Wizer Block 137 Chosen by the Lake Oswego Review as Top Story in 2015

From the Lake Oswego Review Online 12/30/15.  See full article here.

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

KESSI

KESSI

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.

 

Transforming the Wizer Block

Originally published online by the Lake Oswego Review – 11/12/15

Lake Oswego photographer Clifford Paguio’s latest drone photos show dramatic progress over the past week

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW - Nov. 9, 2015: Looking north and west from the corner of First Street and Evergreen Road.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW – Nov. 9, 2015: Looking north and west from the corner of First Street and Evergreen Road.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW - Nov. 9, 2015: Looking southeast from A Avenue and Second Street.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW – Nov. 9, 2015: Looking southeast from A Avenue and Second Street.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW - Nov. 9, 2015: Looking straight down on the Wizer Block, where much of the parking structure and shops along Second Street have been removed.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW – Nov. 9, 2015: Looking straight down on the Wizer Block, where much of the parking structure and shops along Second Street have been removed.

With deconstruction and demolition now underway, The Review is partnering with Lake Oswego photographer Clifford Paguio to produce a visual record of the Wizer Block’s transformation from 1950s-era shopping center to a mixed-use development with homes, offices and shops.

Paguio, a certified nursing assistant and longtime landscape photographer, took up drone photography three years ago as a hobby “to show people different angles and perspectives of the landscape.” The DJI Phantom Vision Plus quadcopter he uses captures high-definition, 1080p videos and 14-megapixel stills; its stabilization technology produces stunningly clear, sharp images and smooth, graceful moving shots.

Paguio will return frequently to the Wizer Block to record the project’s progress in still photos and on video. Watch for them on www.facebook.com/LakeOswegoReview, at www.lakeoswegoreview.com and in the pages of The Review.

His latest video is also available on YouTube:

— The Review

Documenting the Wizer Block’s transformation

Published on the Lake Oswego Review website 10/29/2015

With deconstruction and demolition now underway, The Review is partnering with Lake Oswego photographer Clifford Paguio to produce a visual record of the Wizer Block’s transformation from 1950s-era shopping center to a mixed-use development with homes, offices and shops.

Paguio took these images today, and he’ll return to the site once a month to record the project’s progress in still photos and on video. Watch for them here, on Facebook and in the pages of The Review.

What’s happening on the Wizer Block

Demolition and erosion-control permits were issued for Block 137 on Oct. 21, and vibration monitors were installed. Also this week:

— Smaller pieces of demolition equipment started arriving last week in preparation for removal of the existing parking structure. Crews are stripping asphalt away from the concrete parking lot, which will make it easier to crush and recycle the concrete.

— A traffic-control plan has been implemented on Second Street and will remain in place throughout construction.

— Representatives from Lease Crutcher Lewis, the general contractor, planned to visit adjacent property owners this week to discuss upcoming work and potential impacts. Larger, 50-ton demolition equipment, which will be used to remove the Wizer’s building, was scheduled to be brought to the site.

— Drilling for steel auger piles — for the shoring and soil-retention systems — is scheduled to start around Nov. 5.

 

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW - Oct. 28, 2015: Looking north and west from the corner of First Street and Evergreen Road.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW – Oct. 28, 2015: Looking north and west from the corner of First Street and Evergreen Road.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW - Oct. 28, 2015: Looking east from Second Avenue.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW – Oct. 28, 2015: Looking east from Second Avenue.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW - Oct. 28, 2015: Looking straight down on the Wizer Block, where crews are stripping asphalt away from the concrete parking lot, making it easier to crush and recycle the concrete.

CLIFFORD PAGUIO/FOR THE REVIEW – Oct. 28, 2015: Looking straight down on the Wizer Block, where crews are stripping asphalt away from the concrete parking lot, making it easier to crush and recycle the concrete.

Kessi, Wizer, city sign off on closing documents for development of Block 137

Written by Saundra Sorenson .  Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 10/22/15.

It’s official.

Developer Patrick Kessi, property owner Gene Wizer and representatives for the city signed closing documents this week on Block 137, clearing the way for the first mixed-use development to be built in downtown Lake Oswego in more than 13 years.

