It was business as usual during the March 17 City Council meeting, despite several empty chairs and some displeased council members who preferred they not meet in person during this health crisis.
In an effort to help community members who have been temporarily laid off and have struggled to pay the bills and put food on the table for their families amid the coronavirus pandemic, the City Council awarded $10,000 to the nonprofit organization Hunger Fighters Oregon.
The Lake Oswego food pantry was awarded a $5,000 municipal grant early; usually funding is awarded in summer. Municipal grants are awarded to nonprofit organizations and government entities seeking funding for special projects, services or cultural efforts.
In addition to the municipal grant, Hunger Fighters was awarded a $5,000 emergency grant from the City.
During the weekend of March 14, Hunger Fighters distributed 3,600 pounds of food and served more than three times the number of clients compared to typical weekends.
The influx of donations and rise in clients was the result of Gov. Kate Brown's mandated school closures across the state through April 28 to contain the spread of COVID-19 — the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Founder Michael Murray said 64% of the people who recently used the service were first-time clients, and thanked Council President Jackie Manz for "spearheading" the effort to secure additional funding.
Developer selected for North Anchor project
The City Council met as the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency March 17 and unanimously voted to select Portland real estate developer Urban Development + Partners (UDP) as the North Anchor project developer. This move allows for the LORA executive director to negotiate a memorandum of understanding (MOU) along with a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) with the developer for the 1.07 acre site, for LORA Board approval.
UDP's mixed-use proposal for the North Anchor site included a 51-room boutique hotel with outdoor dining space, lounge space and rooftop access, 45 multi-family residential apartment units, 30,000 square feet of office space and almost 8,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
It's just the latest iteration of a project that dates back to 2004, when the North Anchor block — the stretch of B Avenue between State Street and the alley between First and Second Streets — was listed as the centerpiece of the City's East End Redevelopment Plan. The City began acquiring parcels at the site in 2010, and the first request for proposals (RFP) went out in 2015. Originally, the developers called for a part hotel, part age-restricted apartment building with underground parking. The project then turned into four floors of a high-end hotel with a restaurant and meeting rooms on the main level, including an above ground parking structure wrapped with retail on the far west end across First Street adjacent to the main building. However, the developer of that plan — Vanessa Sturgeon of Sturgeon Development Partners — pulled out in 2019, prompting the City to start fresh with another RFP.
A review committee — which included representatives from the City finance and planning departments, LORA staff, the Lake Oswego Chamber of Commerce and the Tourism Advisory Committee — reviewed and interviewed developers from the four proposals submitted by the February 2020 deadline, and ultimately went with UDP as the top choice.
"UDP stood out as the right partner for this project for several reasons, including a strong and experienced development team that includes Nathan Cooprider and Hacker (architects) and the Atticus Hotel," the staff report read. "The proposal was also the most comprehensive and well-rounded submittal that met the City's objectives and request for a mixed-use project anchored by a boutique hotel."
At Tuesday's meeting, Mayor Kent Studebaker asked questions about parking.
Sidaro Sin, the City's redevelopment manager, said the proposal includes about 83 surface-grade parking spaces — meaning there wouldn't be excavation of a lower level parking area, though there is an option in the proposal to do that, which would add 76 stalls — between the three North Anchor properties.
The various uses for the site — hotel, office space, residential and retail — all have different parking requirements. Based on what's in the proposal, up to 162 parking spaces are required, Sin said.
"As we move through that development, some of that will get refined so the actual parking requirements could go up, could go down," said Sin, adding that the City's parking code is flexible and there are strategies for reduction in parking if the area is close to public transit or if a parking analysis is done that shows less spaces are actually needed.
He said it will be a process to figure out what the final proposal is and how much square feet will be needed for each of the uses for the site, and then they will need to figure out what the actual parking requirement is.
Councilor Daniel Nguyen said he loved the proposed design and thought it was a beautiful project proposal, but he asked if UDP is sure their finances are secure because of the hardships the economy is facing right now and the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic.
UDP has an approach to finance the project that "includes using up to $26 million of a UDP managed equity fund with debt financing through a longstanding relationship with First Republic Bank," according to the staff report.
"We are certainly keeping a really close eye on that," said Sarah Zahn, director of development for UDP.
Sin added that UDP's private equity is unique and shows the City that the developers are vested in their projects. He said it's reassuring knowing the developers have "skin in the game."
City Manager Martha Bennett said the City will have frequent executive sessions to update council members on the status of the MOU, so if there are concerns with how the business plan is shaping up, they can have an opportunity to address that.
Next steps include negotiating and executing the MOU followed by the DDA from April to August. Construction would break ground in fall 2021 and the project would be completed by January 2023.
Councilor Skip O'Neill asked if they could speed up the timeline by six months.
Zahn said they've given a generous amount of time for completion so they might be able to compress it by a month or two but hesitates to think they can do it in less than 15 months. Still, she said she would be happy to talk more about that.
Luscher Farm plan moves forward
The City Council voted to approve the Luscher Farm Concept Plan for purposes of applying to Metro for an amendment to the Portland Metro Urban Growth Boundary. This will allow the City to apply its own zoning designation to Luscher Farm, opening up opportunities to use the land in a variety of new ways that carry out the Luscher Area Master Plan. Lake Oswego would later vote on annexation if Metro approves the UGB application.
Future City Council meetings
Some council members expressed concerns with having public meetings in person when here is a health crisis going on, and asked to have virtual meetings.
Bennett explained that as of right now, City Council meetings are required under the City Charter.
She said that during the next April 7 meeting, they will focus on essential agenda items and then if things continue as they are through the end of April, the City could cancel their study session.
Bennett said the City is receiving new information every day and will adjust accordingly.
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