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Redevelopment of Wizer block moves ahead

Designs show plans for new apartments, shops and parking downtown


by: ZGF ARCHITECTS - This rendering of the view from First Street and A Avenue shows one of three new buildings proposed in the redevelopment of the Wizer block downtown. Each of the three buildings would represent a different architectural style, in this case, Oregon rustic. One would be entirely residential, while the other two would feature a mix of rental housing and retail offerings.The Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency board on Tuesday gave its stamp of approval to a plan that could transform the Wizer property downtown into a full-block residential and retail development.

The LORA board’s decision did not represent approval of the overall project, city officials said. Instead, the 6-0 vote will allow developers to finalize designs so they can formally apply for permits they need to build the $92.6 million project, which requires the urban renewal agency’s approval because it will rely on up to about $5.9 million in public financial assistance. by: ZGF ARCHITECTS - The city's Block 137 is also known as the Wizer block because it is owned by Gene Wizer, whose market in the complex is considered by many to be an institution. A new development could bring new housing, retail and parking options to the location, which is next to Millennium Plaza Park.

The redevelopment agency board, made up of the city council, is charged with making decisions to invest in projects and programs aiming to generate more private investment in the city’s urban renewal districts, including the east end district downtown. It typically has seven members but has yet to fill a vacancy created by Councilor Mike Kehoe’s recent resignation.

Acting as a LORA board member, Councilor Donna Jordan said redeveloping the Wizer block could bring big benefits to the city, and she gave credit to architects from ZGF Architects and real estate developers from W&K Development, who presented their latest proposal for building designs this week.

“I’m very impressed with what we’re seeing,” Jordan said. “I think there’s been a lot of attention paid to requests from residents. ... We’ve heard from folks who are worried about what this is going to do to downtown, but I think it is actually going to be a contribution to downtown.”by: ZGF ARCHITECTS - A pedestrian street would run through the proposed redevelopment of the Wizer block downtown.

The city has long eyed redevelopment of the Wizer property, home to Wizer’s Oswego Foods and surrounded by other redeveloped lots. The site is near Lake View Village, Millennium Plaza Park, townhomes, shops and restaurants. Its redevelopment is expected to spur more economic activity downtown and provide more property tax revenue to the city.

The project is also supposed to provide some more immediate public benefits, including a new “pedestrian street” cutting through the block between First and Second streets, a smaller walkway branching off that path and linking it to Evergreen Road, and a mix of public and private parking tucked beneath the development.

Spanning the entire block, the development would include three separate four- to five-story buildings with up to 228 high-end apartments or condos. In addition, the development would include up to 28,000 square feet of retail space. Each building would have its own distinct look inspired by either the English tudor, Oregon rustic or arts and crafts style.by: ZGF ARCHITECTS - This building, part of the proposed redevelopment of the Wizer block, would feature just housing and would represent the arts and crafts style popular from 1900 to 1920.

Tuesday’s hearing did not offer an opportunity for the public to comment, although an earlier hearing drew dozens to testify. While many residents have been enthusiastic about the property’s proposed transformation, many have also voiced concerns about the size and massing of the project, the type and number of residential units and the potential impacts on traffic and parking in the area - plus the number of new pets that would likely move in with their owners.

A few of those issues arose again at this week’s meeting.

Councilor Karen Bowerman, serving as a LORA board member, said the development would likely bring 200 dogs to downtown.

“I saw your doggie shampoo area in the basement,” she said, referring to one of the apartment complex’s likely amenities indoors. “That’s great, but you need something (outside) too, I suspect. ... It needs to be somewhere.”

While the complex’s residents would have access to an outdoor courtyard with a putting green, a bocce court, outdoor dining areas and a two-sided fireplace, Councilor Jon Gustafson noted the closest grass for dogs to relieve themselves appeared to be across the street at Millennium Plaza Park or a short walk away at Evergreen Park. He suggested ensuring a planting strip would be created for residents to use.

“I don’t want the closest doggy bathroom to be our wonderful park at Millennium Plaza,” Gustafson said.

Patrick Kessi of W&K Development said the new homes would definitely be “pet friendly” and that pet-waste bags would be posted by ex its. Later, architects mentioned the possibility of providing an absorbent mat in the covered parking area as well.

Redevelopment agency board members also took issue with the design of a particularly prominent corner overlooking Millennium Plaza and sitting across the street from St. Honore in Lake View Village.

The corner has proved vexing for architects, who admitted to trying as many as 85 different shapes as they tried to accommodate a 45-degree angle meant to fit with the plaza while sticking to the overall design of that building, which features a gabled roof.

Officials also requested plug-in stations for electric vehicles in the parking lot, which developers said they’d likely provide, as they’re shooting to meet the gold level of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards.

Developers noted they also plan to incorporate some historical elements such as mosaics in the existing Wizer building, which was designed by renowned local architect Richard Sundeleaf. They might also reuse wood decking, and they plan to work with the city’s arts council to place about eight new pieces of public art around the site.

Councilor Skip O’Neil suggested possibly building an arch over the new public path and naming it “Wizer Walkway” to pay homage to Gene Wizer, the property’s longtime owner.

David Staczek, the project’s lead designer, liked that idea.

“That’s a beautiful notion,” he said.

Lake Oswego Redevelopment Director Brant Williams said the LORA board’s ideas would be taken as suggestions as developers and architects finalize their designs, which they will then present to the city’s development review commission. The development review commission will then hold public hearings, allowing citizens to weigh in on the designs and potential impacts.

If all goes according to plan, construction could begin in September 2014, and the project could be finished two years after that.by: ZGF ARCHITECTS - This plan shows the layout of three buildings in the proposed redevelopment of the Wizer property downtown. Each would represent a different architectural style. One would be entirely residential, while the other two would feature a mix of rental housing and retail offerings.

Past coverage:

'An uncertain future on the Wizer block'

'City gives green light to Wizer block agreement'

'Wizer block poised for transformation'

'Wizer's closing after 65 years'



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