A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Deal proposed to save Cumberland Church

Written September 26th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The former church building at 401 Main St. on Monday afternoon, Sept. 23.

The 127-year-old building of the former Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Albany may be saved and moved after all — if conditions outlined by the city council Wednesday can be turned into an actual deal.

The council voted 5-1, with Bessie Johnson dissenting, to direct the city staff to negotiate a contract with the group of citizens trying to save the city-owned building. The group calls itself the Cumberland Community Event Center, because that’s what they’d like the building to become.

The contract would have the city give the building to the group by selling it for a dollar. And for a price yet to be negotiated, the city would sell the group the 1.6-acre site at Santiam Road and Pine Street, adjacent to the Albany Skatepark, where the structure would be moved.

The group would then be on its own, paying to move the building about 500 feet from its site at 401 Main, renovating it, and doing whatever is necessary to improve the site. The city then could sell the vacated former church site at Main and Santiam, which it bought for $150,000 in 2000 to accommodate a road reconstruction plan which later changed.

Teri Plagmann, an Albany lawyer, presented the group’s plans to the council. One key point was that it would cost the city nothing. A majority of council members have made it plain they want no city money spent on this effort. They also didn’t want the building moved to city-owned property, to avoid any future maintenance or operating expenses. Selling the site to the Cumberland group would meet that objection.

The group is working to become a tax-exempt nonprofit, which it expects to accomplish shortly. Its presentation to the council pledged that it would raise the money to complete the move and renovation of the building, which dates from 1892 and was enlarged in the 1920s. It would also have a business plan to operate and maintain the building and grounds as a self-sufficient event center.

The city bought the land at Santiam and Pine many years ago with donated money. City staff will check whether the gift placed any restrictions on selling the parcel.

What about timing? The Cumberland group’s plan shows the design being complete at the end of 2020, the move taking place early in 2021, and the renovation complete by early 2023.

It all depends on the proposed contract being agreed and then appoved by the council, and on the Cumberland group raising tons of money. So far they have about $40,000 in donated cash and pledges. On Wednesday, I heard no mention of the overall cost or a fundraising goal. (hh)

Posted in: Commentary, News

14 responses to “Deal proposed to save Cumberland Church”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    Why not just buy the land, build a new community center, one that will actually serve the needs of those requiring it versus serve the nostalgia needs of people who’ve a mistaken crumbling edifice for something other than another rickety structure that’s outlived it’s usefulness.

      • Hasso Hering says:

        That’s not quite true. My recollection is that the operator of a wedding chapel responded to one of the city’s requests for proposals years ago, but the council did not like what he intended to do with the property and rejected the offer.

        • J. Jacobson says:

          Seems well-suited for a wedding chapel. Good to see the Council clamping down on entrepreneurship with such gusto.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          The DH didn’t get their facts straight? Oh, that’s never happened before…

          • Hasso Hering says:

            That’s a bit unfair. The DH reported what the council was told, that there had been no takers. Not mentioned was that one of the would-be takers was considered unsuitable. That person, whose name I can’t remember, wrote emails complaining about his offer not being considered. But I can’t remember the episode ever appearing in the news.

          • Hasso Hering says:

            Upon further review, hh-today (that’s me) ran a story on Jan. 1, 2015, reporting that two offers had come in. One was from a religious outfit which the council eventually agreed could get the building for $111, but which flaked out on the deal. The other was from an investor in Tigard who offered to buy the property for about $16,000 and then pledged to spend more than $200,000 on renovating it for weddings and other events. That’s the offer the council declined to consider or pursue.

          • Hasso Hering says:

            And upon yet further review, the city council discussed the two offers at a work session on Feb. 9, 2015. The staff recommended the religious outfit named Good Samaritan Ministries on the grounds that it showed more promise for future success in restoring the building and using it for the community’s benefit. The council agreed to have the staff bring back more on this at a meeting later. (That’s the deal that later fell apart.) The other offer, by someone named Randy Durig, was was not pursued. Hard to see how anyone could now say there were no takers. Maybe they should say there were no other takers acceptable to the council.

  2. Teri Plagmann says:

    Building a new community center has been looked into. However, the cost of building a new community center will actually be higher than restoring and moving the church. We did not bring any of our budgets or cost estimates to the meeting because we were asked to give a status report. If that is something you are interested in looking at further, we definitely need and welcome additional community involvement in the process as we move forward

  3. C. Jeffery Evans says:

    The City must ensure that the project complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act especially if the City will be transferring City interests below fair market value.

  4. C. Jeffery Evans says:

    Before transferring anything of value below fair market value, the City must require compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

  5. Rachel La Brasseur says:

    Whoa, wait a minute, wasn’t mayor Kanopa on the Cumberland Community Events Center?

    • Joel Orton says:

      Mayor Kanopa is not associated with the Cumberland Community Event Center.
      She was involved in the City’s Historic Properties Ad Hoc Workgroup back in 2017 which explored various options for the church and developed the recommendation to relocate the building to the site at Santiam & Pine.

  6. Jeff Senders says:

    Be careful Hasso. Pointing out fake news from City Hall on this subject puts you in the position of being a “.”whistleblower.” And you know what happens to whistleblowers. The silver lining is you won’t be considered for any job at the White House.


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