Decision ends legal challenge to mixed-use development in downtown Lake Oswego/strong>
“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. We look forward to sharing the future benefits of Block 137 with all Oswegans.”
The one-page statement from the court to attorneys representing Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC was simple and to the point. “The court has considered the petition for review,” it reads, “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 Monday, “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.”
Hathaway said his clients were right to take the case to the Supreme Court.
“The purpose for all of the appeals challenging the City Council’s decision was to defend the Development Review Commission’s denial of the development because it was too large in scale and not sufficiently broken up,” he said. “Although this effort has not been successful, Save our Village and other citizens will continue to stress the importance of the city maintaining its village character in the redevelopment of the downtown.”
The 290,000-square-foot Wizer Block project, which is now in the demolition stage, will include 200 apartments, about 40,000 square feet of commercial space and 430 parking spaces when it is completed in late 2017.
Although the Lake Oswego City Council approved the development more than a year ago, it has been tangled up in a series of appeals. Both the state Land Use Board of Appeals and the state Court of Appeals upheld the council’s decision when it was challenged by Save Our Village, the Evergreen Neighborhood Association and LO 138 LLC, which represents Lake View Village. Save Our Village then petitioned the state Supreme Court for review.
Kessi, property owner Gene Wizer and representatives for the city signed closing documents on Block 137 last month, saying they were confidant in the eventual outcome of the legal challenge. Earlier in October, the City Council voted unanimously to amend the city’s development agreement with Kessi to allow the project to proceed despite the contingencies.
With the threat of any further legal appeal lifted, those contingencies are now met and the Lake Oswego Redevelopment Agency is free to make its first payment in support of the project, city officials said Thursday.
Construction 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 crews have been tearing down the 1950s-era shopping center ever since. By Thursday afternoon, all of the site’s parking structure and half of the red-brick building were gone.
“If we would have waited for the final decision, it would’ve held us up,” Kessi told The Review. “We analyzed the risk of going forward or not going forward while waiting for the decision, and we decided to go forward. There haven’t been any delays.”
Funding for the project is coming from Multi-Employer Property Trust, a $7.3 billion real estate equity fund with assets in 25 major metropolitan markets across the U.S. Founded in 1982, MEPT is owned by more than 320 institutional investors, including 10 pension plans in the Northwest.
The open-end, commingled real estate equity fund invests in office buildings, warehouses, flex/research and development facilities, apartments and retail centers. Its properties generally meet LEED green-building and Energy Star standards; it also requires that all contractors working on its properties be covered by collective bargaining agreements with trade unions.