HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

New sign evokes an era long ago

Written May 4th, 2017 by Hasso Hering

The name on the canopy almost invites you to come in and book a room, doesn’t it?

Albany has no more downtown hotels, as it did long ago when there were several, but now it does have a restored hotel canopy that brings back memories of that bygone era.

The awning above what used to be the Ferry Street lobby entrance of the former St. Francis Hotel has been repaired, put back up and adorned with lettering that mimics what used to be there when the hotel was open. That era ended no later than the 1960s, and the canopy was clad with sheet metal, obscuring the old name.

In November last year, a Portland & Western Railroad maintenance truck turning on to Ferry Street snagged the sign and mangled it. The railroad paid for repairs, and a few weeks ago the canopy was put back up. Monday was the first time I had noticed that the name had reappeared as well.

For decades, the ground floor of the former hotel has housed Pride Printing. I was out of town this week and asked the owner, Scott Thorn, to tell me by email about the restoration of the canopy and sign. His reply:

“Top use Form Contracting here in Albany did the awning. Gabe and Cody were great guys to deal with. Neil Zawicki from Hondo Creations out of Independence, OR, made a stencil from the original signs and hand painted it on as close as we could to match the old color. We think it turned out pretty cool. It was a long drawn-out process but I think it’s the nicest part of the building. For now anyway.”

The upper three floors of the building are vacant and deteriorating. It has long been the hope of people interested in downtown revival that the St. Francis could be remodeled and used for some kind of housing. But in March, after a detailed study of the economics involved, a group of students from the University of Oregon concluded that remodeling the upper floors as apartments and the ground floor as commercial space was not feasible from a business standpoint. The likely return would not justify the several million dollars that a conversion would cost.

So the new sign — the appearance rather than the reality of a residential building — will have to do until conditions change. (hh)



10 responses to “New sign evokes an era long ago”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “It has long been the hope of people interested in downtown revival that the St. Francis could be remodeled and used for some kind of housing.”

    While that may be true, there wasn’t enough support to have it done several years ago when there was an applicant and state/federal funding to make it happen… CARA voted it down 12-2 as I recall (I was one of the “2”)… The applicant moved on and later came back and used similar funding mechanisms to build the Old Salem Road complex where the deteriorated mobile home park stood…

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      The applicant was a non-profit, meaning the tax increment was virtually zero. And it’s still virtually zero on the Old Salem Road project.

      Tax Increment Financing, by definition, is a promise to the taxpayer and overlapping taxing districts that a CARA project will result in a positive tax increment.

      CARA knowingly took a tax generating property off the tax rolls and used it on a project that will return virtually nothing.

      That is fraud, plain and simple.

      • Shadle’s repeated charges of “fraud” are unfounded, and the repetition is tiresome. CARA projects are sometimes evaluated based on their likely effect on property taxes, but that is only one criterion. Blight reduction is another. Public purpose is another, such as providing affordable housing. The Woodland Square project replaced a dozen or so dilapidated trailers, where people lived in terrible conditions, with about 50 (if I remember right, without looking it up) well-built apartments. CARA did not participate because it increased taxes (although tax revenue did rise); it participated because the project was a huge benefit to people and the neighborhood. It was not a “fraud” at all. (hh)

        • Gordon L. Shadle says:

          And you being an apologist for CARA’s longstanding irresponsibility is equally tiresome.

          CARA made a choice to use Tax Increment Financing. TIF has a specific purpose and creates a specific responsibility on CARA to ‘invest’ public money in certain, limited ways.

          Your description above of the many motivations for spending is a classic description of a slush fund. When there is no limiting principle on how CARA raises and spends public money, a disservice to taxpayers and the overlapping tax districts is performed.

          You, and all the advocates of the CARA slush fund, should be ashamed.

  2. John Hartman says:

    A perfect project for CARA, what with the imminent arrival of the Merry-Go-Round. Overflow audiences have been hinted at. Cash Bovine in-waiting.

  3. Sidney Cooper says:

    I recall Cannery Row before the bones were picked clean – enough tourists to keep bills paid with local support for meals and drinks and a night out dancing while rusted old forms, some nautical, some not, languished in the shadows where smart money could not see. When the Packard-supported Monterey Bay Aquarium opened in 1985, everything changed. The area became too fast and too expensive almost overnight. Not saying that will happen here, but the dominoes could fall just right and change downtown yet again. One big one would be the Post office block coming open for new shops.

  4. Mike Martin says:

    I recall inspecting the fire extinguishers working for my father’s business, Valley Fire Control in the 1960’s. Very interesting place and as I remember the elevator was very rickety.

  5. hj.anony1 says:

    Perfect CARA project. Indeed! Sort of a horny thought though. Imagining a modern hotel in downtown. One that is thriving, ok, making a buck or two.

    There is a saying “Make America Great Again”. One man’s racist dog whistle but in this case a longing dream of a bustling 50s America. Right here in little old downtown Albany.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      I thought so too, but was too big of political hurdle to overcome. Now more problematic with more state/federal programs reducing scale…

 

 
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