A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Can the Wells Fargo project be saved?

Written February 21st, 2020 by Hasso Hering

The former Wells Fargo branch as it looked in April 2019. It will look the same this coming April too.

The outlook for the redevelopment of the city-owned former Wells Fargo branch downtown looks uncertain now, but the city council has given the would-be developer three more months to see if the project is financially feasible.

Last July, in return for $25,000 in nonrefundable earnest money, the Albany Revitalization Agency gave BWG Partners a six-month option to buy the property for $1.5 million if a development agreement can be worked out.

On Wednesday one of the partners, Tom Gerding of Gerding Builders, appeared before the council, sitting as the ARA, to request the three-month extension. It now appears that other two partners, Matt Bennett of Sybaris and Buzz Wheeler of Coastal Farm and Ranch, are out of the venture and Gerding is trying to determine if the project should be pursued.

The partners had spent about $40,000 in design fees in addition to the earnest money, Gerding said, and it was a “challenge to make the project pencil.” He needs “additional time to see how we can make this work financially.”

One thing that seems sure is that if the project goes forward, it will need financial help from CARA, the downtown urban renewal program. Seth Sherry, who manages the program, told the council he would come up with the specifics of an aid package by next month or the month after that. Councilman Dick Olsen said he was very much in favor of CARA giving the project financial support.

Initially, the Sybaris restaurant was going to move to the ground floor of the remodeled building, and two or three floors of apartments would be added on top. But the restaurant idea proved unworkable because of the improvements that would be necessary. And Gerding said the cost of construction now is at a high-water mark and rents that could be charged had not kept up.

Last summer the council picked the BWG partnership over two other offers to buy the bank building. One was from Linn County, which wanted to move the clerk’s office there. The other was from Flinn Block owner Marc Manley, who now is working with the city on plans to redevelop the St. Francis Hotel building one block to the west. (hh)

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10 responses to “Can the Wells Fargo project be saved?”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Gerding has been in business for over 50 years. They are very successful. They have extensive financial resources and bank relationships.

    One of their core values is “Profits are maximized to reinvest in the companies and our people.”

    Good for them.

    Do they need a subsidy from Albany property taxpayers? Of course not.

    So why is an “aid package” and “financial support” from CARA even necessary? If the project doesn’t pencil out, asking Albany taxpayers to absorb this risk is immoral.

    If Gerding can’t make the project work financially, they should just maintain their self respect and walk away.

    Gerding shouldn’t sully its good name by becoming just another crony capitalist feeding at the CARA public trough.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Thus the out-of-state troll spake:
      “If the project doesn’t pencil out, asking Albany taxpayers to absorb this risk is immoral.”
      …Only in your warped definition of “immoral.”

      “Gerding shouldn’t sully its good name by becoming just another crony capitalist feeding at the CARA public trough.”
      …and because the Gerdings have done many good things for the community, they should be given the opportunity to do the same here because it may be a good way to allow the property to stay on the tax rolls vs. being a government building not on them… If that can happen, it will be a win-win for Albany taxpayers overall.

  2. avidreader69 says:

    I agree with Gordon. Why in the H does Gerding need money from CARA? This agency that skims the top off our tax money uses funds as they see fit. To me, this CARA needs to cease! They do not have our community’s highest needs in their interests.

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    “$25,000 in nonrefundable earnest money”

    A contract is a contract.
    Why are we supposed to believe anything this City Council says if they change contracts after the fact.
    Any of us “mere mortals” would forfeit the money.

  4. Jim Engel says:

    Have any of the CARA public trough projects proved really worthy? To vilify us nay sayer’s as poor sports is just balderdash! That CARA can saddle the local tax payers with a future monumental tax obligation is the “balderdash” in this equation!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Please explain how CARA “can saddle the local tax payers with a future monumental tax obligation…” (You might want to read how TIF actually functions.)

  5. Tim Siddiqui says:

    There certainly was an offer on the table without any preconditions and any subsidies.
    However do we want another day time only use large building in the core of down town.
    The visual of Gerding and partners plan was and is best use.

  6. MsJ says:

    While CARA has done some beneficial projects and started out with good intentions, it has devolved into a juggernaut of support to favored businesses/people with the bestowing of taxpayer money in the form of these asinine ‘forgivable loans’.

    CARA looks and smells like schemes that this country has become used to over the last 3 years of ‘leadership’ and shouldn’t be tolerated on moral & ethical grounds, but instead be impeached. Sadly, as in the current Federal government, there are just too many unconscionable players protecting each others’ back (some replete with Nixon tattoos), so CARA remains.

    If I owned a successful business for decades, I wouldn’t taint my name or reputation by accepting handouts as if I were homeless. No offense to the homeless, but I’m very offended by CARA & businesses who think they need charity money to make them viable under the guise it’s ‘best for everyone’, good for Albany, and “Hey, the law says I can accept these monetary gifts even though I’m financially fully capable”. It’s repellent and disgusting.

    The higher road, if you can recognize it, is that you were able to do the projects entirely on your own and not burden anyone/anything else while you reap a profit, especially if you consider yourself/company as a long-term success.

    I’m sure the usual die-hard CARA supporters/beneficiaries will attempt to justify all this by claiming it’s legal … well, so was slavery at one time, justify that.

  7. MsJ says:

    @ Ray

    Disrespectfully submitted comment by you as usual.
    The troll moniker you often accuse Shadle & others befits you more, in my opinion.

    Focus on the topic, not personal attacks, and you will become more creditable.
    Learned that in debate class many years ago.
    Not that I’m perfect, but I don’t constantly use this tactic as a crutch.

    Many other forums that I’ve been involved in would invoke disciplinary action for the incendiary comments you frequently post. Good thing for you that Hasso is very tolerant.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Gordon is an adult. He can respond if he so chooses. I have NO qualms whatsoever calling a spade-a-spade. And if you think calling some out who lives out of state, has zero skin in the game, and makes false claims, is “incendiary,” you do have thin skin! I stand by what I stated.


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