By Jamieson Grabenhorst, originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 8/21/14
The vocal opponents of the Wizer Block redesign have offered many subjective objections and they have every right to voice their opinions. We do after all live in a democracy where free speech is not only allowed but is sacrosanct. But free speech should not be confused with facts, and bad facts repeated often enough do not become the truth.
The truth is that years ago, this city had a vision for the core of Lake Oswego. In local government terms, that “vision” is called a code. The vision or the code was planned and prepared for, and so in time the Lake View Village proposal was presented. That project was also a tough project to introduce to some members of the community and required the persistence of the city and its visionaries, who recognized an opportunity to bring life back into downtown Lake Oswego. Now, many years’ later, preparation and opportunity have once again come together.
The city prepared its infrastructure for such an opportunity. The block has a willing seller who owns the property and a building where leases are coming to an end. There is a willing buyer, whom a majority of the Development Review Commissioners agreed had redesigned the proposed development to code. Presently there are low interest rates that are attractive to financial investors, and there are market demands for quality downtown residences, retail and commercial space. Golfers, tennis players and softball players all understand the “sweet spot” of their clubs, rackets and bats, and they strive to hit that sweet spot. Several decades could elapse before another confluence of events makes the Wizer Block a sweet spot for enhancing Lake Oswego’s future. So let us not confuse free speech and repeated bad facts with truth and reality.
The facts are that the redesigned Wizer Block is compatible with both the size and scale of its neighbors. It respects the code — in height, density, parking, open spaces and architectural style, as the DRC recently found. It will complete downtown exactly the way the city envisioned years ago.
The reality is that Lake Oswego has again been presented with an opportunity. Let’s have some perspective and some foresight. We should not miss the chance for a code-compliant, architecturally pleasing and high-quality development just because of the shouting.
Opponents criticize a great project that meets all of the code requirements. Opponents might design and build a different project if they owned the land — but they don’t. It will be a dangerous precedent if this development, which meets all objective code standards and is exactly what the city envisioned, is stopped by noisy opponents.
The current opportunity for the Wizer Block is the sweet spot of the village and the community, and city government should hit its combination of favorable circumstances out of the ball park. The shouting should not cause Lake Oswego to miss this chance. This moment may not come around again in a very long time.
Jamieson Grabenhorst is a resident of Lake Oswego.