A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA budget focuses on riverfront upgrade

Written May 21st, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Economic development manager Seth Sherry faces the Albany budget committee Tuesday at City Hall.

For Albany’s downtown urban renewal program known as CARA, the focus now is on launching and completing a redevelopment of the riverfront along Water Avenue, finishing some remaining projects, and then going out of business, possibly by 2025.

That’s the message I got from the budget meeting Tuesday night of ARA, the Albany Revitalization Agency, which governs CARA, the Central Albany Revitalization Area.

Seth Sherry, the city’s economic development manager and lead administrator of CARA, described the program before the committee approved a two-year ARA budget of roughly $14 million. The total includes about $7.4 million in property tax revenue over the two years, from July 2019 until June 2021.

The budget still faces a vote of the city council, which constitutes the ARA governing board. Councilor Rich Kellum raised the possibility of not levying all the taxes that the budget calls for, which would increase the revenue available for other the city programs and other local taxing districts. But for now he moved to approve the budget as proposed, which was done.

The budget sets aside $1 million a year for assorted partnerships plus $2 million total in reserves, available for any riverfront projects. It also plans to spend or keep in reserve about $3.5 million to repay loans used to finance CARA projects.

As for the riverfront, CARA has asked for proposals for a “waterfront redevelopment design” covering about 25 acres of park land and 14 blocks of Water Avenue, from Washington Street to Main Street. Proposals are due by 2 p.m. on June 4.

Sherry said that when CARA’s intention to move ahead with the riverfront became known, he immediately heard from property owners or developers interested in improving private property on and around Water Avenue. If they follow through, he expects a substantial boost in property tax receipts.

CARA plans to pick a design team by September. By June 2021 it hopes to have complete plans that can be put out to bid.

The request for proposals includes a map of city-owned parcels between Water Avenue and the Willamette River, starting with Monteith Riverpark on the west end. The rest are six smaller parcels ending with the Willamette Community Garden on the east end.

The city council launched CARA in 2001 with the expectation that it would be done in 2025.  The way Sherry sounded to me, he seems to think it can still be wrapped up by that year. (hh)

The city days this map shows city-owned parcels along the Willamette River.


12 responses to “CARA budget focuses on riverfront upgrade”

  1. Fred says:

    That’s it, just ignore the fact that you are laying off public safety employees and continue down the merry path of downtown beautification.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It is only right and proper that city taxpayers have final approval over city debt that is secured with future property taxes.

    What’s that you say?

    CARA can put Albany taxpayers into debt without getting approval?

    CARA can siphon money away from other taxing districts providing essential services (e.g. Linn County) to pay CARA’s debt without getting approval?

    Given CARA will siphon about $1,000,000 from the city budget this year, is it any wonder that essential services like police, fire, parks, and libraries are starving for funds?

    And thank goodness any future “urban renewal plan” must first get voter approval. Voters put this requirement in the city charter several years ago in direct response to CARA abuses.

    CARA “going out of business” can’t happen quick enough for Albany taxpayers.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Let’s talk about “blight” for a minute in the context of the planned spending plan.

    CARA’s primary purpose is the removal of “blight.”

    State law (ORS 457) is clear on what constitutes a “blighted area.” It is an area with certain characteristics that cause it to be “detrimental to the safety, health or welfare of the community.”

    The state has declared that “such areas cause an increase in and spread of disease and crime and constitute a menace to the health, safety, morals and welfare of the residents of the state…”

    In other words, a “blighted area” is a slum. By definition this means CARA considers the core downtown area and waterfront a slum.

    Now bounce this knowledge against how CARA wants to “redevelop” the waterfront area. Will spending millions decrease the spread of disease? Will handouts to wealthy cronies alleviate crime or improve morals and welfare of Albany residents? Of course not.

    CARA has rendered “blight” a useless concept. When anything can be called “blighted” it is impossible to distinguish between worthy and unworthy projects. Allowing CARA to apply arbitrary judgment only invites controversy and erodes public confidence.

    And controversy and eroding confidence motivated voters several years ago to declare that they want the final say over future urban renewal plans. That is the legacy of CARA.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      The whole thing’s a simple linguistic misunderstanding. Wherever you see the term “blight,” substitute the ARA/CARA preferred term, “bloat.”

  4. centrist says:

    So, pretty much any story mentioning CARA triggers a predictable response from GS, and often a response from TC.
    Wondering how they’ll do when CARA folds the tent and closes the books.
    (Random thought while doing yardwork.)

    • Ken Simpson says:

      centrist – please include Mary Brock with GS and TC … she gets her matching opinion about CARA published regularly in the hard copy of the D-H.

  5. Albany YIMBY says:

    Although I think that making Albany to be open to its riverfront like similar German cities (Heidelberg for example) is always positive, the problem with downtown is not making it pretty but increasing the number of people that actually lives downtown. That’s how you make a thriving downtown.

    You achieve that by allowing mixed zoning, limiting traffic, removing empty parking lots, and, in general, densifying a very sparse downtown. How many one floor buildings are there downtown that could accommodate 3 more floors above? Why do we need a parking lot per business when we can have a common downtown parking space? We can liberate tens of acres doing that for more housing and commercial.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      I agree completely. Downtown is the place for higher density. Cities can be designed for cars or for people. The two don’t mix very well. More people -> more foot traffic -> more incentive to locate business downtown -> more people going downtown -> greater prosperity.

      Non-consumer businesses which don’t depend on foot traffic would naturally gravitate toward the outer fringes where lower land values would allow them to keep their own parking lots.

      With higher density in the downtown core, building a foot bridge to Bryant Park could be justified for parking there.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      The objectives in the CARA Plan include projects for housing development and increased density. But CARA has been reluctant to partner on these types of projects in the core downtown area.

      For example, in 2011 CARA denied a proposal from Innovative Housing Inc. to renovate the St. Francis for “workforce housing.”

      CARA wants “boutique”, not “workforce” housing. CARA is more about gentrification than urban renewal.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        I was on the very short-end of the vote to deny the application to renovate the St Francis Hotel. However, the same company moved their project to Old Salem Road and we now have some excellent “workforce housing.” Which, by the way, also cured a huge blighted area.

  6. JD says:

    I hope they don’t put money into areas that are known to be flood zones.

  7. maggie says:

    Enough with the Taxes! Reckless spending…. Where is the common sense?


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