Those documents were filed with the Clackamas County Clerk’s Office on Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not released, although funding for the $93 million project reportedly will come from a real estate equity trust that represents more than 320 pension funds in the United States.

The trust is not named in the new paperwork, but sources tell The Review that it has more than $5.9 billion in net assets, making it one of the largest real estate equity funds in the U.S. The fund invests in office buildings, warehouses, flex/research and development facilities, apartments and retail centers.

The fund’s properties generally meet LEED green-building and Energy Star standards. It also requires that all contractors working on its properties be covered by collective bargaining agreements with trade unions, The Review has learned.

“The developer has found an equity partner that is willing to provide sufficient funds so that no debt would be necessary for this particular project,” Redevelopment Director Brant Williams told The Review, calling the financing option “positive.”

“We will no longer have an institutional lender that could potentially foreclose on the project,” Williams said.

This week’s closing comes despite ongoing legal issues surrounding the Wizer Block project. Although the City Council approved the development more than a year ago, it has been tangled up in a series of appeals.

Both the state Land Use Board of Appeals and the state Court of Appeals upheld the council’s decision when it was challenged by Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC, which represents Lake View Village. Save Our Village has now petitioned the state Supreme Court for review, but it may be another month or so before the court decides whether to hear the case.

Kessi and his partners remain confident in the eventual outcome, however, as does the city. Earlier this month, the City Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s development agreement with Evergreen Group to reflect Kessi’s plan to proceed with construction despite the contingencies.

Williams explained to the council that although the developer was confident enough in a favorable legal outcome to move ahead on closing the deal, the city could not do the same.

“In the current agreement, (the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency) is required to make our first payment at closing,” Williams said. “We’re also required to not make a payment until all contingencies are met.”

The amendment to the development agreement specifies that LORA will not be required to put any money toward the project until the state Supreme Court petition has been resolved.

“This provides the most protection for the funds the Redevelopment Agency is putting forward into this project,” Williams said.

With the sale complete and financing in place, Kessi and general contractor Lease Crutcher Lewis prepared to move forward with deconstruction and demolition of the 1950s-era shopping center at the corner of First Street and A Avenue. The red brick building will be replaced by a 290,000-square-foot, mixxed-use development with 200 apartments and nearly 43,000 square feet of commercial space. The project will also include 430 parking spaces, 135 of which will be for public parking.

Williams told The Review that final demolition and erosion-control permits were issued Wednesday morning, and Kessi said he expects work to begin immediately. Construction fencing already surrounds the site, and crews have been preparing the building for demolition for several weeks.

Part of that effort has involved saving some of the iconic pieces of the property, according to Seth Henderson of PHK Development Inc.

Henderson said it took some time for crews to figure out how to remove the 10 shephard’s hook light fixtures surrounding the Wizer Block’s parking lot, but the lenses have been removed, electrical connections have been severed and workers were expected to cut the bolts that attach the light poles to their concrete bases this week. Henderson said he is working with the city and its Historic Resources Advisory Board to transport the light posts for storage.

“Along with the El Ranchito and Wizer signs, (interior wooden beams) and tile mosaics, I think we managed to fulfill all the salvage requests received to date,” Henderson said.

Construction on the Wizer Block is expected to take 22-24 months, with an estimated completion date of fall 2017.

Contact Saundra Sorenson

 

Groundbreaking sets the stage for Wizer Block construction

Story written by Saundra Sorenson.  Originally publish on the Lake Oswego Review website 10/19/2015.

It was only four shovelfuls of dirt, tossed into a waiting skid-steer loader. But for the honorary construction workers who gathered in the southeast parking lot of the Wizer Block this morning, the act was momentous.

Mayor Kent Studebaker, Evergreen Group Principal Patrick Kessi, Lease Crutcher Lewis CEO Bart Ricketts and property owner Gene Wizer wielded gold shovels Monday for the official groundbreaking on Block 137, where a $93 million, 290,000-square-foot development will become the first mixed-use project to be built in downtown Lake Oswego in 13 years.

When it is completed in late 2017, the development at the corner of First Street and A Avenue will include 200 residential units, almost 43,000 square feet of commercial space and parking for 430 cars, of which 135 spaces will be for public parking.

For Wizer, the occasion was “bittersweet.”

