A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Next on the riverfront: Hiring consultants

Written July 5th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The Water Avenue rail line, shown on June 10, is one of the challenges to be faced in the planned redevelopment of Albany’s riverfront.

Albany is getting ready to pick a firm of consultants to design a remake of the city’s Willamette riverfront from Washington Street in the west to Main Street in the east.

Two Portland-based firms responded to the city’s request for proposals. And on June 20, purchasing coordinator Diane M. Murzynski told me today, Albany notified one of them, Walker/Macy, of the city’s intent to negotiate a contract with the company and settle on a fee for the work, along with many other details.

The other proposal came from a firm named Greenworks. Both companies have designed plans for lots of big waterfront developments and other projects. Walker/Macy’s cedits include the plans for the Corvallis Riverfront Commemorative Park and First Street Redevelopment some 20 years ago.

City officials scored both proposals according to a list of criteria, and Walker/Macy came out slightly ahead.

Economic development manager Seth Sherry is expected to go over all this with the advisory board of CARA, the Central Albany Revitalization Area, at one of its upcoming monthly meetings.

The final choice will be up to the city council, acting as the Albany Revitalization Agency, based on a contract recommended by the city staff and presumably the CARA board.

Among other things, the consultants will be expected to engineer a streetscape design for 14 blocks of Water Avenue, including the removal of overhead wires; involve the public; create “buildable plans” for 13 acres of parks and other city-owned land along the Willamette River; and create construction cost estimates.

The design work is to start this October and be finished by September 2020.

The ARA, which governs CARA and consists of the city council, has budgeted $2 million for “infrastructure projects” over the next two years.

Formed in 2001, the urban renewal district has spent about $34 million. According to its budget, it has $22 million of “spending authority” left before going out of business. How much of that will go toward the riverfront effort along Water Avenue will be left to decisions the council will make in the coming years. (hh)

And the view in the opposite direction, toward the Albany Senior Center and Monteith Riverpark.

19 responses to “Next on the riverfront: Hiring consultants”

  1. Bill says:

    City officials crying too poor to repair potholes but fast at work recruiting proposals to redesign the riverfront. Seems wrong…even rotten maybe…
    I can just imagine someone will be along shortly to explain it to us simple souls.
    I’m sure thers’s a valid reason.
    Different unrelated accounts or some such…makes perfect sense.
    Taxes going up much?

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Here’s what to do about potholes. The consultants play an important role.

      After much public input (consultants’ forte), divide Albany’s residential streets into two categories: those that get fixed and those that don’t. Commercial streets should all be fixed.

      The no-fix streets get: speed limit reduced to 15mph, stop signs realigned to face those streets, big planter tubs with flowers to fence-off the worst hazards or just to be ornery, and other traffic-calming measures the consultants come up with. Excessively-wide streets get half torn-up to make little parks or sell as small-house lots to help pay for fixing the other streets.

      The fixed streets get to continue the American Dream of unimpeded automobility.

      Of course, my plan is an insidious plot. It creates a “natural experiment.” My hypothesis is that property values on the no-fix streets will rise more than those on the fixed streets. If I’m proven correct, Albany (and the rest of the world) will be introduced to a better and more livable environment.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “I’m sure thers’s a valid reason. Different unrelated accounts or some such…makes perfect sense.”

      Correct – many government funding sources are not fungible…

      • Bill says:

        “Correct – many government funding sources are not fungible…”
        Translation – They get to use your money any way they want. Plenty of money available for elective vanity projects but for un-glamorous basic maintenance that’s needed to keep the city running….well now they have you over a barrel and they are forced to raise your taxes.
        “Patient” How much will it cost to get well doc? “Doctor” How much you got?

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “They get to use your money any way they want.”

          Wrong translation… If any municipality gets a state or federal grant (for anything), it will come with serious strings attached as to how & where the money can be applied.

  2. HowlingCicada says:

    The Corvallis Riverfront fountain has to be the biggest delight in town for little kids and their parents, on good summer days. Also, the climbing-rope sculpture-in-a-globe, but it’s new and I haven’t seen it often enough to know how big a hit it is with kids. It doesn’t need summer and running water and it’s strikingly beautiful. Otherwise, I like Albany’s existing riverfront better.

