By Brian Geraths. Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/4/14
I’ve lived on the edge of Lake Oswego for about 19 years. Though I’m in another county, a high percentage of my commerce has been with the businesses of Lake Oswego.
Two years ago, I moved my business to Lake Oswego to be even closer to most of my clients in the Westlake area. This move has integrated my family even more into the downtown area, especially our regular trips to the farmers market and the follow-up visits to restaurants nearby.
My increased involvement with the LO Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club have me investing even more in the downtown area, which is unlike any other suburb I’ve experienced in the Portland metro area. We love it here! We circulate a great deal more in this community than we do in our own county.
Once the modifications were made to appease height and density issues on the Wizer Block, it was easy for me to imagine this structure coming to fruition. Needless to say, I was shocked by the Development Review Commission’s rejection, feeling strongly that the project was needed to attract a new generation of citizens and shoppers to greatly benefit the downtown area.
The congruent aesthetics of the redesign seem a great fit now, and the idea of more retail options has even more appeal. I stand to gain nothing as a business owner. In fact, other studios in our area stand to benefit from the added nearby business more than myself. However, I’ve become woven into this community enough over the past two years to look at the big picture and to know that change is needed.
In the late 1980s, I was working with my portrait mentor in Pendleton. I was actively involved with the downtown association, which worked in partnership with the local Chamber of Commerce to keep Main Street alive. All revenue was leaving the downtown area, even before the Walmart that now exists on the opposite end of town. While Pendleton’s demographic is much different, the layout and story for Lake Oswego is the same.
Downtown was the origin, it had a history and it had a great number of citizens who were there long enough to fear the change. Our goal was to unify all of Main Street, much like the town of Sisters had years prior. A thematic facade that enlarged the experience is exactly what has happened to Pendleton. It is surreal to walk down a themed sidewalk and to see so many more people on the sidewalks. A 60-year-old clothing store has evolved into a thriving restaurant and a shopping experience unlike anything I remembered.
I see the same for Lake Oswego, perhaps shy of the Wranglers and cowboy hats! It can be an upscale, attractive, village-themed destination, with more new citizens committed to the community. Older, younger — doesn’t matter.
Consider the potential the redeveloped Wizer Block will create for existing businesses. Retail has to be fed by people. Think then of the advantages of having residents living in the core who can walk to shop, eat and play with minimal needs for a car.
Brian Geraths is a Lake Oswego resident.