From the Lake Oswego Review Online 12/30/15. here.See full article
Nothing had as much of an impact on the community in 2015 as the Wizer Block, which sits atop The Lake Oswego Review’s list of the Top 10 stories of the year.
1. Older and Wizer
In 2014, protesters took to the streets in what became a bitter and divisive debate over the future of downtown Lake Oswego. In 2015, they took to the halls of justice in a legal battle that went all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Opponents of the 290,000-square-foot Wizer Block project argued that it was too big and too dense, and that it did not include the right mix of homes and shops for what was always meant to be the city’s retail shopping core. The city’s Development Review Commission agreed, saying the proposed 200 apartments and about 40,000 square feet of commercial space did not reflect downtown’s “village character.”
But in late 2014, the City Council disagreed, setting off a year of appeals by Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC, which represented Lake View Village.
In March, the state Land Use Board of Appeals upheld the council’s decision. And in August, the state Court of Appeals affirmed LUBA without even issuing an opinion, rejecting opponents’ arguments out of hand and indicating that the judges felt the case had no precedential value.
Undeterred, Save Our Village then petitioned the state Supreme Court for review. But in early November, that appeal also was rejected with a simple one-sentence statement: “The court has considered the petition for review,” the justices said, “and orders that it be denied.”
That decision “surprised and disappointed” attorney Greg Hathaway, who represented Save Our Village throughout the legal challenge.
“Surprised because we believed we had presented a very strong legal case justifying Supreme Court review to preserve the village character of downtown Lake Oswego,” he said, “and disappointed because Save our Village and other organizations and many citizens of Lake Oswego remain concerned that the Wizer development is too large in scale and will not preserve the village character of the downtown.”
But the decision thrilled Gene Wizer and developer Patrick Kessi, who had been so confidant of the legal challenge’s resolution that they signed closing documents with the city and held a groundbreaking ceremony on the Wizer Block in October — an event that Wizer himself was able to attend.
“It’s good to have it over,” Kessi told The Review after the decision was announced. “We’re excited now that we can keep going forward and produce a project that Lake Oswego is proud of.”
Crews broke ground Oct. 22 on the mixed-use development at the corner of First Street and A Avenue. Final demolition permits were issued days later, and workers have been tearing down the 1950s-era shopping center ever since.
Excavation of the site for underground parking was nearly complete by the end of the year, setting the stage for construction of a project that is now expected to open in Fall 2017.