A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Bikman Building’s penthouse has new roof

Written October 11th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

You can see the new roof of the Bikman Building penthouse from the Ellsworth Street Bridge.

I parked my bike at the foot of the Ellsworth Street Bridge in Albany, ignored the decades-old “closed” sign you see down there, and walked up the eastern sidewalk, high enough to look back at a new sight.

The sight is the new roof on the penthouse on the almost century-old Bikman Building at the corner of Ellsworth and First.

For the last year or two, tarps had been spread across part of the roof. Then the whole roof was covered with plastic sheets. But now, the house has been completely reroofed. The job was finished about two weeks ago, and this week I finally took note.

I asked a dumb question: Why put on a new roof?

“We had some leaks,” Sid Stevens told me Tuesday. He and his wife, Susan, own the Bikman Building. Sid Stevens Jewelers occupies part of the ground floor.

Will they do anything else to the penthouse, like restoring it as a dwelling maybe?

“Not at this time,” Sid said.

It’s a question of costs and budgets, as I understand it.

The penthouse and the building it sits on have a history that sounds strangely relevant since Russia’s Putin launched his attack on neighboring Ukraine.

In short, Joseph Bikman was born near Kiev and learned the tailor’s trade. Fleeing Russian persecution of Jews, he made his way to America in 1910, when he was about 23. He sent for his wife, Anna, and together they and their growing family found success in Albany.

Among other things the Bikmans added the penthouse to the building they had constructed in the mid-1920s, and the family lived there, on top of Albany, for a time.

Six years ago I looked up what I could find of this history. You can read the result here.

A year ago, the Stevens obtained a preliminary estimate of what it would cost to complete renovation of the Bikman Building’s vacant second floor, creating nine apartments, and the penthouse. In an email to city officials, Sid said the estimate was $1.5 to $1.6 million, and he asked whether the downtown urban renewal district, CARA, would consider supporting such a project.

The answer was no. CARA said it was committed to spending its remaining funds, around $20 million, on renovating the riverfront and the former Wells Fargo branch and St. Francis Hotel.

Since then, plans to have a developer refurbish the Wells Fargo building proved uneconomical, and the city council voted to invite bids for the building’s demolition.

The Bikman penthouse had been damaged by renters and an arsonist, and years ago the county assessor’s office described it as unlivable. What will happen to it?

I don’t know. But for now, drivers coming down the south side of the Ellsworth Street bridge can admire its new roof. (hh)

And here’s a slighty closer look at the penthouse and its new roof.









8 responses to “Bikman Building’s penthouse has new roof”

  1. Pamela Feist says:

    Why don’t they do a go fund me to renovate the penthouse and put it in the local news. I’m sure Albany residents would be willing to donate something. Then they can have tours or rent it out for a good price. Just a thought. I mean they put a roof on it big deal .. NOW FINISH IT. And what about Albany Oregon Historical Society can’t they get involved?

  2. Maggie Schur says:

    Thank you for that update! And thank you to Sid and Susan Stevens!

  3. centrist says:

    Stevens and Son was a quality business in Loyd Center. Beyond my limited means as a teen, but quality quality quality.

  4. Birdieken says:

    CARA projects should be without any city conflict of interest. If the city wants to beautify the riverfront, why don’t they put up a vote for a bond for the money? To me the Bikman building say’s CARA all over it while the riverfront project seems like government run amuck.

  5. Ben Roche says:

    I have always wanted to know more about this unique residence. This story, particularly the comment “vacant second floor, creating nine apartments, and the penthouse” is not economically viable. I would be interesting to know the economics, how much is actual cost of labor and materials, and what are the soft costs of government blessing.

    Sightline did a study in 2018 and it was very interesting. We need more housing, and when perfectly great locations right in the heart of our city go unused, it should be an opportunity, not a liability.


  6. Mark T says:

    I want to rent that!

  7. Grace Purkey says:

    Would LOVE to see the penthouse and second floor of the building restored to livable housing for local residents. Its history is very precious and its architecture is charming. Having more people live downtown provides opportunities for local downtown business to stay alive, etc.
    Albany, let’s make this happen!!


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