Up Sucker Creek

Up Sucker Creek
Photo Courtesy of the Lake Oswego Library

Monday, July 27, 2015

RealIty-based downtown village character

When the Wizer block is built, anyone with any sense knows what we will have lost.  The village character that we know and love will be gone.  Greed begat urban renewal, and Urban Renewal is killing downtown Lake Oswego.  Urban renewal is like the Midas Touch, turning Lake Oswego into a dead zone.  The transformation accelerated when major amendments were made to the Downtown Redevelopment Plan in 2004, when Judie Hammerstad took office.

No village character will be left downtown, and no real signs of life except that which are kept alive with transfusions of fresh, urban renewal debt - tax increment funding that outs the financing burden on you and me.

Here's a town that has kept its charm and continues to draw locals and visitors alike.  Every Thursday evening the Main Street in town is turned into a Farmers' Market with food and music.  In order not to be left out, local restaurants and shops not on the street set up tents. It's the place to see and be seen.  This town has managed the evolution of its downtown carefully in order to keep what it values most.  This is San luis Obispo, California, pop. 46,362, home to California Polytechnic University.  I hope to bring you more such examples in the future.  Let me know of any I should be looking at. imslohappy.wordpress.com/tag/downtown-slo

We're SLO Happy! 
A deeper look into the happiest city in America 
October 11, 2011

Downtown SLO: Modern languages and literatures sophomore Emma Horowitz said downtown showcases perfectly what makes San Luis Obispo so special.

“It’s local, and it’s cute, but it’s still modern and fun,” she said. “It’s where the college community and the rest of the community comes together, which is really great.”

Emma said she loves that everything comes together downtown – the old and the new, the college kids and the families.  

It offers a real taste of the town, in just a few blocks,” she said.

San luis Obispo Downtown Association

The City ofnSan Luis Obispo won the Great American Main Street Award in 1999, given by the National Trust for Histroic Preservation for preservation-based downtown revivals.

In this map of the downtown commercial area, you can see that there are no buildings that consume an entire city block, and that most blocks have multiple shops of varying sizes and ages, giving the street more interest and life.
authentic, historical, unique, sense of past, locally-based, livable

Downtown Connection
"Downtown Survival"
...the central cores of towns must offer their own unique attributes - a sense of place, of history and of meaning.
Preserving a sense of the past has always been a critical strategy to downtown revival.
Retail is the key to recovery.

In a related strategy, downtown must also try to keep the downtown shopping central business disrict as authentic as possible. This type of “urban authenticity” is often reflected by the presence of individual, locally based merchants – many of whom sell products and services that are different, or at least delivered in a different manner, than ubiquitous chains found in prototypical suburban communities. 

"Without retailing, the commercial role of the center or Main Street will have been repealed. A library, concert hall or art museum can lure visitors on special occasions, but only the marketplace can create a true permanent central place. Ultimately, a revived center city will have to combine both this community sense and a sense of uniqueness with a strong, market-driven commercial appeal.” 

To help them survive in the next century, Kotkin offers the following “reality-based” guidelines for downtowns.

  1. Emphasize qualitative over quantitative values. Downtowns don't need to experience a rapid growth in population in order to be successful.  Instead, slowing or even reducing population can provide the basis for creating a more livable town.
  2. Concentrate on appropriate niches.
  3. Nurture the Grassroots economy.
Cities should also strive toman gain a strong presence of specialized industrial, warehousing and other blue-collar industries in addition to focusing on post-industrial sectors such as the service industry.  ...overall industrial workers remain half as likely to earn incomes below the poverty line than their service counterparts.


  1. This a wonderful example. Thanks for bringing it forward. Downtowns do not need people living in them to achieve "vitality". Vitality can come through carefully thought out and well executed programs.
    lake Oswego has not had a "downtown" creative program that I have ever seen. Wonder what would happen if the Planning Department and the Chamber started working creatively instaed of focusing just on density as a solution.

  2. By creative, do you mean hiring a different consultant? Communities all over the Metro area appear to be operating from the same planning script where creativity has been replaced by top down, suffocating control. Who cares if the theories don't work the way they are proposed - someone somewhere has something to gain while we lose any opportunity to have something really great. It is beyond sad - and beyond tragic.

  3. How does the current Wizer building represent vibrant Village Character? It is a sprawling vacant mid-century grocery store and parking structure.

  4. The current Wizer building is a little tired and needs some help. I didn't see any sketches, but I heard that a developer had ideas to keep most of the main part of the building and remodel around it for updated appeal. A restaurant with a terrace overlooking Millennium Park where there is now just a loading dock - small hotel or condos above without exceeding 3 stories, remodeled retail at the street level with on-site oarking.p, but keep the atrium, fountain and stairs to the lower level parking. If it were me, I'd repurpose the cool parking lot lights for use on the terrace. What I wouldn't do ia try to make the place into a craftsman or lodge style piece of junk, but add wood elements that would be characteristic of the 60s and would tie it in with surrounding buildings. A good, design-oriented architect could have a field day with the project. It would be an asset to the downtown and not overwhel the double-block with volume, people and parking problems.

    Regardless of what the theorists say, this large apartment complex will be an experiment in our downtown to see if bigger and more dense will make the town more "vibrant." It will also be a gamble to see if the target market will come to LO to live in apartments rather than houses. I'm not a big fan of experiments when so much is at stake and the experiment can't be undone.

    The reality of the project that can't be ignored is the negative impact of 2 years of construction next to Lake
    View Village. If you were a tenant there, would you stay?

    There are