A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA gets a look at riverfront designs

Written May 20th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

From her home, consultant Chelsea McCann explains one of the concepts for changing Monteith Riverpark Wednesday to a virtual, online meeting of Albany’s CARA Advisory Board.

Albany’s downtown urban renewal advisory board got a preview Wednesday of various ways in which the city’s riverfront could be dressed up. Whether any of it ever gets done is uncertain, but the board members generally liked what they saw.

In October 2019 the Albany Revitalization Agency hired consultants Walker Macy of Portland for up to $2.36 million to come up with designs and buildable plans for improving city-owned park land on the Willamette River along with 14 blocks of Water Avenue.

Wednesday the CARA board got a look at three concepts for enhancing Monteith Riverpark, two for adding all kinds of trappings to the Dave Clark Riverfront Path, and one for redoing Water Avenue along the railroad track.

The consultants plan to hold a virtual open house soon, inviting the public to review their ideas and make comments. Then, in July, they intend to come back and present their revised proposals to the CARA advisory board and to ARA, which is the council acting as the governing agency of the Central Albany Revitalization District.

Monteith Riverpark would undergo major changes under each of three concepts presented. Among many other changes, there might be new water features, play areas, a place for launching hand-carried boats, a new or moved concert stage, a cafe instead of the senior center, and terraced seating where now there’s a sloping lawn.

For the Clark path, the two design concepts suggest several new access points, art installations, a “pocket park,” and viewpoints for looking at the river. One concept envisions a privately operated beer garden outside the Deluxe Brewery adjacent to the path.

On Water Avenue, the designers expanded on the concepts developed by other consultants and adopted by the council in 2009. The west end would become a one-way “plaza street” where traffic could be temporarily banned so events could be held. The blocks east of the Lyon Street bridge would get sidewalks and lots of trees, among other things. On any blank walls facing the street there might be murals.

CARA board members had a few qualms. How could the city maintain more elaborate parks when it’s short-staffed already? What would vandals do to art displays? Should more access to the river be encouraged if it leads to children drowning? And so forth.

But overall, the city council members and others on the CARA board appeared to be impressed by many aspects of the various concepts.

CARA has said that besides finishing other projects, improving the riverfront will be its last major venture before it is dissolved.

As for me, who uses uses Water Avenue and the Clark path several times a week, I have reservations.

As a former industrial and warehouse district that is slowly changing on its own, the Albany riverfront works fine the way it is. Why turn it into something that, to me, looks artificial and contrived?

Why, for instance, terrace Monteith Park when thousands of summer concert visitors like to spread their blankets on the lawn?  On the Clark path, viewpoints and art displays that encourage people to stand around and gawk would make it useless as a route for bikes. (hh)

32 responses to “CARA gets a look at riverfront designs”

  1. Ron Green says:

    My main concern is the tendency to create corridors for people, bikes, vehicles – when a shared space is more flexible and can be much safer. The one immovable object in this picture is the railroad track, but as a low-speed event at midnight it presents no safety concern for people’s use of the waterfront.

    Bicycle movement makes much more sense on Water than on the Dave Clark path, where people ought to be allowed to stroll. Closing Water to through motor vehicle traffic will enhance every aspect of the entire riverfront, and as many cities around the country have done since the pandemic, it allows a generous space for active social distancing.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      When they got to the Waterfront Ave portion, they started out talking about the need for “calming” and safety, etc. – then showed the 1st portion as a single lane using pavers vs. asphalt! Whoa! That’s a Strong Towns approach! Loved it and told them so too. :-)

      However, they then digressed and went to 2-lanes/asphalt after the bridges.

      I and a couple of others told them we liked the concept of single lane. We’ll see. As these were simply a first-look and purely “conceptual,” there’s ample time for additional public input before plans are “finalized.”

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      I agree. I also object to always having so much prime real estate dedicated to the parking lots. If people want to come by car, they can park further and walk for 5 minutes. That’s good for businesses too.
      That ginormous space for people’s convenience could be a perfect area for outdoor dining or a beer garden.

