A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

For now, city’s stuck with an empty bank

Written April 25th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The future of this corner, the vacant and city-owned former Wells Fargo branch at First and Broadalbin, remains uncertain.

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)






10 responses to “For now, city’s stuck with an empty bank”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    CARA is “stuck” in a mess of their own making.

    They’ve been on this Wells Fargo high for the past 3 or 4 years. But clearly not enough “free” money was put on the table.

    And then the crony capitalists started bailing out.

    So now CARA is back to square one. The stinking carcass still hangs around the necks of property taxpayers.

    Perhaps the city council should take CARA out of the picture and instead directly negotiate with the county commissioners.

    The County won’t provide a roof top bar for councilors to drink at, but it may offer the best opportunity to redeem the city from this curse.

  2. Jennifer Dee says:

    I ‘d rather have that building turn into an apartment building, than cut down the trees at a park and make hub housing, or waste resources and make another building, at a park.

  3. Mac says:

    Would be interesting to see how much and how many plans and studies have been paid for just to be disregarded.

  4. centrist says:

    I’m an engineer, just not civil/structural. However, the Es at the industrial site shared insights that helped move things forward faster. Being oncall for out of speciality questions, that made for quieter times.
    With that disclaimer, it’s most likely that this building was built to support its own roof, not additional structure. Unless the site design uses the roof for a low-load patio, the building is a teardown.

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The building used to have four or five floors of offices and other spaces. The top floors were removed in the 1970s. The foundation and walls were built to hold a much bigger load.

  5. Kass says:

    What about turning it into a wedding venue or something of that sort to be rented out for big events. Could even build a roof too area since it use to bear more weight.

  6. Joe Friday says:

    Wonder if the higher construction costs, have any thing to do with the Democrats sales tax on businesses? The same business tax that killed Bi-Marts pharmacy’s.

  7. James Engel says:

    WOW…what a great place for an inner city “homeless” shelter. The Council could show their concern for those rag-a-muffins & give them refuge. OR, a great place for a winter Farmers Market. CARA’s chickens are coming home to roost. AND…we taxpayers are paying the interest!!!!….

  8. Rich Kellum says:

    Not to be snarky, but I voted against this thing, advocating for a sale to the County, they could always go to the County and ask them if they would buy it……. Hate to say I told you so……….. no I guess I do not hate to say it…

  9. Ronald says:

    Tear it down and use it for additional parking and EV chargers so people could walk around downtown to take care of business or enjoyment


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