A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany to borrow $16.9 million for riverfront

Written February 16th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

A section of Water Avenue last November. The street is part of the Albany riverfront redevelopment project.

Albany plans to borrow up to $16.9 million to pay for the city’s urban renewal project to redevelop Monteith Riverpark and parts of 14 blocks of Water Avenue along the Willamette River.

The city council, acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency (ARA) that governs the downtown central Albany urban renewal district (CARA), authorized the borrowing during a virtual meeting Wednesday night.

The vote was 4-2. Council members Dick Olsen and Matilda Novak voted no. Councilor Ray Kopczynski did not take part. The other council members and the mayor voted yes.

The city plans to invite bids for the loan from banks nationwide. It hopes to negotiate a deal in March at an interest rate of less than 3 percent, and intends to pay off the borrowed amount over 11 years or less from proceeds of the annual property tax increments the CARA district receives.

(CARA gets all taxes levied by other taxing units on that part of the district’s property value that is bigger than it was when the district was set up in 2001. Because of the state’s byzantine property tax procedures, the CARA tax shows up on tax bills even of properties outside the district.)

The riverfront project has been in the works for several years. But Olsen thinks not enough people now about it, and Novak suffers from misconceptions about it. For instance, she said Wednesday that neighbors along the project don’t know what’s in store for them, such as up to 50 trains a day on the Water Avenue line. The rail line carries two freights a day, at about 8 mph, and there are no plans for more.

The council/ARA got a briefing on the project Wednesday. Some of the work on Water Avenue, including changes at a couple of crossings on the track, will be done this year. Phase 2, including a new stage and most of the other work in Monteith park, is planned for 2023.

The project is expect to cost about $15 million. The authorized loan amount is bigger because, a consultant explained to the council, some banks may require a reserve amount. (hh)

Postscript: Councilman Olsen may be right that not enough people know about the riverfront effort and what it involves. If you want to learn more, check the city’s website, which is supposed to be augmented with more details. And also find the video of Wednesday’s ARA meeting, at which Chelsea McCann of Walker Macy, the consulting firm hired to design the project, gave an update with visuals. The visuals are not reproduced here because on my small screen, they can’t be read, and the Zoom presentation of McCann’s “shared screens” did not allow me to make copies.

40 responses to “Albany to borrow $16.9 million for riverfront”

  1. Barry N. Libbs says:

    50 trains, misconceptions? You Sir, are too polite. That sounds like Fake News.

  2. thomas earl cordier says:

    I applaud heroes Novak and Olsen for voting no. If the Council had voted the Mayor would not be allowed to vote w/o a tie. Future will show money wasted while public access really will see no benefit. Another “reimaging the future” hollow pipe dream.

  3. Rolland says:

    I’m not the least bit surprised Matilda Novak thinks there are 50 trains a day on the Water Ave Line. After watching the Work Session a few weeks ago when the council was working on the idea of selling the city property across Water Ave from Calapooia Brewing to a developer to build low income housing, Novak appeared to have little knowledge about Calapooia Brewing.

    Borrow money to beautify the waterfront when they say we don’t have enough for basic essentials the city needs is insane!

    • Bob Woods says:

      Borrowing is the smart move, because you don’t understand the uses and restrictions on how money can be spent under the law.

      The CARA money CANNOT be spent on anything except improving/enhancing specified areas in the city. That’s the law. It can’t be used to hire more cops, or cutting water rates, or filling potholes around town, etc.

      The money comes into the CARA program annually over time, not all at once, as a steady income stream. If you want to quit paying rent and buy a house, or buy a car, you take out a loan. That allows you to use the money for a house/car over time.

      A smaller amount each month and you end up with something you can use for for decades to come

      • Rolland says:

        Thanks for telling me what you think I don’t know. You missed the point. They force us to pay a tax on our utility bill for essentials yet want taxpayers to pay the cost to borrow millions for something that isn’t essential

        The point to make sure it’s clear is it’s insane to borrow money for non essential when the City can’t pay for essentials and live with in their income streams.

        • Bob Woods says:

          Thanks for the reply, but you’re the one missing the point.

          The people, through the City Council with strong support from the business community, decided over 20 years ago that these projects WERE essential. That they were needed to save a depressed and dying downtown, with historic buildings that in some cases were unsafe and subject to collapse.

          Anyone who remembers the late 1990’s and 2000’s remembers a downtown that virtually no one wanted to spend any time in. Now it’s vibrant and growing.

          It’s all for the better now.