  2. William Ayers says:

    Why indeed, do all this unless there’s some hidden motive not obvious to the casual observer. Agreed, it would look artificial and contrived…Please do not do this! I do not believe Albany residents want or need this in any way shape or form. The riverfront looks fine and works well just the way it is and as Hasso points out it “is slowly changing on its own” Frequently managers don’t feel they’re managing unless they change things – for the worse usually!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Then please do come to the next public meeting/outreach, when all that was presented to us will, also be available for viewing and comment as done a few months ago. These very preliminary and initial “conceptual” plans are just that. (They were already modified based on the previous public input.) It will be a year plus before any “earth” is turned over…

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    This can’t be stated loud enough…with this project CARA violates its public trust.

    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…”

    With this $22 million dollar project, CARA has rendered “blight” a useless concept. By doing so, CARA has put trust in the backseat and ego and politics up front. Shame on them.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    Obviously, this project is “just too big”!

  5. Parcella says:

    I am concerned about the chain link fencing around the new development, as this traps women using the Clark Path from being able to safely avoid contact with some of the transient people who live near or hang around the riverfront along the path. I use it almost daily, but am constantly having to leave the path and carry pepper spray to feel safe.

  6. Jim Engel says:

    So while the Albany budget is in a short fall. Unemployment is not like we’ve seen in decades. We’re not out of the woods on this COVID-19 pandemic. The roads in the central part of Albany are crumbling. The ARA and CARA just spend their time “fiddle away” on schemes to spend even more of our local tax dollars! That’s what you get when cliques get in that we can’t vote on to put us in debt that our children will probably have to pay off if ever. Sprucing up a river bank….. talk about an asinine idea. It will never be the Riviera people.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “That’s what you get when cliques get in that we can’t vote on…”

      Hmmm – I thought that’s what elections were for?

  7. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “On the Clark path, viewpoints and art displays that encourage people to stand around and gawk would make it useless as a route for bikes.”

    Hmmm… Do I detect a bit of grousing aka “I want my bike path with minimal people on it…?” As I recall from the presentation, the path was also going to be wider along its route, and since it’s being specifically designed to be for more, better, & safer use by all th public, the initial concepts looked quite intriguing!

  8. Patricia Eich says:

    I use the Dave Clark path for walking and running. I’m aware that bicycles use it too and pay attention. I rather like the area the way it is, a little more natural looking. Would the plan get rid of that community garden near Calapooia Brewery? Also with Deluxe and Calapooia don’t know why a beer garden is needed. Still disappointed that the Wheelhouse on the site of the old Buzz Saw restaurant never got a nice restaurant of its own. Also would the plan relocate the Senior Center.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Would the plan get rid of that community garden near Calapooia Brewery?”


      “Also with Deluxe and Calapooia don’t know why a beer garden is needed.”

      The “beer garden” and necessary parking adjacent would be/is on private property and is not in the scope of the project – just conceptualizing what might happen. I think it would be a great bit – and I don’t even drink.

      • Ginnyj says:

        Ray, Where are they planning to relocate the Senior Center?

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          As has been stated before, these are “conceptual” ideas in their preliminary stage. They showed 3 different possibility, 2 of which had the Senior Center being moved. It was brought by several folks that would a long-range project (way outside of the current scope of the Waterfront Avenue project) and could only happen down the road if/when the city could come up with a suitable site and the necessary funding for it. Could the existing property be better used by more of the community if it was successfully moved? I didn’t hear a single outright negative from anyone on the potential. All options are on the table.

          I’ve heard lots of rumors over the years, but I’ve never heard anyone state “the Senior Center wasn’t necessary…”!

  9. thomas cordier says:

    CARA has said that besides finishing other projects, improving the riverfront will be its last major venture before it is dissolved.?????
    I don’t think “dissolved” is a recognized legal word. CARA can’t be closed until all it’s debts are paid

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      My understanding is that CARA (as an advisory board and in its capacity) can be “dissolved.” You are correct that all debts have to paid back via TIF before the URD will be done.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      And I think CARA has made at least three zero interest 20 year loans that won’t mature until about 2036.

      Plus, I think CARA is still paying off the bonds issued in 2007. I assume these are 20 year bonds. The finance folks should know.

      What is the city’s plan for the riverfront project? Long term 20 year bonds?

