A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany’s oldest church building: What’s next?

Written July 7th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Jeff Blackford, executive director of CHANCE, stands outside the charity’s headquarters on July 1.

What happens with Albany’s oldest remaining church building once CHANCE, the charity that owns it, moves to new quarters in the King Griff Building a couple of blocks to the west?

Jeff Blackford has big plans, or rather hopes. He’s the executive director of CHANCE, which provides addiction resources and housing assistance in Linn, Benton and Lincoln counties. And he envisions the building at 238 Third Ave. S.E. to be restored to the way it once looked, up to and including reconstruction of the 30-foot steeple.

Albany’s inventory of historic buildings lists the structure as the Methodist Episcopal Church and says it was built in 1875. It’s old, but it’s also sturdy and in good shape, which I discovered when I dropped by on July 1 to have a chat with Blackford.

CHANCE has its offices there but plans to move as soon as the renovation of the former Pizza King restaurant at Third and Lyon is complete.

I didn’t get all the details, but the idea is to renovate the old church as a possible event center, available for meetings and weddings and that sort of thing. Funds would have to be raised to accomplish that.

This brings to mind similar plans for the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church at 401 Main St. S.E. A community group has been working on plans to take that building off the city’s hands, buy city-owned land near the skatepark at Hackleman Park, then move the building there and remodel and expand it as an event center, with money to be privately raised.

The city council on Wednesday will consider giving the Cumberland group an option to buy the site where they want the event center. But before any option or sale can be made official, state law requires a public hearing to be held.

So in theory here’s a scenario: We have two historic church buildings in a potential race to see which can raise enough money to become an event center first. The CHANCE building might have a head start since it doesn’t have to be moved, and it’s already owned by the group that hopes to fix it up.

And putting that steeple back up — now that would be a crowning touch. (hh)

The former church at 238 Third S.E. might one day get its steeple back.

13 responses to “Albany’s oldest church building: What’s next?”

  1. James Engel says:

    We’ve contributed to the Cumberland group and so should CARA!!!! What a fitting example of historic Albany (renovated Cumberland Church) for people driving down Santiam to see while driving to go “downtown” to our efforts at keeping historical places for the future.

    • Dick Olsen says:

      Thank you James, I agree. Both buildings are in the CARA urban renewal district and would be great additions to Historic Albany.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Jim, I think it is great that you and a few other residents voluntarily give money to old churches. But why insist that CARA fund such a project?

      CARA claims its legitimacy by guaranteeing a tax increment (return on investment) that will more than offset the tax revenues they skim from the taxing districts. These are tax revenues that were supposed to go for specific governmental services.

      The hard question to answer is: If CARA money is used to polish up these old buildings, how much tax increment will be generated? Or, are the buildings controlled by private, non-profit entities? If that is the case the increment is negative and the payback period is infinity. Is that a wise use of taxpayer money?

      Again, I’m happy there are people like you who voluntarily donate money. But don’t use CARA to FORCE every other Albany property taxpayer into your cause.

      • hj.anony1 says:

        LOL Shadle…

        I’d drop an emoji instead if given the option.

      • Dick Olsen says:

        Gordon, If CARA monies were used to improve the two church buildings, it wouldn’t be yours or anybody else’s tax money. CARA borrows money, and then pays back the loans from the increased taxes that accrue from the increased value of the overall CARA district. This is the so-called “tax increment financing“ or TIF.

        The downtown CARA urban renewal district was set up to cure the urban blight that caused the downtown to be a drag on Albany’s overall economy. This blight was caused by deterioration of, or in many cases by the periodic, unfortunate, face-liftings of many of the older buildings. For instance, at present, the Saint Francis Hotel has about the same value for tax purposes as my 130 year old house on Broadalbin St. When renovated and put to full use, the Saint Francis will have a much higher taxable value and will be a major plus for our downtown and a source for paying back the CARA loans.

        While the historic church building on 3rd described in the above article wont add much value to the overall district, it will make the neighborhood much more attractive. Removal of the tinny front porch roof and replacement of the historic steeple will make it again an interesting land-mark. For instance, when renovation of the apartment house next door is completed, it will be a much more attractive place to be if the historic church on the corner again has its original appearance.

        • Rich Kellum says:

          You know Olsen, someone might believe you if not for the fact that they can see a line on their Property Tax Statement charging them for CARA. And of course now many of them know that tax increment financing first freezes the taxes that the City gets from properties within the CARA district starting in 2000 and diverts all the increase to CARA. That is tax money Mr Olsen.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            And the URD is doing exactly what it is designed to do. Nothing nefarious in intent or effect. We just need to get it done…

          • Rich Kellum says:

            Ray, I said nothing about nefarious, what I said is that CARA money is in fact tax money and while I am sure that you understand that, there seems to be a City Councilor who does not understand that even though it has been explained to him in detail at least 5 times that I know of. Of course he is the same one who doesn’t seem to understand that when a business gets all their money from their customers, and you raise the cost of doing business, it is the customer that actually pays..

  2. Russ Tripp says:

    The first church in Albany was the Methodist Church at 3rd & Ellsworth (key bank) but with the Civil War the southern sympathizers spllit off and built this building, the majority Methodists remained at the old site.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Interesting history.

      If this building was built by Albany folks who sympathized with white supremacy and backed a type of government whose principle was the perpetuation of slavery, then the building should be torn down, not rebuilt.

      • hj.anony1 says:

        Interior is good. But they need to upgrade to two drive through TELLER lanes.
        Tear it down fine. Fine by me. Such an inconvenience though NO SHADE. I’ll pass.
        Wait in line. Space and Grace…no?

        It’s a bank branch. Not a statue with slave ownership in its history.

        Double Tap No Shade. Good night.

        • HowlingCicada says:

          “””It’s a bank branch. Not a statue with slave ownership in its history.”””

          Darn, you beat me to it — that’s more-or-less what I thought while reading Gordon’s comment. I’m looking forward to his comments if/when the monument issue comes up. Hopefully it’ll be something worth discussing, unlike this one.

      • Debra Schmidtman says:

        You are not going to eradicate racism by tearing down buildings built by people you suppose were in favor of slavery. Institutionalized racism has been outlawed. What racism still exists in individual human hearts is a spiritual problem that is not going to be resolved by removing all reminders of the past.


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