“My first thought 19-and-a-half years ago was to remodel the building,” Wizer told The Review. “I had three or four architects (draft) designs for remodeling. But my immediate family said, ‘We’re not going to do a remodel; we want to do a redevelopment.’ Then I met Pat (Kessi) five years ago — he’s such a great guy.”

Wizer will retain an ownership stake in the development, along with the Kessi’s PHK Development Inc. and an as-yet-unnamed equity partner.

Kessi called the groundbreaking a “tremendous milestone” for the project.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Developer Patrick Kessi addessses a crowd of 200 community members who gathered for the Wizer Block groundbeaking on Monday. Looking on (from left): Bart Ricketts, CEO of Lease Crutcher Lewis, the projects general contractor; Mayor Kent Studebaker; Keith Dickerson, executive director of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce; longtime Lake Oswego resident Dee Denton; and City Councilor Skip ONeill.

REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE – Developer Patrick Kessi addessses a crowd of 200 community members who gathered for the Wizer Block groundbeaking on Monday. Looking on (from left): Bart Ricketts, CEO of Lease Crutcher Lewis, the projects general contractor; Mayor Kent Studebaker; Keith Dickerson, executive director of the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce; longtime Lake Oswego resident Dee Denton; and City Councilor Skip ONeill.

“Over the last three years, we’ve definitely collaborated with the community,” Kessi said — a statement that elicited chuckles from some in the crowd of more than 200 city leaders, business owners, Chamber of Commerce officials and neighbors. The project’s contentious approval process saw the city’s Development Review Commission reject the proposal, only to be contradicted by the City Council on appeal.

A trio of community groups — the Evergreen Neighborhood Association, Save Our Village and LO 138 LLC, which represented Lake View Village — formalized their complaints against what they claimed was an outsized project that was incompatible with city development code, appealing first to the state’s Land Use Board of Appeals, then to the state’s Court of Appeals and most recently, to the state Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce by mid-November whether it will review or reject the case.

The legal wrangling did not deter the project’s three largest stakeholders, who are expected to sign closing documents with the city early this week. Kessi said the pending decision will have no bearing on the last of the project’s demolition permits, which he expects to pull Tuesday.

Ricketts, a Lake Oswego resident, promised the crowd that his construction crews would prove to be “good neighbors.”

“We have a good logistics plan,” he said. “We’re able to communicate with the community at large, and have people feel like they know what’s going on in their downtown.”

Studebaker was joined at Monday’s ceremony by most members of the City Council. Keith Dickerson, the Chamber’s executive director, and Chamber board president Blake Zoglman also watched as the first shovels of dirt were tossed.

“We’re very excited,” Studebaker said. “We’re excited for the city, we’re excited for the merchants, and we’re excited for all the new residents that will be coming in to enjoy our wonderful city.”

By Saundra Sorenson

Citizen’s View: Change and progress

Letter written by Victor Nelson.  Originally published in the Lake Oswego Review 9/24/15

It’s been a year since the City Council overwhelmingly voted in favor of the Wizer Block development going forward, followed by two lost appeals by the opposition and now a third appeal from a small group of remaining opponents — a third appeal, I must emphasize, where the odds of success are slim to none.

I understand that logic and gambling have little in common, but I would have thought that before taking the same losing argument to the Oregon Supreme Court, someone knowledgeable in the opposition group might have pointed out to others the logic and the odds of the higher court even accepting the case, let alone coming down in their favor.

Only the same argument that the opposition lawyers have used unsuccessfully before can be made to the Oregon Supreme Court. Surely, since money is involved in funding such an appeal, someone should have pointed out the odds of success? Perhaps they did and the decision to go forward was made anyway. If that’s the case, is the goal of the appeal to try to delay the project? From what I know and can see on the site, delay will not work, either.

What Lake Oswego will get out of this latest appeal is the reputation (set by only a few) of an elite aging community with residents who are burying their heads in the sand and not willing to face the challenges of change and progress.

Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said, “It’s not enough to be up to date, you have to be up to tomorrow.” The majority of Oswegans don’t want to just gamble with our future. They are up to tomorrow. Change and progress is tomorrow.

Victor Nelson 

Lake Oswego