destinations. Look how Lake View Village transformed downtown Lake Oswego from a drive-through town to a charming destination, intimate in human scale.

The Wizer proposal consists of three massive apartment buildings encasing the entire Wizer Block in our “compact shopping district.”  The “Hello L.O.” article says that the new buildings contain “36,500 square feet of quality retail and 207 higher-end residential units.” The article fails to mention that the present Wizer building currently contains about 71,000 square feet of retail. So we lose 71,000 square feet before adding a paltry 36,500 square feet of retail space.

Block 137 was never meant to be packed full of 207 apartments with only 13 percent retail. People are avoiding malls because they prefer charming, intimate neighborhoods. Retail supports retail. Even though people shop online, picturesque small-scale downtowns with an assortment of shops, restaurants and services draw people. A huge apartment complex is not a draw.

So far, we know the plans call for a dog-grooming shop in the Wizer complex, since more than 100 new apartment dogs likely are expected in the neighborhood. The dogs will be using Millennium Park, since there will be virtually no green space for them except an interior putting green designed exclusively for apartment residents.

What we have in the new proposal is a large, self-contained apartment complex that will not attract either Lake Oswego citizens or out-of-town visitors to downtown. However, what the apartment complex may well do is overwhelm our little park with too many dogs, suck away available parking — since 27 parking spaces for apartment visitors now have been allocated to our streets — and pour too much traffic onto A Avenue, Hwy. 43 and into adjoining neighborhoods.

We can either overbuild our village with a large-scale apartment complex, or preserve the village character with a two- to three-story redevelopment and a more balanced mix of housing, retail and restaurants. As needed, additional housing can be built elsewhere in downtown, rather than on top of the gateway to our park and lake.

Eliminating an apartment complex to build Millennium Plaza Park next to Lakewood Bay was progress. Today, building a massive apartment complex on our town square is not progress. It is a reversal of the goal to preserve our small-town suburban community and lifestyle rather than to become an annex of Portland. Revisit the definition of “village character” under Section 50.05.004 of the Downtown Redevelopment Design District.  This is part of the Lake Oswego Community Development Code, so let’s build according to code specifications.

Don’t be struck by glitzy PR stories about the developer as a farm boy. This is no rural deal. This is a money deal.  But our community vision is worth waiting a little longer to attain: a three-story redevelopment of small-scale structures, some housing, green spaces and retail for all residents of Lake Oswego to enjoy.

Patrick Haar is a resident of Lake Oswego.



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