A new chapter for the old St. Francis – Hasso Hering

HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

A new chapter for the old St. Francis

Written January 11th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

The old St. Francis hotel and Rhodes Block next door, at the corner of First and Ferry, on Saturday.

The city of Albany has finally made public its plan for the old St. Francis hotel building downtown. The plan is to buy the building from the printing company that owns it, and sell it to Marc Manley, who with his wife Anni owns and restored the Flinn Block farther east on First Avenue.

In June 2019, the city council, acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency or ARA, voted to “execute” an option on a downtown building without identifying it. The ARA is the agency that governs CARA, the urban renewal district known as the Central Albany Revitalization Area.

On Friday the city published the agendas for CARA and ARA meetings this Wednesday, Jan. 15. In a memo, economic development manager Seth Sherry points out that the intent of the purchase option was to find a buyer who would redevelop the historic hotel to further revitalize downtown.

He recommends in the memo that the ARA authorize the city staff to execute a contract with Manley’s MMVentures Inc. to purchase the building from the city for $700,000.

The proposed contract calls for negotiating, over a four-month period, a development agreement with Manley to cover things such as the building’s potential uses. The memo says the uses may include “residential, retail, commercial, and hospitality.”

The city would exercise its option to acquire the building once the development agreement with Manley is reached. Sherry’s memo doesn’t say how much the city will pay to exercise its option to buy the property before selling it. He’s not disclosing the amount because it might affect the details of  the still-to-be-negotiated deal with Manley.

There’s an assumption that any redevelopment of the old hotel will require some degree of financial participation by CARA. The details of that also would be covered by the development agreement.

The hotel was built in 1915. It is actually two buildings, and it hasn’t been a hotel for decades. Since the 1960s the ground floor has housed Pride Printing. Seth’s memo says that for nearly two years the city staff has worked with Scott Thorn, owner of the printing company, to discuss possible redevelopment of the building.

When the council approved getting an option to buy the building in June, it refused to name the property on the grounds, as stated by Councilman Rich Kellum in an email, of wanting to protect the business operating there. Presumably there’s no longer a need for that now.

The CARA advisory board and the council have been talking about the St. Francis deal in executive sessions closed to the public, as allowed by the state law on public meetings. In October, though, the identity of the property slipped out when Councilman Bill Coburn asked in a public ARA meeting whether there was anything new about the St. Francis.

One of the conditions of the sales contract with Manley is that Pride Printing move out. No word yet on whether the business will close or start somewhere else. (hh)

This story has been edited to explain why the city is not disclosing the option price it will pay if the deal goes through. 



32 responses to “A new chapter for the old St. Francis”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    Why does the city have to get involved buying and selling it?
    Why doesn’t Marc Manly buy it direct.
    How can this NOT be a waste of city resources?
    Do they have that many extra employees that they have to find work for them?

  2. Skeet says:

    I don’t get it! If Manley is willing to buy the building, why is the city involved? Can’t he just buy it from the owner?

  3. Richard Vannice says:

    I don’t see any $$$ amount that the City is going to pay for the property the only amount is what they will ask for it. Are they trying to hide something????

  4. Rolland says:

    Have to agree with the three comments above. All seems very shady when in the next biennium we have an $11 million shortfall coming. No time to waste taxpayer resources.

  5. West End Gal says:

    Oh, no! I sense another round of conspiracy theories headed our way from the usuals…let’s see what unfolds. Wouldn’t it be exciting to have a refurbished building among the attractively restored ones?

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Again, you totally miss the point.
      What if Trump wanted to do it? After all, real estate was his business.
      How would you feel about it then?

      What other businesses does the city want to get involved in?

  6. Dave says:

    This is very concerning. Another building for Manley to restore and then make it to where nobody can actually afford to set up business in. Don’t get me wrong, he did a great job on the Flinn building but could not keep tenants.

  7. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    In Albany, success in business depends on a close relationship between business people and local city officials.

    Success in business relies on the coercive power of government to tax and put its citizens into debt. A smart business person then obtains subsidies in the form of grants and forgivable loans.

    The business person enriches himself and grows his wealth by accepting money not earned.

    A smart business person exploits his connections with city hall to obtain city-provided advantage. Secrecy is essential before publicly announcing the deal.

    In Albany, the best business people make money the progressive way – hand out and palm up.

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Here are two links to peruse…

    The DH article about the process and the specific proposal that will be on the table at the ARA meeting following the CARA meeting Wed.

    https://democratherald.com/news/local/ara-moves-to-buy-st-francis-hotel/article_7a757cd4-5758-535d-b507-bb093fcafd06.html

    https://www.cityofalbany.net/images/stories/citycouncil/bcc/archive/2020/ara_20200115_agd.pdf

  9. Tom Sramek, Jr. says:

    Of course, if the developer just bulldozed it and built a new building on there, you all would be complaining about the loss of an historic building. CARA is tasked with revitalizing, not replacing, buildings. NO current tax resources go in to CARA, so perhaps you might actually educate yourselves before going off on how corrupt city government is. Or, shocker, actually get more involved rather than criticizing from the sidelines.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      No current taxes go to CARA? It is you who needs to educate yourself.

