A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Landmarks says project is just too big

Written May 19th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Two years ago the Albany Landmarks Commission refused to allow the demolition of three dilapidated old houses at Fourth Avenue and Calapooia Street. On the Tuesday night the same commission turned down a plan for two new buildings on the site as too massive and tall.

Landmarks members Cathy LeSeur, Jolene Thomson, Keith Kolkow and Kerry McQuillin, the chair, voted to the effect that the two proposed three-story buildings would not be compatible with the Monteith Historic District as required by the city’s development code. The two newest members, Chad Robinson and Claudia Dean, voted against the motion to reject the application.

Designed by Albany architect Bill Ryals for property owners Mark and Tina Siegner, the two buildings are to have commercial spaces on the ground floor and four apartments each on the floors above.

Meeting remotely for the continuation of a public hearing that started May 6, the Landmarks members suffered through the reading of about 35 letters or emails, with slightly more than half opposed to the project. As before, most of the criticism dealt with the size and height of the two buildings, 40 feet tall at the peak and half a story taller than a couple of houses nearby.

The critics included several former members of the Landmarks board, including two whom the council did not reappoint after they helped reject the demolition request in 2018, a request the council approved last year on appeal. They also included, among many others, somebody who recently moved to the Monteith district from San Francisco, the Friends of Historic Albany, and an official from the State Historic Preservation Office.

If you’re up to lots of talk and agonizing, you can find an audio recording of the proceedings here. For more details on the rejected project, as well as renderings, check previous stories on hh-today.

As before, the Siegners may appeal to the city council. Ryals said he would sleep on it before deciding in the morning what to recommend. (hh)

Following Tuesday’s remote Landmarks meeting on a Chromebook.

10 responses to “Landmarks says project is just too big”

  1. Bob Woods says:

    “..somebody who recently moved to the Monteith district from San Francisco…” as opposed to “…somebody who lives in the Monteith district…”?

    It insinuates a pejorative, does it not? Both would be correct, but I would say it was not an even-handed choice.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    When the average Albany resident, unfamiliar with the ALC and preservation in general, reads this article and the history of this issue, they will probably conclude that the ALC is nothing more than a political movement addicted to its perceived power to control others.

    And they would be right.

    It’s time for a change. Are you listening city council?

  3. Pam says:

    How did the structure on the old ice plant corner ever pass scrutiny / disapproval?

  4. Bill Higby says:

    Well, the old Ice House fell into the river, the affordable senior housing project on the property but not in danger of falling into the river is a wonderful example of putting up a modern structure with architecture that fits in with downtown Albany. The Siegner’s proposal fits right in with what the Albany Community Development people planned for the neighborhood quite a few years ago.Commercial on the first floor, residential on the 2nd, mixed use. At that time the zoning made it impossible for anyone to purchase one of those old dilapitdated homes using conventional residential lending because they could not be rebuilt if substantially damaged.. they would have had to be rebuilt in complicance with the new mixed use zoning. The Planning Dept. wisely changed the zoning to allow single family residential once more and the result was redevelopement of some of those old buildings as Single Family Homes. The property that the Siegner’s purchased and will develop will add to the value of the neighborhood and add value to the historic homes that can be restored. The buildings that were removed were not salvageable.

  5. HowlingCicada says:

    Painful to admit, I’m more with Gordon than with Bob Woods this time.

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “If you’re up to lots of talk and agonizing,…

    Yes the group was having some mental “battles,” and several members were hard to come to grips with articulating and making a decision.

  7. David Ballard says:

    “It insinuates a pejorative, does it not? …”

    Not unless you are suggesting hailing from San Francisco is in some way contemptuous.

    My cousin lives in the area and you would be hard pressed to find a nicer person anywhere.

  8. Albany YIMBY says:

    I was in that meeting and I found it hilariously sad. Bunch of NIMBY wealthy homeowners showing their prejudice against people different than them moving into the neighborhood, and the possibility of having more business in Downtown. Dear Monteith neighbors like me: We live in a food desert, wouldn’t you love to walk to a store to do your daily shopping instead of driving every time?

    And the reasons, oh the reasons… it’s too tall, and so what? What about the church nearby? it doesn’t fit with the style… If Haussmann would have had Albany’s residents in 1800s Paris, the boulevards that make the city what it is now wouldn’t exist. Cities evolve and adjust to the needs of every era. We can’t cling to a golden past that is never coming back. It’s progress or dying, let’s keep those buildings worth of historical value and let’s repurpose those with good taste and useful function.

    Then we have the excuse of the loitering and the homeless, showing their classism. Is having working class people in apartments going to attract the homeless? How so? I would think that housing people is the opposite of having homeless, but I don’t know, I may be wrong.

    Finally the parking. I’m still to find the mention in the US Constitution that every American has the right to store their cars in the street for free. “Free” parking is not free and results on all of us paying the price of living in dysfunctional cities: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Akm7ik-H_7U For example, you know what does include foot traffic in downtown? it’s not having a parking for every business, but having LESS parking and far from the core, so shoppers and visitors can walk and see storefronts. A big parking lot on the side of downtown would be more effective improving business there than the current situation of 15-20 parking lots scattered all around.

    And I have to say that I didn’t even like the development. I think it was too conservative, but I’m picking my battles. Now the developer will appeal or scale down the project, maybe he will remove the business below and have just low residential, or maybe will remove units. In any case, another lost opportunity for Albany’s downtown.


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