A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Now it’s done: Behold the ‘Opera House’

Written October 18th, 2023 by Hasso Hering

On Tuesday night I rode the bike to 222 E. First Ave. to take another look at the finished Opera House apartment building.

It has taken a while, but now a faded former apartment house on East First Avenue in Albany has been rebuilt as something completely different. Now it’s the Opera House, a building with century-old lines on the outside and modern, well equipped apartments inside the walls.

The name recalls Albany history. An opera house was built on the site in 1905. It closed in 1916 and was demolished in 1921. But the following year, an apartment house with eight units, the Spruce, was built in its place, reportedly with some of the materials from the demolished theater.

In 1943, in response to the wartime housing shortage, a couple of the upstairs apartments were split in two, and nine more were added in the basement along with common bathrooms, one each for women and men.

Glorietta Bay LLC, one of Albany developer Scott Lepman’s companies, bought the property in 2015, and Lepman and his team started planning how to improve it. Lepman’s oft-stated goal: Enable more people to live in central Albany as a way to bring downtown back to life.

At 222 East First, the effort now is complete. On Tuesday my wife and I got a tour of the place. Kip Alan, project coordinator for the Lepman organization, and Candace Ribera, the development coordinator, showed us one sparkling apartment after another on the two main flors, then two more under the roof on the third floor, and finally in the basement as well.

There are 18 apartments in all. Two on the first floor will be available through Air B&B, Alan told us. The others are studios or bigger, all with wi-fi and individual heating and AC units, as well as kitchens and bathrooms.

Some apartments have washers and dryers. For the others, there’s a laundry room in the basement.

Rental prices have not been figured out yet, we were told. Presumably they will be when Scott Lepman Company starts taking applications from would-be tenants.

On our tour, here is some of what we saw:

I asked Kip Alan, who coordinated the project, to stand in front of a display showing stages in the laborious reconstruction and remodeling.


Dozens of companies had a part in this multi-year rehabilitation project. They are listed in one of the hallways.


The kitchen in one of the upstairs units.


The builders restored the second-floor balcony facing First Avenue.


Each unit has, naturally, a modern bathroom.


The building had fireplaces, but they’ve been covered to avoid problems with open flames.


Check out the laundry room in the basement.


There’s bike parking behind the building. Tenants’ cars can be parked on a gravel lot next door. In line with a state law, the city no longer requires off-street car parking.




8 responses to “Now it’s done: Behold the ‘Opera House’”

  1. Julie Manning says:

    Thank you for your continued strong reporting on local issues — we appreciate you! Julie Manning

  2. CHEZZ says:

    Air BnB – nice touch for those walking the Downtown beat!

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Huge KUDOS! to Scott and his team for constantly working to make Albany better!

  4. Cheryl P says:

    “Rental prices have not been figured out yet, we were told.”

    And no doubt the Studio will start out at about a $1000 (w/o W/D). Sorry, not sorry, but the cost of housing is out of control! A small 2bdrm/1 bath duplex was just listed last week for $1400.

  5. James Engel says:

    Was this all done on Lepman’s dime or did CARA have a finger in it??

  6. Sidney Cooper says:

    I lived there after an Army tour for a couple of months in 1977. I remember it was a small basement apartment, apparently men only at that time. $80 a month and a bathroom at the end of the hall. Snuck my girlfriend in there, now my wife of 45 years. The owners found out and said we could stay if we got married. Nice people, but we weren’t ready then. I wonder if it still has that old familiar smell? There was an adult bookstore next door and lettuce opium in a head shop down the block for $4. Glad to see the seediness is getting gentrified.

  7. Dala Rouse says:

    I also got to tour the Opera House and was impressed with the work that was done. They did a great job and I am looking forward to seeing their other projects. At least they aren’t out of town or out of state developers. They seem to care about Albany.


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