A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA opts to demolish old Wells Fargo branch

Written June 15th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The former Wells Fargo branch in downtown Albany, vacant since 2018, on April 21, 2022.

The former Wells Fargo bank in downtown Albany is to be demolished and the site offered for sale to a developer who would build apartments.

That’s according to the city’s urban renewal (CARA) advisory group, which met Wednesday for the first time since October 2021.

The group consists of the city council and seven others. Some of the members attended the meeting at City Hall in person. Others took part remotely via Zoom.

Most of the members voted for a motion to recommend that the city obtain a cost estimate for the demolition and develop a timeline for the project, which the Albany Revitalization Agency (the city council) presumably will review at a future meeting,

Councilman Ray Kopczynski voted “no” because this is a waste of time, considering that the group already favors the demolition-and-sale option and getting an estimate of demolition costs is an obvious first step.

Wells Fargo closed the branch at First Avenue and Broadalbin Street in the summer of 2018. The city of Albany bought the property for $1.5 million in February 2019.

In May 2021, the ARA/council agreed to lend Gerding Builders $900,000 to buy the property and to grant the company $2 million toward the estimated $10 million it would cost to redevelop the vacant bank as a business and residential building. This April Gerding backed out because the project was no longer economical.

The staff told the CARA board that $2 million was still allocated to the Wells Fargo project. But including the loan that did not need to be made, you’d think the amount would be $2.9 million.

There was talk to the effect that whoever buys the site for development of downtown housing might want or get some CARA aid, so money set aside for Wells Fargo project might still be needed.

CARA projects typically move very slowly, partly because of the leisurely pace of one month between ARA meetings. So if and when the old bank will bite the dust, let alone when something new will be built on the site, is anybody’s guess. (hh)

23 responses to “CARA opts to demolish old Wells Fargo branch”

  1. Anon says:

    The County offered to buy the property for 1.5 million. Instead they are going to demolish what surely must be a historic building. This all makes financial and preservation sense to whom?

  2. Jonathan Christie says:

    I curious why Anon considers this building “historic.” Although the original bank building on this site was may have been historic, the one we see now is the result of significant remodeling (and removal of several top floors) circa 1973. Is 1970’s architecture now considered historic?

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Yes, tear down that monstrosity built in 1916 as a bank. History be damned.

    Yes, sell the land and force the buyer/developer to build “boutique” (translation: expensive) apartments. Gentrification is where the real money is. Affordable housing be damned.

    No, don’t get a demolition estimate or timeline. Those are for inferiors without superior knowledge. Common sense be damned.

    And best of all, yes, keep giving local crony capitalists millions of unearned money to fulfill the council’s “vision”. It’s only public money. Giving it away makes us feel warm and gooey inside. Economic distortions be damned.

    I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

  4. CHEZZ says:

    Are we ‘peddling’ backyards? The County needs the space, let them take it on.

  5. RKB says:

    So when the building is gone, the City will have paid over $2 Million for a patch of dirt to build on.

  6. Richard Vannice says:

    The historical value of this building is moot. Any such value disappeared when the City allowed the “remodel” from the stately old bank building (I believe it was two or three stories the first floor was a bank, First Interstate?).
    The US Bank on the corner of 2nd & Ellsworth is now empty. Is CARA going to purchase that too?

  7. MarK says:

    Maybe the council can use it as a scooter lot.

    • Robert L Bush says:

      Your right on there MarK…….they don’t need parking for gas guzzlers…..We’re all going GREEN…..everything will be mandated Electric……bring on the scooters and the scooter paths…!!

      • MarK says:

        Pass. I’ve never seen a scooter rider following the law (only ridden on sidewalks and never wearing helmets).

  8. Birdieken says:

    Cue the music, Benny Hill meets the Keystone Cops.

  9. Pat Headrick says:

    If they build apartments where is all the people going to park? Downtown is already limited on parking, if they can’t provide parking for all the tenants on their property it should not be allowed

  10. Al Nyman says:

    Exactly why wouldn’t Cara sell it to the county and get their money back instead of turning it into a complete fiasco with huge loss of money. Perhaps our resident experts Mr. Woods and Coach K can enlighten us as to how stupid we all are.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      1. It was/is the correct thing to do at this point in time.
      2. The ARA decision was *unanimous.*
      3. The DH has a more in-depth story on front page this morning: https://bit.ly/3QtCPMX
      4. When the recording of the meeting becomes available, it will appear here: https://www.cityofalbany.net/cara/cab You can follow along.
      5. When it is developed, it will be back on the county tax-rolls.

      • Al Nyman says:

        How long after it is on the tax rolls will the money spent on this project be recouped. I would guess a 100 years or more if you add in an interest factor. What part of ROI is so difficult for the Cara members? If you sell it to the county at least Cara gets their money back and I never thought the Wells Fargo bank was an eyesore no matter what the Cara people think.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        Well Ray- Since it takes the City Council members (and sometimes the mayor) to decide to make real estate transaction, how much has the Cumberland church, Wells Fargo building and God knows what else cost us? What % is your share?

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          I only get 93%. But in a couple of months, I’ll have enough saved for an extended trip to Bora Bora…

          • Bill Kapaun says:

            That was going to be my 4th question. I’m still waiting for you to answer the 1st.

          • Mike quinn says:

            Intelligence at its best. Everyone should go to a council meeting and voice their opinion. But wait a minute. Wait a minute. Did that last week on all the price increases , and still the council voted to increase everything on the agenda after saying how sorry they were to do it, one lone vote against the liberal agenda. Councilwoman Novak, which citizens of Albany should pay attention to because she showed great will and leadership in voting no to an agenda city staff could not totally prove they needed.

          • MarK says:

            Please make it “one way” only!

          • MarK says:

            All joking aside, coming from an elected official, I find your comment very distasteful, Ray. Maybe I’m just old fashioned.

  11. Marilyn Smith says:

    Reminder to Albany residents: the filing period to run for city council or mayor in the November 2022 general election is August 5-22. Three council seats and the mayor’s seat are open every even-numbered year. Details online after July 1 at http://www.cityofalbany.net/elections.

  12. Michael Dee says:

    Maybe somebody can buy it for a dollar, saving them a million and a half, and just put in partitions to make sales boothes to rent out? It could be an ongoing flea market and small business generator.

  13. Mark says:

    I say tear it down and put in a 2 or 3 story parking garage. That way there’s more parking downtown


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