A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany’s CARA will check out Independence

Written April 2nd, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The Indepencence Hotel, centerpiece of the town’s riverfront revival, on March 4.

On April 20 the Albany City Council has scheduled a visit down the river to Independence to tour its downtown redevelopment project, which looks like a resounding success with a centeriece of a gleaming riverside hotel.

The council will make the trip as the Albany Revitalization Agency or ARA, which governs CARA, Albany’s downtown renewal district. Council members and staff will tour downtown and have dinner at a riverside restaurant.

The point? “To see how they’ve used TIF to attract private investment,” City Manager Peter Troedsson said Friday in his weekly report to the council. TIF stands for tax increment financing, the method of setting aside a portion of property tax revenue to finance local improvements including partnerships with private enterprise.

I made a simular expedition to Independence in 2018. I walked around, took pictures, talked to officials at city hall and then the mayor, and reported on it here under the headline, “How Independence Got Its Hotel.”

Independence, with about 10,000 inhabitants now, formed its urban renewal disrict in 2001, the same year as Albany. Now it has a much-revived main street, a beautiful big riverside park, a huge complex of apartments and townhouses overlooking the Willamette, a similar project under construction in the same area, and the 74-room hotel. It’s called The Independence. For two adults, one night in one of its spiffy rooms costs $179, according to one online listing.

In Albany, CARA has just opened bids for the first phase of its riverfront redevelopment project. It calls for rebuilding 1,020 feet of Water Avenue and includes paving three intersections with concrete pavers.

The four bids range from a little above $2.4 million to a little more than $2.7 million.

Over its 21 years of laboring away month after month, CARA has been busy with lots of deals to beautify downtown. It has repaved streets and helped owners restore their buildings. The results are easy to see. First Avenue is hopping on many Thursday and Friday nights.

But as for pulling off a comprehensive physical upgrade along with a housing boom downtown, much smaller Independence has managed to get there faster in a spectacular way. (hh)

Typos pointed out by an anonymous commenter below have been fixed in this version.

15 responses to “Albany’s CARA will check out Independence”

  1. Lexi Kirkendall says:

    We used to live in Independence. They are very progressive for such a small city. Beautiful water front and all that you mentioned. Albany has the opportunity to do the same. We have lived in Albany 7 and look forward to a big improvement to the waterfront. Glad to see some movement .

  2. Matthew Prudell says:

    Cui bono? That’s the question. As long as there is long term benefits for the community and something in the contract for performance and upkeep of the hotel. I have seen what happens to beautiful water frontage over time.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    “Better late than never” should have been the header. Misspellings aside….see Fridday and expeditiom. Rushing to the web Hasso?

    Nevermind, this should give all you anti-Cara knucklepounders some pause.
    Re-boot for Albany’s version. 2.0 and stronger!!!

    Come back with new, fresh ideas.

  4. GregB says:

    What year did Independence start their urban renewal?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      In 2001. The original story had the wrong year because of a typo and because I was confused. Now I’ve looked up the city’s documents. It shows the urban renewal district was formed in 2001. Excerpt from the urban renewal plan on the Independence website: “The Urban Renewal Agency accepted this Report and Plan and submitted this Report and Plan to the City Council on September 11, 2001. This Urban Renewal Plan for the Independence Urban Renewal Area was approved by the City Council of the City of Independence on September 25, 2001 by Ordinance No. 1397.”

  5. Bob Woods says:

    Independence has done a great job. We go there for dinner a few times a year.

    They had a bonus in that there was a large piece of land adjacent to the river that was undeveloped, right by the heart of their small downtown. It’s what can happen with Public/Private partnerships can happen when the public is willing to support it.

    Don’t sell Albany short though. Back in 2000 Downtown was virtually dead. Now it works once more. The issue here is that it you want Albany to continue to revitalize itself, support the efforts of the busines community and the City Council/CARA.

    From Field of Dreams, a great baseball movie:
    “If you build it they will come.”

    It’s the dreamers that built America. Go for the dream, not stagnation.

    • Cheryl P says:

      It’s still dead. Unless I’m heading over the bridge, there is nothing downtown that I want or need.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Come down to the Carousel. I’ll give you a free ride on any Thurs, Fri, Sat, or Sun. when I’m there volunteering. It will put a smile on your face. :-)

      • Pat essensa says:

        You are so right

      • Dick Olsen says:

        You are so right. So much still needs doing downtown, but, City Staff insists that every penny of Urban Renewal money that remains ( about $20 million) be spent on a very questionable waterfront improvement project. This City Council (not me ) mumbles their assurance, so here we go.

  6. CHEZZ says:

    I love Independence downtown. It is a go to place. I was there yesterday having breakfast at the Pink House. Then, I casually strolled the downtown area, as Main Street is in full tree bloom – magnificant! The park goes all the way to the river, with amenities for concerts, gatherings, and play. This is a well thought out vibrant downtown. I hope Albany City Council/Cara takes in all of the possibilities for our dear Albany!

  7. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Entrepreneurial capitalism has become crony capitalism in Albany.

    And when CARA dangles millions of “free” money under the noses of profit seeking developers and business owners it becomes a stampede to city hall with hands out and palms up.

    Unearned money is a powerful drug.

    Thankfully the voters will have the final word on any future CARA.

    • Ray Kopzynski says:

      Notwithstanding your constant & palpable disdain for elected representation, if/when there’s another bona fide need to have one, Albany citizens will approve it.

      • thomas cordier says:

        I doubt Albany voters will ever approve. We were never allowed to vote on the first one and in spite of efforts to hype the benefits, lots of CARA money was spent on projects that will never be repaid by increased property taxes–example roads within the District

  8. birdieken says:

    All the CARA money around here just makes the rich richer with some extra benefit to justify the expense. The city could take that money and create a “Hooverville” on the vacant lot behind Arby’s for the homeless. We create refugee camps all over the world. Centralize the homeless and bring nonprofits and social services to the people and provide what they need. We’ve dealt with homelessness before and the answer wasn’t to put people into houses, it was to get people into jobs. Sprucing up the waterfront is one way to deny a problem we as a community will eventually have to face.


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