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City considers a better facade upgrade plan


Looks to Sandy's success in downtown revitalization

Like most communities, Lake Oswego knows it could use a facelift.

The city currently has a facade grant program in place, with about $150,000 earmarked annually to fund improvements to signage, landscaping and building and site lighting. But

Lake Oswego City Manager Scott Lazenby suggested taking a page from the city of Sandy’s book.

While serving as city manager of Sandy, Lazenby said he was impressed by planning director Tracy Brown’s overhaul of a moderately popular facade enhancement program, using what Lazenby called a “master plan approach.”

“It’s been the biggest bang for the buck of renewal dollars I’ve ever seen,” Lazenby said.

Brown explained at Tuesday’s Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency board meeting that Sandy took a comprehensive approach with the revitalization program, ensuring that approved projects fell within a “continuity of design,” consistent with Sandy’s own downtown aesthetic.

“Our primary goals were to focus on downtown core of city, (and create) an area we want visitors to recognize as Sandy, to encourage private investment,” Brown said.

To accomplish this, Brown said, the city developed what he called “Sandy style,” an aesthetic based on the Cascadian architectural style, a blend of Oregon rustic and English arts and crafts styles. Touchstone features of "Sandy style" include steeply pitched roofs, earth-tone color schemes, and exposed wood beams and timber details.

“(The city) does control design to some degree, because it is public money,” Brown said.

Property owners are charged about a 1 percent match and sign a contract that says enhancement projects that use city funds can’t be undone for at least seven years.

In considering whether to award grants, Brown said the city took into account the business’s “visibility, restoration potential and, in some cases, historic importance.”

Facade enhancement projects in Sandy most commonly include exterior painting, awning installation, window replacement and stone work, he said.

So far, grants have been awarded to businesses ranging from a chiropractic office to a veterinary clinic, a convenience store, an Italian restaurant, a ski shop and Sandy's own Chamber of Commerce.

Council member Donna Jordan asked whether Sandy’s program covered only active businesses, or if owners of vacant property were also eligible for such grants.

“Some of the projects we’ve done have been partially vacant,” Brown said.

Lake Oswego Development Director Brant Williams told the council that a similar program was moving ahead locally.

Mayor Kent Studebaker asked Brown how flexible the overall “Sandy style” design was for property owners.

“It’s flexible, especially on existing buildings,” Brown said. “I would say there’s some common elements we try to bring forward (in historic buildings)."

But council member Jon Gustafson was concerned about adopting a similar program with too rigid a set of design guidelines.

“I worry about creating a certain architectural monotony,” he said. “I think it can almost come off as this sort of artificial, Disneyesque interpretation of something traditional.”

He urged a different approach, whereby the city had more open criteria for judging architectural quality.

“Anytime you’re investing money to improve a building, there’s lot of ways to improve its appearance that aren’t trying to replicate something,” Gustafson added.

Williams said LORA staff would take the council’s feedback under advisement and present ideas for an overhauled facade enhancement program in the next fiscal year.