The Albany Revitalization Agency, also known as the city council, met Monday to hear about the collapse of the plan to have Gerding Builders redevelop the former downtown branch of the Wells Fargo Bank. Council members thanked Gerding for its efforts but offered no ideas on what to do next.
As reported here last week, the Gerding company found that because of massive inflation in construction costs it could not go through with turning the building into a four-story apartment house with commercial uses on the ground floor. This despite $2.9 million in promised financial aid from CARA, the downtown uban renewal district.
The city bought the empty bank in 2019 for $1.5 million, hoping to find someone to develop the property into something to help downtown thrive.
Nobody has remembered, or at least mentioned lately, that 11 years ago CARA paid for a downtown “retail refinement” plan that had a definite recommendation for what to do with the Wells Fargo branch.
The city should acquire the property and tear it down, the study said in 2011, and turn it into something called Albany Plaza.
The report called the five blocks of First Avenue from Calapooia Street to Lyon Street a “retail hot spot.” Of the proposed Albany Plaza, it said, “At the heart of the retail hot spot, this paved multi-use space supports activities all day and into the evening.”
At Monday’s council/ARA meeting, councilors agreed to call the CARA advisory board together to reconsider the Wells Fargo site. (The board is comprised of the council and seven others.) Matilda Novak pushed for an earlier date, but the majority agreed with the staff not to hold the meeting until mid-June.
Seth Sherry, the city’s economic development manager, said it would take him a while to come up with options for the board to consider.
This is not the only empty bank building downtown. The former U.S. Bank at Second and Ellsworth also is vacant, but at least the county still sends annual tax bills to the bank headquarters in Minneapolis. And the tax for this year, north of $20,000, is fully paid. (hh)