      CARA has to service their NON-voter approved debts. They do it by siphoning CURRENT tax year money each year from the local taxing districts. They’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now.

      For example, in Tax Year 2019-2020 CARA will siphon away over $313,000 from Linn County. Would the commissioners willingly give this amount to CARA? Of course not.

      Over $1,256,000 will be siphoned from the city’s general fund. But essential services go begging and streets continue to crumble.

      Over $900,000 will be siphoned from the state education fund through GAPS. The state education fund will have to replenish these dollars in some way.

      And some of us did get involved. We organized two initiatives several years ago. Albany voters got involved by passing both measures even though the Mayor and Council campaigned against their constituents. The city charter now mandates that voters will have the final say on future debts and any new urban renewal district. This was a great win for Albany taxpayers.

      • NancyM says:

        Please educate us…what happened to the l7M + Pepsico Money? Thanks.

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          Actually it was $18,500,000 after lawyer’s fees.

          An accounting of this money is not easy to find on the city’s website.

          Perhaps Hasso has a current line item by line item accounting.

          Or perhaps Marilyn Smith, she seems to read this blog.

          Or perhaps Ray K, he is the designated city apologist when it comes to wasteful spending.

  10. BillH says:

    Let Manley buy and develop that building on his own. What is worth preserving about it? It is a wreck. Nothing redeeming about the architecture either.

  11. DAVE says:

    When one opens a scenic picture puzzle, it’s pretty common to begin by sorting the pieces. First, the low hanging fruit – the edge pieces. Then by colors, patterns and shapes: sky blues, grass greens, reds, yellows, bricks, roads, buildings and people parts. Once generally sorted, one has small groupings of detail work with which to contend. Hopefully, each piece is “keyed” to fit into only one unique position. Eventually, if all the pieces are available, they connect to create both satisfaction and the bigger picture.

    As a noob trying to understand the scope of authority, limitations and machinations of city government it feels a bit like trying to sort and work a 1000 piece puzzle on a 9 square foot ADU, er, card table. Just forming an educated opinion proves difficult when it seems so many pieces of the puzzle are still unsorted and, in some cases, off the table. So one does what one can by working around the edges first. Many of the those local “edge pieces” can be found via the City of Albany’s well-designed website. In fact, even some of the sorting has already been done. However, unfortunately or fortunately, the reach of local government is, in no small part, overlapped by the influences of county, state and federal governments. This generates, for me, a mental image of a fiendish, bureaucratic Venn Diagram and makes understanding the puzzle that much more difficult.

    Closed door sessions are like missing pieces of the puzzle. I learned about them “the hard way” recently when I didn’t have on my listening ears and was kindly asked to leave a work session. I came away wondering why any government work needs to go on behind closed doors and out of public view. After some thought, I can certainly understand why ‘conflicts’ between employees and supervisors as well as certain discussions about pay or scheduling for city employees need not be aired publicly. Still, just because one (entity) can do something doesn’t mean one (entity) should do something. Closed door sessions should be the exception rather than the rule and they should always be well-outlined as to their content, and that outline, sans (private) names, made publicly available. To do otherwise is inviting public skepticism, cynicism and conspiracy building. “Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain.”

    Large shopping malls edged out downtown businesses, online shopping edged out shopping malls. Now it seems like we’re coming full circle. Seemingly controversial from the start and to this day, CARA, is our key mechanism for revitalizing downtown buildings, providing loans to optimists (entrepreneurs), creating points of interest (carousel) and generally supporting downtown viability, livability and utility. Novak’s simply “fits” better downtown as does the Carnegie Library, Natural Sprinkles Bakery and back-in-only parking. Yes, the revenue stream for CARA was diverted from a larger source. Still, in this case, it seems like the CURE is beating back the disease. I’ve lived here 25 years; other than the traffic, it’s better now. I’m betting folks visiting Albany from out of town want to visit unique, quaint shops, a local museum, maybe get a burger & brew (not necessarily in that order) and “walk it off” along the water front.

    Albany is our picture puzzle – yours and mine. But, a boxed puzzle it is not. It is complex and nuanced and frustrating. Not only that, the pieces change shape before our very eyes and the boundaries of our control are constantly squeezed by upstream governmental hierarchy. The hard-working mayor and city councilors are pieces of the puzzle, but they’re here now and then they aren’t. Good willed, thoughtful, persistent, and yes, disagreeable people are needed to step up to support and challenge them with vigorous, civil debate and to step into their shoes when duty calls. Drive-by, snarky comments about our city leaders and settled decisions offers little, so little will be gained from them.

    The next council meeting is at 7:15 on January 22nd. https://www.cityofalbany.net/council
    Hope to see you there.

    • centrist says:

      Nicely done

    • Cap says:

      Since your interesting comments were already quite lengthy, why didn’t you indulge us with a litany about the limits of attending City Council Meetings? No comments are allowed, is my understanding, unless you are on the agenda. Then, you have to go front and center and sit at designated desk with the Mayor and Council up on their platform looking down on you, complete with dirty looks if they don’t agree with you.

