HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Linn County may buy riverside Wheelhouse

Written October 17th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Tuesday evening at the Wheelhouse building on Water Avenue.

For years the Linn County commissioners have been trying to find more space in Albany for county government functions. Now they have their eyes on the Wheelhouse, the four-story office building overlooking the Willamette River.

A a few years ago the county offered to buy the former Wells Fargo bank downtown from the city of Albany, but the city rejected the offer in favor of other plans that eventually fell apart and ended in the demolition of the building.

County officials then planned to buy the former Community Branch of U.S. Bank but didn’t go through with the deal. Then, this year the county board approved the potential purchase of the First Evangelical Church at First Avenue and Pine Street, but again the deal did not go through.

On Tuesday, Linn County announced in an emailed news release that Commissioners Roger Nyquist, Sherrie Sprenger and Will Tucker had approved a conditional agreement to buy the Wheelhouse for about $6.25 million.

Unless the county finds issues that would make the deal inadvisable, the purchase will come back before the board for final approval.

In the news release, communications officer Alex Paul quoted county officials that buying the Wheelhouse would cost far less than building a similar structure or adding to the courthouse.

For example, Board Chairman Roger Nyquist: “This acquisition, if ultimately successful, represents a substantial value to the taxpayers of Linn County. It would cost us at least three times the purchase price to build a similar structure. I hope that this property is a key component in the solution to our ongoing court security challenges, while we attempt to give the best service possible to the general public.”

Dave and Janet Johnson, of Corvallis, built the Wheelhouse in 2008-9 on the site of the former Buzz Saw restaurant. They had hoped a new restaurant would operate on the ground floor, but that never came about. Their limited liability company, Ohanamula LLC, is listed as the owner.

The building has about 25,000 square feet of office space. The county assessor says its real market value is $5.3 million and its assessed value is $4.3 million.

Taxes on the property jumped about $10,000 from last year. This year’s tax bill is $85,804.

The building is in a mixed-use zoning district called “central business.” This allows a large number of residential, commercial and industrial uses, including “institutional” ones such as “community services.” Whether that covers local government, the county’s “due diligence” will no doubt find out.

Here’s more from Alex Paul’s news release:

“The purchase will free up space in the courthouse, although it is too soon to know which offices or departments may move. It will also solve an issue the commissioners have worked on for several years, providing increased security measures — such as metal detectors — especially for the third-floor Linn County District Courtrooms, while keeping other areas as barrier free to the general public as possible.

“The commissioners had researched building a new addition that would provide space for the District Attorney’s Office and secure access to the courts, but that project is estimated to cost about $30 million. The State of Oregon would provide up to $15 million, but only for a new courthouse, not an addition.

“Linn County will use ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds for the building’s purchase and any remodeling to meet county needs.”

Now, much of the ground floor looks vacant, and there’s a “for rent” sign on one of the doors. Presumably that won’t be needed if or when the county owns the place. (hh)

Here’s the directory of Wheelhouse tenants, as seen from the front door.

 

If the county buys the building, this sign might become outdated.

 

 





10 responses to “Linn County may buy riverside Wheelhouse”

  1. Cap B. says:

    Thanks for the news on The Wheelhouse, Hasso. Very interesting.
    I have written, more than once, that The Wheelhouse did not draw a big restaurant and has not been successful. Each time, Ray K. writes an answer to my comments saying “Hogwash,” and that it is extremely, extremely successful, and you always print it…doesn’t matter that he is wrong and just acting as the big cheerleader for CARA/Council’s past bad decisions.

    I hope this acquisition by the County goes through.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      I’ve retired that phrase. Balderdash is better verbiage…

    • John says:

      I like Ray.

      • Cap B. says:

        That’s great that you like Ray….hope the two of you are great friends.
        But, his arrogance in support of CARA gets old. Just saw in the D-H that the sale of Wheelhouse to Linn County is indeed in the works. The county in the recent past offered CARA 1 and a half million dollars for the bank building on 1st Street, but CARA tore it down instead and got something only over $300,000 for the empty lot. A county office was not “sexy” enough or boutique-y enough for Ray and his CARA bunch.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Also happy to report Wheelhouse was a recipient of CARA/ARA funding: #49 @ $107,750…

  2. Scott Bruslind says:

    I recall the Buzz Saw fondly, though could only afford it when Georgia-Pacific Resins was footing the bill at our Christmas parties. Some steaks, they had the meat.
    Wheelhouse ownership will transfer from Ohana (family) mula to lehulehu (people’s) mula.
    Linn County Commission- “no distressed, commercial, downtown Albany property left behind.” Leaving those of us in the hinterlands wondering if there’s not a bunch of Gucci-loafer lobbyists prowling Ellsworth like it was K Street.

    • Cap B. says:

      Love the “Gucci-loafered lobbyist” reference!! The Wheelhouse owners are going to sell anyway, it seems to me, from looking at the pictures Hasso took of the vacancy notices and also his observation that the ground floor is mostly vacant.. So, better the County buy it than spend 3 times as much to build a new building for The District Attorney’s Office and secure access to the courts.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    Look at the 3 of YOU! All ahh Buzz. SAW Miss that place.

    Otherwise we are ALL worse off!

  4. Dala Rouse says:

    Why doesn’t the county build on the lot across from City Hall and across from the Courthouse with offices and with parking below.

  5. Katherine says:

    Lively conversation.
    I love an engaged community.
    You are all knowledgeable in spite of your different options.
    A little history thrown in. Respectful also for the most part.
    That is in such short supply these days.

 

 
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