    • StopTheGrowth says:

      “Beautifying” the waterfront and then building low income housing? Does anyone else see the train wreck with that idea? Low income area means no one will go near the area. Those living there will turn the riverfront into their own dumping ground. The river will become a polluted cesspool. The city will pay a fortune in upkeep (if they care to recognize it at all). Mark my words, this has failure written all over it.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Supremely happy I don’t live in your incredibly dystopian world…

        • StopTheGrowth says:

          Just look at other cities that ”wanted to grow” (i.e. Portland, Eugene, Salem). Crime, homelessness, filth. Right now we can’t even get city streets where you can see the lane lines because of all the crack seal on the surface. Let’s fix existing problems before we start creating new ones.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            Crack-seal is a very standard procedure. You want to take it up a notch? Your costs jump dramatically!
            See city web site: cityofalbany.net/streets

    • Pat essensa says:

      Well said

  4. Michael f quinn says:

    Once again you can pretty up the sidewalk along river and have confetti and balloon stations along the way. But what will you be looking at when you look at the river. A river that is non navigable and very much so non recreational We are so into turning our river into Corvallis s river front. Before putting all this money into albanys riverfront let’s do something about the river first

  5. Bill Loney says:

    This investment will greatly improve the attractiveness of the debris piles that accumulate along the river.

    And I hope they put in lots of viewing enhancements using a hostile architecture design.

    With $16m+ involved it’s critical that only the right kind of people feel welcome to gather at the muddy, debris-laden Willamette River.

  6. John Klock says:

    Money well borrowed for a variety of reasons. Let’s be honest, the greater Albany area is not a pretty city with Pacific Blvd and concrete and tasteless development in the four directions over the years. The only thing left is the few blocks downtown and the riverfront, that with careful nurturing could become beautiful like Portland, Eugene, and Corvallis. Yes, I said it, set your sights high Albany and create something for the future citizens of this city. Other reasons for borrowing are economic return…people will come walk, enjoy and spend. For those city council members who voted yes, I applaud you for your foresight.

  7. James Engel says:

    One thing for sure…our kids & grandkids will be paying the interest on this “Pig of a Project”. Mike, me thinks Mom Nature will have to do something about the river. Way, way too much $$$ to gentrify this sewer!

  8. Jeff Senders says:

    CARA “executives” have shown their hand. Nothing is going to slow down or prevent the Riverfront Project. These people have spent an inordinate amount of time and energy on it; their reputations are all wrapped up in it, and thousands in consulting fees have been paid toward this purpose.

    As the gold medal is the the Olympics, the Riverfront Project is to CARA.

    The decision has been made.

    So the next step is how to best carry it out.

    Hence the loan request.

  9. MarK says:

    And yet our roads continue to degrade with no effort to repair them.
    How about borrowing/spending money on something we can ALL benefit from.

  10. Bill Kapaun says:

    Exactly WHO implemented CARA?

    Exactly WHY can’t THEY “unimplement” CARA? Are they too stupid to know how? They keep using “It’s The Law” type arguments to justify this lunacy.

    Have we EVER seen a fiduciary accounting of the money ACTUALLY received from these alleged higher property tax returns?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      You already KNOW the answers – you simply don’t like/disagree with them…

      “WHO” The people you/I/voters elected to make those decisions on our behalf. Over the past 20 years – it has been a large number of different folks

      “WHY-THEY” The program will automatically unwind/stop when the debt is repaid through TIFF.

      “EVER (fiduciary accounting)” It appears in the budget statements and the “fiduciary” aspect of it is properly handled by our financial folks AND then we have our annual audits by an outside accounting firm.

      “It’s The Law” Yes it is – AND we do not control property taxes – that is determined by the County.

      But again, you already know this but just don’t like it…

  11. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    This appears to be a massive misallocation of public dollars.

    Is it a game changer for downtown? Only if it can be shown that the return on this investment is greater than maintaining the status quo.

    The previous CARA czars included ROI as a criterion for past projects. The current regime…not so much. ROI does not appear to be a factor worthy of evaluation.

    And given this is public land being improved it is highly doubtful any tax increment will be realized.

    Is this the highest and best use of scarce public money? The council could answer that question by referring this “investment” to Albany voters. But they know the probable answer…absolutely not.

  12. Sandy Sanders says:

    This is the worst time ever to borrow money. Wood costs are higher then ever, contractors are more expensive now. The USA is getting less tax money due to people being out of work because of covid. And then we have Go Brandon in charge. I think people want to line their pockets.

  13. Ray Kopczynski says:

    The “status quo” at the inception of the URD was a very dismal downtown and other areas. And it was deteriorating.

    Yes – ROI was looked at for those projects that it was part of. Infrastructure projects do not have such and they ARE a very integral part of the URD

    We seem to be generating TIFF every year, so whether or not this particular project will help do that; if more development occurs “there” because of it, time will tell…

    Since *multiple” Councils have already been elected to make these decisions, you are correct on your last sentence. That’s exactly why we have elections.

  14. centrist says:

    Some folks are absolutely positive that this a meritless dog of a project.
    I’m reminded of a Stooges schtick
    Larry and Curly are having a discussion. Larry says “I’m positive.” Moe retorts “Only fools are positive.”
    Larry asks “Are you sure?”
    Moe “I’m positive.”

  15. TOPTBOSS says:

    3% interest rate on $16.9
    Super tough in getting that rate.
    Good Luck.


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