Cumberland: A community center already – Hasso Hering
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Cumberland: A community center already

Written February 16th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Joel Orton, vice president of Cumberland Community Events Center, talks to visitors inside the building Sunday.

The former Cumberland Presbyterian church looks good on the inside since volunteers spruced it up, and already it’s become a center for community events.

On Sunday I read that the city-owned historic building would be open in the afternoon, so I stopped in. For some time now volunteers have organized themselves as a nonprofit that wants to turn the place into the Cumberland Community Events Center. The idea is to buy the old church from the city for one dollar, move it a quarter-mile to a vacant lot off Santiam Road (the lot to be bought from the city at a price yet to be determined), and restore or remodel the church there as a community center.

Last September the city council agreed to develop a contract to that effect, but no contract has yet been negotiated let alone signed.

The Cumberland group estimates the project will cost more than a million dollars and take a few years to complete. They’re hoping for grants. So far they’ve raised about $50,000.

But as it turns out, this little old former church already serves a purpose where it sits. In the last few months, Christmas parties have been held there along with a ballet recital and other events drawing scores of people. More are scheduled: a “family fun night” on Feb. 22, a genealogy lecture on March 19, and an egg hunt on Easter. Every third Sunday of the month, there’s an open house from 2 to 4 p.m.

The church was built there, at the corner of Santiam Road and Main Street, in 1892. In the 1920s it was enlarged. We’ve had automobiles for a century, and for all that time people have found to way to attend events there. The shortage of parking immediately outside the back door has never been a pressing problem, and it’s hard to see this as a compelling reason to move the building now.

Local history is the reason for wanting to preserve the building. But as for structures, isn’t location a big part of their historic significance? What is left of a landmark’s historic importance or interest once it is uprooted and moved?

Why not rethink this project? Why not avoid the massive fundraising and other hassles involved in the current direction? Instead, since the council majority wants to spend no money on this, let the Cumberland group have the building, and let them concentrate their considerable talents on saving the building for the benefit of the neighborhood where it sits. (hh)

The former church building at 401 Main St. last September.


The current plan is to move the church to this site on Santiam Road. Albany Skatepark is on the right.

Posted in: Commentary

13 responses to “Cumberland: A community center already”

  1. Jim Engel says:

    This would be the only project I’d favor that CARA fund it.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Twenty years ago the city bought this property for $150,000.

    And the city is willing to sell it now for only $1?

    Taxpayers must really be pleased with this….no?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Well, the city would sell the building for a buck and let somebody else pay for moving it. Then, I gather, they could sell the land to at least partially reimburse the street fund.

  3. My Real Name John Hartman says:

    Certainly, the Cumberland Group should be allowed to purchase the building for the same amount or more than what the City paid when it purchased the property. Any less is an insult to Albany-area taxpayers and leaves the Council open to accusations of favoritism.

  4. Benjamin Roche says:

    They absolutely should leave the building where it sits, what a waste to relocate it just a few blocks down the road. The 50K they have raised would be better spent on the exterior to protect if from further deterioration from weather.

  5. Jeff Senders says:

    I volunteered to replace every broken or cracked stained glass window in the structure, and at no charge. But not until it was moved to its new location, which might cause additional damage.

    If the building stays put, the offer still stands.

  6. Karen Caswell says:

    Thank you for reviewing the Cumberland. It will be a true community center as it reflects the interests and needs of our Albany neighborhoods.
    As you know, there is always “the rest of the story”. More information is available here: . Or a board member will be happy to answer questions (contact info on the website).

  7. Cap says:

    I agree, Hasso. Leave the building where it is. And, yes, “My Real Name John Hartman,” the price should be the price the taxpayer’s paid for it originally.

  8. Jim Engel says:

    So what’s wrong with a “buck” purchase price? Does the term “non-profit group” mean anything to the above commentators? If the group did fork over the hefty price could they then sell the property it now sits on? Geez guys, have a civic heart! And, I covered my comments with a donation today. So there…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “If the group did fork over the hefty price could they then sell the property it now sits on?”

      My guess is that if the City couldn’t sell it (and they tried), the Cumberland group also wouldn’t be able to do so. (The parking for it is basically non-existent.) Notwithstanding the gnashing-of-teeth by some folks, moving it to a functional location definitely benefits the community. More to your point, once it was successfully moved, then I suppose there would be potential to do something with the very small plot of land…

  9. CHEZZ says:

    H E L L O!! The current location of the Cumberland is already serving the community. As a non-profit, this group is working hard to provide a usable space. That already is worth more than the original $150,000 that the City paid for it. The City needs to back this non-profit by allowing them to leave the church where it is. Cumberland group has shown due diligence on how they utilize their funds to create a functional space for the public. There doesn’t seem to be enough of these spaces that the public or businesses to hold meetings/seminars, etc. Come on City, look at the benefits the Cumberland has already shown you! The benefits outweigh the $150 by a long shot!!

  10. Katherine says:

    I thought the adjacent business was wanting to buy the land to expand . That is why the city wanted it moved. For a city known for it’s historic landmark buildings the city dropped the ball on this one by letting it fall into ruin during it’s ownership.

  11. centrist says:

    So, help me understand
    Did the City buy both land and improvements 20ish years ago as part of a transporation project?
    Given that the building has decayed over those 20 years, and given that several attempts to market the building were met with near-silence, what the City has is a pregnant cat. (Can’t sell it or give it away).
    Transferring ownership to another will likely come with a dowry paid to the receiver.


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