      Perhaps Hasso can have the city manager provide an update on when CARA will be closed. It seems obvious that they won’t fulfill their original promise date of FY 2026-27

  10. Pat says:

    Relocate Senior Center? To where? Why? I assume there will be push back on that.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      The “to where” (and how to fund any relocation & building) is totally separate from this project. These concepts are just that. The “why” is that it could move the Sr. Center to a more centralized location for more folks to take advantage. I didn’t hear any push back about that part of the concept.

      • Pat says:

        Not sure how it could be defined as “separate” when it is listed as a relocation? More centrally located, clear path forward with money and a site would have to be addressed or you will hear from the silent seniors, would be my guess.

        • Ginnyj says:

          You are right about that Pat! It’s been circulating in the “rumor mill” for many, many years that the Senior Center wasn’t necessary and should possibly be revamped into a community center (which it essentially already is) or done away with all together.

          However, it has been and continues to be a focal point for area individuals 50+, and others to take classes, participate in seminars, to gather for socialization, to play cards, games and to play pool. The Albany Area Senior quilters meet weekly to sew quilts for sale and for donation to the Veterans Homes, to local area hospitals and other care facilities. The congregate meal-site and the Meals-On-Wheels program utilize the kitchen and part of the multipurpose room daily to provide folks with a noontime meal as well.

          Additionally, it is a beautiful location for weddings, parties and other activities which bring in much needed revenue.

          And finally, when and/or if the weekly concerts begin again, the Senior Center location helps the Parks & Recreation Staff immensely to have a focal point to use as the hub of activity for staff.

          I certainly hope all of these things will be taken into consideration when there is discussion about the future of this truly valuable facility and all of its programs.

          • David Bruin says:

            what intelligent input!!! Thanks! The Senior Center is a well kept building and sited very well for all the reasons listed above. Who in the world thinks it is a good idea to demolish a perfectly good building…..probably someone that spends tax dollars……

  11. CHEZZ says:

    Independence, Oregon – a must see travel destination for those who need to get a bigger picture of how a waterfront renovation and innovation can truly have such a positive impact for a community. I hope you take time to stroll around the area to take in the river views, including a long path for walkers/runners. There is even a dog park on the North end. The concert venue includes terraced seating on the riverfront as well as the farmer’s market. The adjacent charming downtown has many options for shopping and dining. They got it right!!

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      I visited it a couple weeks ago. I loved it, in particular the new dense housing by the river. Students at WOU will love living there.

  12. Dick Olsen says:

    Thank you Hasso for informing the public as to what CARA is discussing on improvements to Water Street and Monteith Park. We have now had two of the three public meetings planned for public in-put and approval of this project. A third meeting is planned for next Thursday, March 28. This meeting will again be held via computer and or cell-phone . The consultants will return in March 2021 with their final plans. The City Council will then decide whether or not to dump the last of CARA’s borrowing capacity, about 18 million, on Water Street and the Monteith Park project.

    I strongly object to holding these meetings essentially beyond the reach of the public. I know it is a result of the Corona virus, but non the less, the public should be present and able to weigh in on this multi million dollar project. Public distancing wont last forever and this project needs to be put off so more, rather than less discussion can take place in a public forum.

    I’m under the impression that this project will take the last of CARA’s borrowing capability for downtown projects. I’m told that there will be some left over moneys for this and that, but, that any tax increment income beyond this last borrowing must be spent on paying off the bonds sold to finance past projects. CARA will then end when all the bonds are paid off some time in the future.

    Some will welcome the end of CARA. However, I see several building projects, (St. Francis hotel, Wells Fargo bank, the cheese grater building and others ) that will add more to the health and well being of the Downtown core when they are restored and put to productive use. These should be done before dumping the remainder of CARA funds on Monteith Park and Water Street.

    I would strongly urge anyone with a building project that needs help to come to CARA with your proposal. The time is short.

    • Ginnyj says:

      Thank you Dick … I agree with you that I would hope this project could be stalled a bit so that those individuals who would like to have a say in person, could do so.

      The idea of a Zoom or other “public meeting” via the internet is meaningless if computers, cellphones and the internet are out of reach for those folks who would like to have a say about what they think should, or should not be done to their waterfront!


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