HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

CARA’s riverfront project survives on 5-2 vote

Written May 11th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The stage in Monteith Riverpark on Sunday (complete with a guest). The stage to be replaced as part of Albany’s Waterfront Project.

Albany is plowing ahead with its $16.2 million project to upgrade the Willamette riverfront, but it’s not a unanimous decision.

Acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency in charge of the CARA urban renewal district, the city council voted 5-2 late Wednesday to use an alternative contracting method for the project.

Councilors Matilda Novak and Dick Olsen voted no. It’s not the contracting method they object to, though Novak didn’t like it when the council last month rejected bids for the first part of the project including the low bid from an Albany contractor, Pat Ryan.

What Olsen and Novak object to is spending that kind of money — $15 million of the budget comes from CARA — on a project whose value they question, leaving no money for other improvements downtown.

The riverfront project calls for changes in Monteith Riverpark, including a new stage; sidewalks and other amenities along Water Avenue from the park to the railroad trestle at Lafayette Street; and some work along the Dave Clark Riverfront Path.

Also Wednesday night, the ARA/council got a request — not mentioned on the agenda — from Sybaris restaurant owner Matt Bennett and his architect, Bill Ryals, for an $800,000 loan to help the restaurant restore the historic Oregon Electric depot downtown, which the Bennetts are in the final stages of buying so they can move the restaurant there.

Olsen and Novak were ready to approve a loan, but the mayor and other councilors refused on the grounds they wanted to know more about CARA’s so-far failed effort to do something with the former Wells Fargo branch, for which the city paid $1.5 million. They invited Bennett to come back later.

Gerding Builders, and before that a consortium that included Bennett and others, pulled out of CARA-supported bids to acquire the old bank and rebuild, enlarge and repurpose it. They found it was not economical.

The Wells Fargo project looks dead, but CARA staffer Seth Sherry said it’s not. The CARA advisory board is supposed to meet in June to consider what the city might do with this building.

On the waterfront project, the city will now request proposals for a construction manager who will oversee the project, review the plans, and then take bids from contractors to build the individual parts. This “construction manager/general contractor” method was described as better suited to a complicated project like this.

This approach will probably push the start of construction into next year. When the project will be finished, or how much of it can be accomplished given the galloping inflation in construction, no one can say.

There has been a vague talk that the work will encourage private investment along the riverfront. But I haven’t heard of any concrete plans, let alone commitments. And given the existing uses along Water Avenue, plus the railroad track between the river and the street, it’s hard to see what kind of private redevelopment could take place. (hh)





8 responses to “CARA’s riverfront project survives on 5-2 vote”

  1. Bill Kapaun says:

    Isn’t Bill Ryals on one of the “commissions” that approves projects that he has submitted on multiple occasions? You know, severe conflict of interest?

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Bill, Bill Ryals has recused himself on numerous occasions when he has been the architect for the project. There were times in the past when he was the only person who had his head screwed on straight in the group.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    And the tax increment that would flow to the other taxing districts will be zero because this $15,000,000 “investment” is being made to improve non-tax generating city-owned property.

    So when a murder happens in the new, improved city park, the county medical examiner & coroner, the county district attorney, the county jail, and the county courts will all incur expenses.

    And none will benefit from this “investment” because the tax increment will be ZERO.

    CARA robs Peter (the other taxing districts) to pay Paul (City of Albany).

    All done without voter approval or approval of the other taxing districts.

    City councilors are laughing all the way to the bank.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      You keep flogging that very long-dead horse (and now from afar). Albany has/is and will be much better for having & completed the URD, regardless of your incessant whining…

  3. Bill Kapaun says:

    Councilors Matilda Novak is starting to show her true colors. IF they don’t spend the money on the block her business is located on, then she’ll have “problems” with it. Didn’t she already get CARA money to move her restaurant downtown?

  4. Roy Jackson says:

    The stage and sides are fine nothing needs to be done. Put the money into the streets that tears up your car and the railroad crossing on Queen St. Quit wasting money on things that we don’t want or need.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Have you personally gone underneath and overhead and inspected the footings and lumber conditions of the entire structure?

 

 
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