Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ready for a Kessi chuckle?

Lake Oswego Review,  October 16, 2014   By Patrick Kessi

Wizer Block: Oswegans will give the project life

“It is a building designed by committee; all they have been able to agree on is that it should be rectangular, have windows, and not fall over.”             — writer and humorist Max Barry

Hopefully, that quote brings you a chuckle as we all end a long, first phase of redeveloping the Wizer Block. By no means, however, does the sentiment of the quote apply to the final design that was recently and overwhelmingly approved by City Council.    I'm not chuckling.  I know who is though.  
The process that brought us to that approval is the result of a committee or community of very engaged Lake Oswegans, who through their input helped shape the project. To them all I say thank
you for your guidance. You helped our design become an even better one.    The list of community contacts that was on your website at one time included meetings with the planning staff - they don't live here!  Your focus groups were by invitation only.  There were a few well attended open meetings, but the suggestions at those meetings were to make the development smaller.  
The Lake Oswego of today did not happen by accident. It took vision and careful planning and, yes, opposition from concerned citizens. The debate was often passionate. At its inception, Lake View Village also was strongly opposed. It, too, went through a metamorphosis or several and came out as a Lake Oswego landmark. I am confident that the
redeveloped Wizer Block will become another Lake Oswego landmark.   The Lake Oswego of today was created slowly over a hundred years.  People came here to vacation and relax, to raise their families and to enjoy the beautiful setting.  That is still why people still come to live here.  Your project may indeed provide "vibrancy" downtown.  The word is a substitute for urban  and crowded and not what was in the original redevelopment plan the whole community worked on.  The landmark statement is either marketing or ego. If you wanted the buildings to be noticeable, they will be.
My team and I don’t just put up rectangular buildings with windows. We don’t just put up structures. We design and build ambiance. We anticipate how building designs meet each community’s demographic needs while at the same time making sure they will be economically and environmentally sustainable. Every one of our projects is designed to fit the character of the surroundings in which we build. We are recognized for our focus on making decisions about quality of design and construction for the long term, rather than for the short term.  This project meets the owner's and investor's needs.  Your buildings have LO character applied as surface elements but they are still hulky, too-big structures. (Ambience is a given, but it cuts 2 ways.)
The Wizer Block will be a series of architectural buildings and facades that citizens and visitors do not merely look at. They will be able to move around them and through them. The pedestrian
walkways, the landscaping and art work, the retail and restaurants will draw energy and provide the special quality of life that city planners and leaders envisioned for the core so many years ago. I think you meant to say, "around and between them."  Most of the interior is dedicated to private or semi-private uses, so the walking around potential is slim. If the passageways were filled with more shops, and the buildings were broken up, that would be special (and to code).
The debate about the fate of the Wizer Block has been robust and transparent, and communities often emerge stronger as a result of differences of opinion. I have high hopes that this will be the case in Lake Oswego. No one person has a lock on ideas. Good ideas come from everywhere and from everyone, and the Wizer Block will be the work of Lake Oswegans. My team and I will shape the structures, but you will give them life. Architecture is the setting; people are the community.    
The Wizer Block is work of outsiders and SOME Lake Oswegans.
Transient renters will give them "life" - we will have to see whose predictions will come true about shopping and parking and the life or death of Lake View Village. The architecture is fine - really - but the size sucks.  We ARE a community, and every one of these behemoths that gets past our willing staff has the potential to further divide us.  Can you cite cities that came together "as a result of differences of opinion?"  I'd like to know how they did it.

Let's hope that all of the opposition folks are wrong and that our small town will not be degraded by the Wizer Development and it will continue to stay a charming, small town.  Isn't that what we all want?  

1 comment:

  1. Well said.
    This project will not bring "vitality" to downtown LO. IMHO, it may even kill downtown forever.
    During the construction period there will be thousands of trucks (yes, thousands as one Commissioner calculated at the DRC) going in and out of the site. Watch as B Avenue becomes clogged with traffic as people avoid A or downtown altogether). The noise will be deafening. No one in their right mind will want to be on First Street either inside or outside. Watch the businesses die.
    The smartest one in this whole thing is Kyra who had the sense to move her place to larger quarters. Watch her business boom!
    Then when the monster is finished it will be unbelievably depressing. Visually this will over shadow Lake View Village. No sunlight there after 2 PM.
    What incredibly uninformed person thinks 300 new residents will bring vitality? Yes, 300. Most of these apartments will be small (600 sq. ft.). That is only big enough for one person. How will 300 people create vitality? Come on tell me. Surely, more than 300 a day will have been driven away from the area. And since these are expensive (per Kessi minimum of $2500/month) who will be living there and what are their shopping patterns.
    Some say it will be people downsizing. OK, are these people going to pay say $35,000/year in rent? If they do how much are they going to spend. Then there are just the spending patterns of retirees. I know I'm retired. I do not spend like I did in my 40s.
    Well, it will be young people. OK, higher income young people. Good spenders but an awful lot of it done electronically.
    Let's say it is 50/50 young/older. On any given night you might get 25% of the younger set going out to dinner. That's only 30 people. How does that bring vitality?
    The real problem with vitality in downtown is that it is a semi-circle trading area. The river cuts it off to the east. You only have half a trading area (usually a circle) to begin with. That means you have to work twice as hard to draw people. Our downtown merchants don't do that. If they did you would see events, festivals, etc to bring people there. But, it is too late now.
    I cannot wait to see Gene Wizer look at his legacy and realize what he has wrought on a community he so loves. Greed trumps brains. Give me my money.
    Enough ranting.