A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Cumberland: A center in search of events?

Written September 19th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

On Sept. 18, the former Cumberland Church sits in the rain, waiting to be moved, repaired and added to.

Since at least February 2014, the Albany City Council has been trying to get rid of the historic Cumberland Church it bought for $150,000 20 years ago. Now this may finally get done, but if the plan works, it’s going to cost private donors around a million dollars or more.

The Cumberland Events Center, a private group centered on the east Willamette neighborhood, has been raising money for its dream of turning the 128-year-old building into a venue for, well, events.

On July 8, the council voted to give the group until Oct. 1 to exercise its option to buy one of four city-owned lots near the Albany Skatepark, at Santiam and Pine. That’s where the church would be moved, remodeled and expanded with additional space and parking.

It’s a quarter-mile down Santiam Road from 401 Main St., where the church was built in 1892 and remodeled in 1920. The group evidently raised the $69,000 the city wanted for that lot. It plans to lease the other three lots from the city, with details to be worked out.

Meanwhile, Cumberland Events Center has applied for a city permit to have the church moved. The Albany Landmarks Commission will hold a virtual, online hearing on the application at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 7.

Cumberland Events Center submitted a site plan for the new location:

What if Landmarks denies the request on the grounds that moving the old church and embellishing it with a modern addition would destroy its historic integrity. Wouldn’t happen, right? If it does, the council could reverse Landmarks on appeal.

The council wants the church gone from that lot so it can sell the vacant land. There was talk some time ago of Baldwin Construction next door being interested, but not if the church was still there.

The entire Cumberland project — the move, remodeling and site improvements at the new location — has been estimated to cost more than a million dollars. This is money that would have to be privately raised. Then the private group will face operational expenses year after year.

My question: What are the future paying events in search of a venue that doesn’t already exist? (hh)

12 responses to “Cumberland: A center in search of events?”

  1. Katherine says:

    I can think of several events that could be held there. Wedding receptions, birthday parties, large family gatherings, alumni parties, class reunions end even indoor fundraising rummage sales.

    • Ted says:

      And I’m sure that those events would be really excited to pay the prices required to keep this from becoming another taxpayer funded boondoggle.

  2. Richard Vannice says:

    I’m wondering how the plan move of the building will be made. From all appearances the steeple is much higher than the arms holding the lights at the railroad crossing so it, the steeple will probably have to be removed which will not be an inexpensive cost.
    The railroad won’t be willing to remove those lights and put them back at their expense either. SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO at least in my mind this is going to be very expensive for someone

  3. Dave A says:

    Weddings, community events, birthday parties….endless options. And if everyone had the it’ll never happen attitude things like the carousel would have never happened. Luckily we have extremely positive do’ers in our great town vs critics that are plentiful here.

  4. Scott Bruslind says:

    For inspiration on what is possible for the Cumberland Church, cum Events Center, check out the other non-profits supported through the Oregon Cultural Trust.
    See if there might be a model(s) somewhere already.

  5. Daveo says:

    Rather see this fixed than the Dave Clark and the park work,etc

  6. Lundy says:

    Hasso, what grade do you give the city for spending $150K on a property it ended up not needing?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      It was a dumb move, but it sounded reasonable at the time. The city bought the property because engineers thought reworking the streets to take care of a congestion problem would require that the church be torn down. Interestingly, none of the historical-preservation fans objected at the time. (At least I don’t remember that anyone did.) At the paper, maybe we should have paid more attention to why the decision was made to buy the building, and who made it, before the street design was completely thought out. But I don’t recall that we gave it a lot of coverage. So if we give the city an F for an unwise move, we have to give ourselves an F too, for failing in the watchdog function for which our readers paid us. (hh)

      • Lundy says:

        I don’t recall that we paid a lot of attention to it either. I will say — and this from a general non-fan of roundabouts — that the intersection by Pepper Tree, 7-Eleven, etc. is a lot better now that before the traffic circle.

  7. Bill Kapaun says:

    “The council wants the church gone from that lot so it can sell the vacant land.”

    Why not sell “as is” and let the new owners deal with it?

  8. Minicamp Weber says:

    I’ve been fundraising for a different community project now for about 4 years. (New ADA accessible hot tub for the community pool) There are always skeptics and naysayers. It takes a lot of will. Americans want everything NOW. But some things just take time. I see this building with a lot of potential that will only enhance and improve our beautiful town.

  9. Liz R says:

    I find it SHAMEFUL that a city priding itself on preservation and restoration of its historic buildings and promoting those properties for tourism dollars would let this building fall into such a state of disrepair over the past twenty years. The history of this church, the land, and its founders is the history of Albany, and left to our commissioners we would destroy it with little second thought.

    Thankfully, the insightful group Cumberland Community Events Center is willing to devote themselves to save this once beautiful building. To paraphrase Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

    I, for one, want the Cumberland Community Events Center to succeed beyond their greatest dreams.


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