      • Marilyn Smith says:

        The Albany City Council always allows comments from people who attend their meetings. If you want to speak about a specific agenda item, let the mayor or city clerk know before the meeting. If your issue is not on the agenda, you can speak in the time designated for business from the public. Unlike most governing bodies, the Albany council does not set a time limit on public comments though it is helpful to keep your comments focused and brief. Questions? Call 541-917-7507 or email marilyn.smith@cityofalbany.net

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        City council meetings are business meetings, held in public – by state law. They are NOT “town hall meetings” by any stretch of the imagination.

        “No comments are allowed, is my understanding, unless you are on the agenda.”
        True – and it is so very hard to get on the agenda: You sign up when you walk in the door for the meeting

        “Then, you have to go front and center and sit at designated desk…”
        Also true – AND you have to state your name and address – you cannot hide behind your anonymity as you can here…

        All councilors volunteer to “wear a target on their back” – in public. Although regrettable at times, if some of them show their feelings from the dais, so be it. Of course it’s always easier to throw stones without being in the arena, but there it is…

        • NancyM says:

          Thought that is what consent calendar on Council meeting agendas was for…Albany is
          lucky to have 3 minutes…many cities only allow 1 1/2 minutes. It’s amazing to read all of
          the negativity from many anonymous writers…. yet, never see them at any Council meetings to express their viewpoints orally?? Maybe it’s because they can’t take their
          pocket Thesaurus with them to assist in conveying their vocabularies that many of us
          cannot understand without looking the words up in Websters Dictionary.

      • Dick Olsen says:

        When I was first on the City Council in 1973. I suggested that we were there to serve the public and should do away with the 3 minute rule demanded by the County Commissioners and the School Board and listen to public comments at the first part of the meeting.
        I was surprised and pleased when the rest of the Council agreed. Since then we have listened to what you have to say. We ask that you to sit at the desk so your comments can be amplified so all can hear and they can be recorded.

        Come try it sometime. You will find the Mayor friendly, courteous and kind.

      • DAVE says:

        Cap,
        I hope you are heartened by the fact that the city’s public information officer and two city council members (one past and one present) all took the time to read and respond to your post!
        I found some helpful bits and pieces in their posts and some encouragement to boot. I never seem to find myself complaining about being too encouraged.
        And, you’re right, my comments were a bit lengthy. Fortunately Mr. Hering was kind enough to indulge me.
        Take care and keep seeking.

    • NancyM says:

      Mr. Dave: Relish your lengthy but newsworthy educational and informative posts. Long
      overdue. Cannot make Council meetings as no bus service after 6 pm and cab fare too
      high for us” aging grannie boomers”. Otherwise, would be at every meeting opened to
      the citizens of Albany.

      • NancyM says:

        P.S. Happened to be from the “silent generation” not a grannie baby boomer. Figure that
        one out,

      • DAVE says:

        NancyM
        Thank you for your kind words. I think there must have been a muse sitting on the handle of my teacup on Sunday. I will admit feeling a twinge of regret having used the word “snarky” rather than “unkind.”
        Stay well my friend, we need you.

  12. thomas cordier says:

    The reason CARA will first buy the building is then they can offer a grant or a low cost loan to the desired owners. That is how the inside baseball game is played

  13. cap says:

    Thank you Thomas Cordier. I knew there was a reason that CARA bought the building first and knew that the buyer and CARA had to have discussed this plan. Just couldn’t get my brain in high enough gear to come up with the obvious reason…the grants and low cost (and sometimes forgiven) loans.

  14. Cap says:

    Ray Kop’ski: As you say, “there it is,” and I will add, “there you are, as usual.” (Cap is my family nickname, fyi.)
    Dave: Yes, I was pleased to get under the skin and prompt a reply from both Kop’ski, who apparently loves the sound and reading of his thoughts, and the Information Officer, Marilyn S. I’ve been to council meetings and do not want to attend again, although I might, who knows. (How else would I know about the system and the dais the Mayor and Council members are perched on. Very 18th Century of them. I’m glad Alex, the black councillor is there. Welcome, Alex. You are long overdue.)

    • Dad says:

      Speaking of antiquated ways of thinking: I wonder if you’re welcoming the councilor based on the content of his character or the color of his skin? Your comment may have been insulting. Leadership and good ideas don’t know from skin color IMHO.

  15. MsJ says:

    Yes, that perched dais layout is antiquated and is by no means inviting for someone to come forward and speak about City issues. It was probably designed that way so you can be looked down upon, both literally and metaphorically.

    It’s akin to standing on a chair to elevate oneself when talking to family/friends/others which would result in talking to yourself.

    It needs to be updated so people feel more comfortable and be able to come forward easily – public speaking is bad enough! This is something I would support funding for instead of those eyesore hanging street lights.

  16. Chuck says:

    I too am at a loss as to the city’s need to buy and resell the old hotel. I’m hoping a simple to understand report laying out the need for a complicated buy / sell plan can be presented long before action is implemented

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