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.

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

General Contractor Named for Wizer Project

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Developer Names General Contractor for Lake Oswego Wizer Project

       CEO/President of Oregon Lease Crutcher Lewis is Lake Oswego Resident

Portland, Oregon – May 2015.  Patrick H. Kessi of PHK Development, Inc., the developer of Block 137 which also is known as the Wizer Block, announced today that employee-owned Lease Crutcher Lewis (“Lewis”) will be the general contractor on the development. Demolition of the existing Wizer building is scheduled to begin September 2015, to be followed by excavation for underground parking.

Kessi said that the Lewis team with its reputation for collaboration, innovation in energy saving methods, working with reclaimed materials and a focus on effective ways to eliminate construction waste is the perfect fit for Lake Oswego. “Lewis has built over one hundred LEED projects in the Pacific Northwest and has a reputation for award-winning, mixed-use projects,” he said.

The CEO/President of Oregon Lease Crutcher Lewis, Bart Ricketts, lives with his family in Lake Oswego and will oversee the Wizer re-development. He has spent twenty-four years in the construction industry, twenty-one of them with Lewis.  Ricketts said that the execution of this particular project will be one of the highlights in his career. “I have two children in the Lake Oswego school system and a stake in this community. I look forward to delivering an exceptional project to downtown and one that I know will become another community asset.”

Mayor Kent Studebaker said that the superior team being assembled to bring this project to fruition would ensure Lake Oswego’s Code and design standards would be met. “We move forward with the high standards in design that this town is renowned for,” he said. He commented also that an Oswegan leader of the contractor team who was clearly committed to the area was a huge plus.

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It’s time for LO to move forward with Wizer project

Editorial by Gary Stein.  Originally published by the Lake Oswego Review 4/29/2015.

Twice in the past few months, The Review has editorialized against the construction of a 290,000-square-foot, mixed-use development on downtown Lake Oswego’s Wizer Block.

The proposed project will be too big and too dense for the corner of A Avenue and First Street, I wrote, and the infrastructure now in place will not be able to handle the influx of cars and residents that will surely be drawn to the 207 apartments and 36,000 square feet of retail space that will be located there.

I still believe that’s true.

But on the eve of writing that first editorial, I had a chance to sit down with developer Patrick Kessi, and this is what I told him: The Development Review Commission would reject his proposal. The City Council would approve it. And the state Land Use Board of Appeals would affirm the council’s decision.

Sure enough, all of that has come to pass.

I also told Kessi that he would eventually build his project in downtown Lake Oswego. And that despite my objections, I would likely add my name to the waiting list for an apartment that will sit almost directly across the street from The Review’s office. That will come to pass, too.

Because the process worked.

Opponents of the development, including The Review, had a chance to make their feelings known in an open and honest debate that wound its way from downtown streets to the Opinion pages of this newspaper, from the DRC to the City Council, and eventually to a college lecture hall in Eugene, where LUBA commissioners heard the case before issuing a decidedly one-sided and unequivocal ruling in favor of Kessi’s project.

Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC (which represents Lake View Village) have argued that the Wizer Block proposal does not meet the Community Development Code’s definition of “village character,” and that the city used its own subjective interpretation of that phrase to approve the project. Opponents also contend that the code required the city to compare the proposed four-story development with neighboring lots to make sure it fit a requirement for “small-scale structures.”

On every point, LUBA disagreed.

On the definition of “village character.” On the need for comparisons with nearby structures. And on the inclusion of live/work units, a gym and a library on the first floor.

“We agree that the City Council’s interpretation of the Community Development Code easily qualifies as a plausible interpretation,” LUBA said, “… and that petitioners’ proffered interpretation to the contrary is inconsistent” with the code.

Opponents also raised one of my main objections — that the streets surrounding the Wizer Block will not be able to absorb the increase in traffic generated by such a dense mixed-use development. LUBA rejected that argument, too, as inappropriate for a general land-use decision.

I still disagree with the commissioners on that last point, and I guess we’ll just have to wait and see who was right. But I have always believed that the three buildings Kessi proposes for the Wizer Block — with their varied facades, pedestrian walkways and public spaces — will not only fit the definition of “village character” but also enhance the city’s downtown core. Kessi has always designed beautiful projects that blend seamlessly into their neighborhoods; I have no doubt that will be true in Lake Oswego, too.

I also like the mix of retail shops and residential units that Kessi proposes. “Retail begets retail,” opponents have argued, but there’s no denying the amount of vacant shops that already exist in downtown Lake Oswego. Even developer Barry Cain, one of the Wizer Block’s most vocal opponents, will ask the city’s redevelopment agency this week to let him use space on the ground floor of Lake View Village for offices instead of the required retail shops.

Even in a vibrant and thriving downtown, there’s a limit to how much retail space a compact shopping district can accommodate. And every business owner in that district will tell you that the key to their longtime survival is the very influx of residents that Kessi’s project will bring.

Obviously, the project’s opponents disagree, and they are now considering taking their case to the Oregon Court of Appeals. I think that time-consuming and expensive effort would be misguided.

If LUBA had wavered on any point, I might encourage an appeal. If there was even a hint that an issue in the LUBA decision could be considered “unlawful,” as attorney Greg Hathaway has argued, then I might encourage an appeal. If I had any reason to believe that the predictions I shared with Kessi months ago would not come true, I would encourage an appeal.

But I don’t believe that, because there was no wiggle room in the LUBA decision and no new evidence can be brought before the court; in essence, opponents can only recycle the same arguments that LUBA considered to be without merit.

I do believe this, though: The cost of an appeal is likely to be tens of thousands of dollars. The process would likely take three to four months. And in the end, Patrick Kessi will build his mixed-use development on the Wizer Block, just like I told him he would.

The time has come for me to put my name on the waiting list. For opponents to drop their appeal. And for the community to move forward with a project that is destined to become an integral part of the “village character” we all cherish.

Gary M. Stein is editor of The Lake Oswego Review.