A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA wants to buy a downtown property

Written October 21st, 2018 by Hasso Hering

The Wells Fargo property (as it looked in May) is for sale, and CARA has been urged to  buy it.

Albany’s urban renewal agency will try to buy a downtown property. They don’t want the public to know which one, but it sounds like the building and parking lot of the former Wells Fargo branch on First Avenue.

Last week, on Wednesday, downtown business owner Oscar Hult and Lise Grato, executive director of the Albany Downtown Association, urged the advisory board of the Central Albany Revitalization Area to acquire the Wells Fargo property.

On First between Broadalbin and Ferry, the property was identified in a 2011 CARA plan as a key element for redeveloping downtown. Now that the branch is closed and the real estate is for sale, the speakers said, CARA should seize the opportunity so it can control what happens there.

They also said the parking lot is important if the former St. Francis hotel building across Ferry Street is ever going to be renovated.

Later in its Wednesday meeting, the CARA advisory board went into an executive session closed to the public, as allowed by law, to talk about real estate transactions. The audio recording of the meeting was shut down. When it resumed, the board voted to recommend that the Albany Revitalization Agency “make an offer on the property.” Immediately following that, the city council in its capacity as the ARA voted unanimously to authorize economic development director Seth Sherry to do so.

If the CARA board talked about money, it was during the part of the meeting from which the public was barred. In its tax records, Linn County says the bank property has a market value of about $1.1 million.

The Wells Fargo site is not the only downtown property CARA, or ARA, or the city government,  basically all the same, has had it eyes on. There’s also the Eagles clubhouse at the foot of Broadalbin, identified in a CARA plan as future parking space.

The Eagles have listed their building for sale at $950,000. But the context of the public part of the discussion suggests it’s the bank property that was the object of the CARA action last week. (hh)

17 responses to “CARA wants to buy a downtown property”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    Albany, and by proximity, Linn County, has a reputation for fiscal chintziness. Locals enthusiastically tout the benefits of small government, even as they praise private profiteering as the Parthian shot for our pervasive problems.

    Yet all I read of Albany City government is their unconstrained lust for real estate. The mayor and the Council seem more akin to a 1980s Donald Tump, snapping-up downtown properties like protagonists in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Hardly what one would call fiscal conservatism.

    • Bob Woods says:

      “The mayor and the Council seem more akin to a 1980s Donald Tump,”

      That is the vilest piece of character assassination anyone could make. Disgusting. You should apologize.

      • Al Nyman says:

        They should be so lucky! Nothing CARA touches is remotely successful or increases the tax base.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Yet all I read of Albany City government is their unconstrained lust for real estate.”

      Please tell us exactly which properties the city has been “snapping up” aka your protagonists from The Bonfire of the Vanities?

  2. billh says:

    Buying the Wells Fargo site with the view towards its somewhat improbable use with a renovated St Francis Hotel is ridiculous. The St. Francis has no historic or architectural value. If the Wells Fargo property was to be purchased, that building could be torn down and a new Inn with architecture fitting our old downtown built, including a parking structure.
    The cost to renovate a building exceeds the cost to tear down and build new in most cases. A new Inn built to modern codes with a retro design makes way more sense, especially if it were more attractive than the St. Francis.
    I have generally supported CARA, but if I sense that there is any thought towards CARA buying or subsidizing a purchase of the St Francis I will join the voice against CARA. The other case against the St Francis is that Albany is not a destination City. Not a resort city, not really an event City. There are plenty of nice Inns in Albany that did not require government support.

  3. Barb Schoonover says:

    Funny I thought they once said that the key to revitalizing downtown was a carousel.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Yes – The Carousel has been one of the components of the long term plan. It has greatly helped. More yet to come!

    • AJ says:

      Your comment made me chuckle. Thank you.

    • Avid Reader 1 says:

      Yes, that is what they said over and over….the key to downtown prosperity is The Carousel. Guess they aren’t riding any of the Carousel animals to the bank with loads of money.

  4. chezz L says:

    St. Francis = housing for low income citizens.

    • J. Jacobson says:

      Indeed, if her honor and the cloistered council/URD wished to be of even greater benefit to society, then Council cum CARA ought turn it’s attention towards the persistent problem of homelessness [“Its a lifestyle”] rather than exist as a rubber-stamp for old-timey benefactors.

      Buy the St. Francis AND Wells Fargo. Re-imagine the area as an anchor of low-income housing mixed with a Parking Structure capable of handling what is certain to be an influx of Carousel junkies, loansharks and cast-off’s from Corvallis.

      With forethought – and a modicum of integrity – our City Mothers/Fathers should be able to influence the voting Members of CARA – keepers of the keys to the locks, – to vote aye on a plan to finally put human need ahead of simple greed.

    • Avid Reader 1 says:

      That would be good, but the Mayor and Council don’t want low-income housing downtown. They had that chance when a developer wanted to redo the St. Francis with apartments reasonably enough priced for college students and low-income people. The mayor and planning dept. and Council and CARA rejected that. They wanted a “boutique hotel.” Ha. As someone just said…Albany is not a tourist destination or an event city or a resort city…so a boutique hotel makes no sense at all.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        Spot on.

        Gentrification = boutique = upscale = expensive = hoi polloi not invited

        This is the vision of CARA. Taxpayers should be pissed.

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    If the St. Francis is the real objective behind buying the bank and its parking lot, then CARA owes it to the taxpayers to say so.

    You and some U of O students have already deemed a renovation of the St. Francis “unfeasible.” Given CARA’s past decision making, this probably makes CARA more motivated to pursue this pig.


  6. CHEZZ says:

    Complain and remain.

  7. Russell Hawke says:

    With the ease of access and available parking the Wells Fargo building would make a great artisan grocery store with healthy pre-made foods that you could pick up on the go. The addition of the drive-thru ideas are endless.


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