A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA still coy about Fargo offers, but …

Written May 16th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The vacant and city-owned former Wells Fargo branch downtown on April 18, 2019.

Albany’s urban renewal agency continues to be shy about naming the parties that offered to acquire the former Wells Fargo branch in the heart of downtown. But it plans to decide on selling the building to one of them the next time the CARA advisory board meets, which is June 19.

On Wednesday, the board talked about this without ever naming either of the two groups that made presentations last month in a CARA meeting closed to the public. They also didn’t mention that Linn County, too, had offered to buy the property, for $1.5 million, the same price the city paid in February.

In the audience, though, were Marc Manley, who years ago refurbished the Flinn Block with CARA’s help, and Matt Bennett, the master chef and owner of the renowned Sybaris restaurant.

Manley announced last month, outside the closed meeting, without going into details, that he had plans for the former bank and would like the chance to redevelop it.

This Wednesday Bennett too, also outside the meeting, confirmed that his group had made an offer to acquire and redevelop the building, and that the offer still stands. Everybody around downtown already knew about it anyway, he said.

CARA continues to cloak in confidentiality the financial and other details of either proposal.

Seth Sherry, Albany’s economic development manager, told the CARA board Wednesday no other offers had come in since the property was listed last month. He also said he intended the decision on the sale to be made in public, on June 19, to be followed by negotiating a development agreement with the chosen buyer. The agreement would be in place before the sale closes.

He reminded the board that ARA — the Albany Revitalization Agency, meaning the city council, which governs CARA — is not bound to take the highest offer. Instead, the agency can consider the goals of urban renewal: curing blight, encouraging investment to boost the economy, and raising property values for tax purposes. He didn’t say so, but that would seem to exclude the county’s offer, which would keep the property off the tax rolls. The county wants the building to house the county clerk.

Meanwhile, CARA continues its interest in real estate. On Wednesday the board sent the public out of the room again to conduct another executive session for the purpose of discussing a deal. As provided by state law, a couple of reporters (the local paper and I) were allowed to stay and listen on the condition of not disclosing what was discussed. (hh)

10 responses to “CARA still coy about Fargo offers, but …”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    When an individual, a small group, or a company is granted favored status and is allowed to obtain financial gain from Albany, a city with a budget that is struggling to pay for basic services like police and fire, and pensions, and streets, and [fill in the blank]….something is broken.

    I fault less the crony. They are doing what comes natural to most humans in a capitalist system – seek financial benefit, even if its unearned.

    I fault more the Albany city government and the citizens who sanction, or are too apathetic about, this corruption.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      What “cronies”? Nobody has applied for or received any favors in this situation.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        CARA is not in the real estate business. It’s in the “blight” removal business. And in this transaction “blight” is anything CARA says it is.

        But I digress.

        In this situation city staff will negotiate sales and development contracts with the crony. It’s not just a real estate deal.

        CARA will mandate certain things as part of a development agreement including the carrots (favors) CARA is willing to grant to the crony. The crony, being motivated to receive unearned money, will gladly accept the mandates. The only negotiation is how much public money will CARA be willing to give the wealthy developer?

        So the questions are: (1) how much will CARA get for the real estate, and more importantly, (2) how much will CARA pay the crony to agree to CARA’s mandates? $1 million? $2 million?

        We’ll see after the contracts are finalized.

        The county has no chance in this deal, unless they sweeten the offer and become a profit-seeking developer willing to submit to CARA’s mandates. Not much chance of that happening.

        • centrist says:

          Have to throw a flag on your play.
          Using a conclusion to “prove” a premise violates the rules of logic

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            You’re being way too kind… GS advises on URDs with interpretations that are in his mind only. He always has and always will…

          • J. Jacobson says:

            What you condemn so rightfully is precisely what’s taking place in our nation’s capital. The Kommander-in-Chief operates in that vein all the time. Why should local pundits be expected to perform any better?

        • J. Jacobson says:

          Do you cast aspersion on CARA/ARA. How dare ya!

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        And one last thing to remember. CARA has declared themselves a “lender of last resort.” This means the wealthy crony, the recipient of the favors ($) identified in the development agreement, has no other means of obtaining the money needed to complete the project.

        Will CARA confirm that Bennett or Manley does not have the money, or is unable to obtain a loan from a private bank to complete the project? This question is on CARA’s checklist, but they oftentimes ignore it or accept the crony’s response without challenge.

        The taxpayer should not be a piggy bank, or a lending institution, for wealthy private developers.

        • centrist says:

          Second flag for violating the rules of logic.
          I’m reminded of a term, “proof texting”
          wherein a person posits a conclusion and then quotes unrelated Bible passages that appear to lead to the conclusion.

  2. J.Jacobson says:

    If the “crony” in Mr. Shadle’s screed is a restaurateur with a sterling reputation, a business-owner with an established brand that draws customers into Our Fair City to spend their money for a lengthy period, then this voter says YES to cronyism.

    Perhaps Mr. Shadle’s disgust with CARA stems from the reality that being a crony is not one of his strengths. Might I suggest he register for the newest educational opportunity out at Linn-Benton Community College.

    That august institution quickly understood the social significance of CARA, and now offers “Cronyism 101, 102 and 103. Over the 3-term sequence, students will learn:
    Crony Basics,
    Advanced Cronyism
    and, in the third classroom sequence, taught by selected and well-reimbursed CARA/ARA board members, students will discover the secrets of successful Crony behavior. Hurry…Fall classes are filling rapidly.


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