Groundbreaking sets the stage for Wizer Block construction
More than 200 community members watch as the first shovels of dirt are tossed for the first mixed-use development in downtown Lake Oswego in 13 years
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 on Monday 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-painted shovels 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 more than 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, Were not going to do a remodel; we want to do a redevelopment. Then I met Pat (Kessi) five years ago hes such a great guy.
Wizer will retain an ownership stake in the development, along with Kessi's Evergreen Group and an as-yet-unnamed equity partner.
Kessi called the groundbreaking a tremendous milestone for the project.
Over the last three years, weve 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 projects contentious approval process saw the citys 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 states Land Use Board of Appeals, then to the states 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 projects three largest stakeholders, who signed closing documents early this week. Kessi said the pending decision will have no bearing on the last of the projects demolition permits, which were issed on Wednesday.
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. Were able to communicate with the community at large, and have people feel like they know whats 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.