It’s encouraging to see the first houses going up in Edgewater Village, the planned development sandwiched between Albany’s Water Avenue and the Willamette River. It signals the continuing transformation of an old part of Albany that had been a wasteland for some time even before the former packing plant on this site burned in 2006.
When I first moved to Albany in the 1970s, the plant packed corn and beans, if memory serves. Then it closed, was restarted by a company from Tennessee and shut down again in short order. Eventually it was converted to freezing seafood, which smelled bad but had the socially redeeming value of providing employment. That business folded too, and the plant sat idle and empty for a while until it burned it down.
The ruins sat there for a while longer until the city eventually recruited a potential developer and paid to have the site cleaned up, which meant crushing the concrete and piling the rubble up in impressive peaks. Riding by on my bike, I used to see kids climb those hills and slide down again, so the place had at least some use.
The planning for housing on the six-acre property went through several iterations that took years. Last year the plans were set and streets put in. And now, Eureka! Vertical construction! Five houses are being built, and the plans call for 55 more to be completed in stages over the next several years. If nothing happens to derail it all, 60 households will be added to the Albany riverfront between the Lafayette Street railroad bridge and Main Street. (Albany’s CARA urban renewal program has invested $2.4 million in this multimillion-dollar venture, otherwise privately financed.)
The area is already more lively than it was. Across Water Avenue from Edgewater, the Calapooia brewery and restaurant brings in flocks of diners for lunch, dinner and special events. A short walk to the west, Deluxe Brewing is doing the same. Having more residents nearby should help those businesses, I would think, and perhaps encourage others to start up.
Across Main Street there’s the Willamette Community Garden, where people are tending their plots again this spring. And all along Edgewater’s northern edge there’s the Dave Clark Trail, which as near as I can tell is also getting a little more walkers now when the weather is fine and may get even more once the city carries out the current plan to install lights for evening use. (On the other side there’s the BNSF track, used by the slow freights of the Portland & Western.)
When you think about it — especially the walking distance to a couple of pleasant pubs that sell tasty craft brews — this sounds like a pretty nice place to live. (hh)