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)