    Photos of both features:

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      There was serious political “heavy lifting” to get the Corvallis Riverfront completed. I don’t believe the Corvallis residents would even contemplate going backwards with that. The same will happen here in Albany.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    How much is in the budget for grants or no interest loans to wealthy developers? I believe CARA calls it “partnerships.”


    And CARA isn’t going away anytime soon. They still have $22,000,000 of debt they can hang around taxpayers necks, but the current budget is for what….$14-$15 million of spending?

    It appears CARA will be able to hang another $7-$8M of debt on the yoke after the riverfront “investment” happens.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “It appears CARA will be able to hang another $7-$8M of debt on the yoke after the riverfront “investment” happens.”

      Only if they lack the political will to fulfill their mission beforehand.

  4. J. Jacobson says:

    The best part about the CARA/ARA relationship is how little disagreement there is between the two august organizations. If one approves, the other seems to follow along mindlessly. It’s almost as though both entities see the world thru the same eyes. Oh…that’s right…they do. Sorry!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “The best part about the CARA/ARA relationship is how little disagreement there is between the two august organizations.”

      Obviously, you’ve never attended the meetings… At the end of the day, a vote is taken. Rarely is it unanimous.

      • J. Jacobson says:

        Yet, the pot of dough they’re allowed to take from continues to shrink. Hmm!

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          Of course it is shrinking. Such a thing called debt repayment comes to mind…

  5. Mike Quinn says:

    Stunning. Look what the street scapes cost with all the lights about a third of what their saying the 20 million debacle along the river front. And of course architects are going to push to get to do design work for a river front that does not have a 10 th of a chance of being like Corvallis. People need to watch this lipstick on a pig scenario. Anything to get a memorable bronze plaque with their names on it so the can tell their grandkids how they fleeced taxpayers money for nothing

  6. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It will probably cost CARA more than $22,000,000 to kick the railroad company off the riverfront.

    Maybe CARA can convince them to convert the line into a streetcar system like Portland has. And given Albany’s love of historic stuff, make it a horse drawn rail system. This would be the greenest use of the tracks.

    And it would increase employment given the need for pooper scoopers. Expect PETA protests, of course.

    If CARA can’t remove or re-purpose the rail line, this is a gigantic waste of public money.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Brilliant idea – re-purpose the rail line into a streetcar system. Well, more like a trolley shuttle (but no horses, please).

      What it could do:
      1 – Shift parking to the less-valuable periphery, including Bryant Park which is mostly unused during business hours.

      2 – Reduce the need for parking spaces in city-owned lots in what will be the most valuable part of downtown after riverfront revitalization. Those lots could be sold at a high price for better uses, also generating high tax revenue.

      3 – Be a big tourist draw – not as cute historical fluff, but as a convenient and delightful way of getting around the best parts of Albany.

      1 – For the west end, if it’s feasible to build a platform at the Bryant Park entrance, start there; if not, start at Calapooia St. and revisit the foot bridge idea. From Bryant Park, it’s 1.1 miles to Main St., 1.5 miles to Geary, 1.9 miles (and probably too far) to Davidson, where the track runs into the main line.

      2 – The line needs to be short enough so a single train running continuously has a tolerable wait time. Have a phone app or website with real-time updates, like the Corvallis website.

      3 – Consider having a bus backup at busy times if the trolley needs to be parked too long in a siding to make way for freight trains.

      How to make it work:
      1 – Make the trolley free; you want it to be used, unlike the “designed to fail” Albany Transit System – see the debate in
      but note my big error there – Corvallis does NOT have Sunday service, yet.

      2 – Charge for parking in those places where you want to discourage parking and traffic. Free parking and walk from Takena Landing Park (help for the much-discussed bridge congestion), as well as Bryant Park. Better living through smart economics = congestion pricing.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Considering the success the city has had over the years working with the Feds over the Queen St. rail crossing, the only fly in the ointment is getting the Feds to abandon the working rail line. Good luck.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      One final point … The biggest benefit to public transit, congestion pricing, and alternatives to car ownership and use — if you can make them work — is the enormous saving by not needing to build an extra road lane or an extra bridge.

      • Al Nyman says:

        Gee. The 8 billion spent on light rail in Portland has done wonders for traffic congestion and even better for drug dealing and homelessness.


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