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Wizer Block: progress done the right way

As both a downtown small-business owner and a 40-year resident of Lake Oswego, I enthusiastically support the proposed redevelopment of the Wizer Block. An independent analysis says that this development could be worth $100 million to our town, but in so many ways that are harder to quantify, it could be worth much more to this community.

We live in a charming town with a comfortable way of life. However, our community will grow and change over time. That’s healthy, not something to fear. Our city codes allow for and guide that growth and density in a way that keeps Lake Oswego the community we want to continue living in. It gives us a “village atmosphere” without shackling us to a “village notion” that we have outgrown. Well-thought-out, balanced change is what will sustain our comfortable way of life.

We need to think about attracting new residents and businesses, as well as retaining the ones we already have. We must make it possible for people who love living here to stay a part of our community through the different phases of their lives, while at the same time attracting new people.

As I look around, I wonder how our children will be able to live nearby once they go out on their own, start their careers and raise young families. And where will parents go when the demands of taking care of a large home become too much for them, yet they would still like to live here? Right now, Lake Oswego simply does not offer enough housing options for people on those two ends of the spectrum.

Without young families choosing to make their home here, our population will continue to age and our tax base will dwindle, having a profound effect on both our economy and our schools. As our retirees leave town, their disposable income goes with them, and local small businesses will suffer as well.

I think the downtown area would be energized with new Wizer Block residents and businesses. We need more people living downtown, instead of driving to the downtown. Local businesses need more customers close by to survive. This high-quality project helps provide the housing and the people we need.

Downtown can accommodate density better than the surrounding neighborhoods. This project fits the vision and adheres to the city code. The planned beauty of the space and the vision for it will provide multiple long-term benefits to Lake Oswego. We should embrace the opportunity for a downtown economic engine, which is sorely lacking right now.

The City Council needs to green light this project.

Paul Graham is a Lake Oswego resident and business owner.

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