A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Linn County completes Wheelhouse purchase

Written December 18th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

The newest Linn County building: The Wheelhouse on the Willamette River on Dec. 18, 2023.

Linn County now owns the Wheelhouse, the four-story office building whose tenants on the north side have a commanding view of the Willamette River.

On my customary bike ride along the Albany riverfront, I stopped by the building Monday afternoon and waved my phone camera around a bit, as you can see here:

Later, Linn County Administrative Officer Darrin L. Lane confirmed that the county’s purchase of the building had closed Monday.

The county board of commissioners voted in October to buy the property for $6.25 million. They reasoned that the purchase was less expensive than building something of similar size or adding to the courthouse downtown. If you missed the story, look it up here.

Some office suites in the Wheelhouse are vacant. Others have tenants. (One of the tenants is Nelson, McNeil, Rayfield, the firm of trial lawyers in which Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield, D-Corvallis, is a partner.)

What happens next? Will the tenants have to move? Which county offices or services will move in, and is there any remodeling planned?

Lane replied by email:

“All existing leases and contracts have been assigned to Linn County. We don’t have any plans to ask tenants to vacate before their leases expire. Eventually the county will use the entire building for providing services to the public and for internal functions as needed. 

“The first floor is mostly open space so we will be remodeling before we move county functions to that part of the building. Other spaces will be evaluated as they become available for county use.

“There are a number of possibilities with respect to what services will be moved to the Wheelhouse building.  County staff will make recommendations to the Board of Commissioners and the Board will make the final decisions.”

Money for the purchase came from the county’s general grants fund, which Lane explained holds federal funds Linn County received under the American Rescue Plan Act known as ARPA.

The Biden administration proposed the act and Congress passed it in 2021 to prop up the economy beaten down by the Covid-19 epidemic.

As you may have surmised, my short bike rides around Albany take me past the Wheelhouse on the Dave Clark Path almost every day. So this won’t be my last story on this landmark building.

I’ll report on any changes as I see them taking place. (hh)

8 responses to “Linn County completes Wheelhouse purchase”

  1. Al Nyman says:

    Why don’t you look at rental income to see what the building would sell for on the private market so you can see how much Linn County overpaid for the building. The city, county, and CARA continue to overpay for failing private properties.

  2. Eldon says:

    Sounds like wise use of Linn County money.

  3. CHEZZ says:

    Perhaps that original idea of having some dining on the Willamette River may come to fruition. There will be many County employees working there, and there is no immediate dining opportunities for them. Hopefully, open to the employees and the citizenry!

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Good for the County.

    This beautiful building has been an economic failure since it was built in 2010 for about $7,000,000.

    CARA “invested” $750,000 of public money with thoughts of a property tax windfall enriching City Hall in future years.

    Here we are 13 years later and this beautiful building is off the tax roll and generating zero property tax revenue.

    But it will finally be fully utilized. Hooray for that.

    The irony here is that a portion of CARA’s “investment” came from tax revenue siphoned AWAY from the County.

    In 2023 that partial payment returns to the County in spades.

    Clearly, the County is better at “investing” than CARA.

    • Cap B. says:

      Hear, Hear! Wonderful comment….well written and well worded. I’ll continue to look for your comments on Hasso’s various blogposts.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Hilarious claptrap…

      Let’s see… Had the owner’s not sunk $6 million+ into their venture, and had not the perfect-storm of recession kicked just after, who knows what might have happened. I suppose you would rather have it stayed as the derelict restaurant with no development whatsoever…

      What DID happen is that the building was completed, multiple tenants have been there over the years, property taxes have been made, and now the County is taking hold of it. Absolutely nothing wrong with that process at all… We need much more of it.

      Just an aside for you about CARA… Albany has had more than one URD over the years, and there are currently 50+ Oregon jurisdictions which have seen the light and benefits of having one. I guess they too all have it wrong.

      • MarK says:

        Easy way to scam the citizenry into funding their pet projects. I’m not surprised more politicians have taken this route. Politicians are always looking for ways to have the majority pay for what the minority wants.

        • Matthew Calhoun says:

          Pretty sure the candidate filing forms are out there for anyone to fill out. Easier to throw inane pot shots behind a keyboard though I suppose.


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