A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On the riverfront, ‘an exciting change’

Written April 30th, 2016 by Hasso Hering
The Wheelhouse in a shot from last September.

The Wheelhouse in a shot from last September.

My riverfront beat is rarely quiet for long: Saturday night, it turns out, was the last time a scheduled wedding was held at Albany’s Wheelhouse because it no longer will serve as an “event center.” That’s the word from Janet Johnson, who along with her husband, Dave, owns the landmark building on Water Avenue.

“We will no longer have events at the Wheelhouse,” she told me in an email. “The Wheelhouse is a tenant building only after tonight.”

The fourth floor has been built out and there are two tenants on that floor, she reports. “We have Waddell and Reid and NMR (Nelson MacNeil Rayfield Trial Attorneys).” Waddell is a financial-services firm. “We have two offices left, one on the second floor and one on the fourth floor, available for new tenants. All other offices are full.” She lists the other tenants as Barrett Business Services, LoanStar,  Chamberlin House, and Dental Alliance Holdings (Oral Biotech).

I wonder about perhaps holding events such as weddings on the ground floor, still largely vacant and once envisioned as a riverfront restaurant in place of the old Buzz Saw, which closed years before the Wheelhouse rose on the site. Janet explains why that’s not happening: Weddings are booked a year in advance, “and we would rather have offices and the space available when someone wants it. Not too many people are willing to wait a year to begin their build-out, and I could never cancel on someone. That would kill me.”

On the ground floor, then: “We have an insurance agent wanting a small office, and we have one door off the main entrance of the building into the first floor, Suite 1100, and that would be perfect for him. We are going to build that area out and then leave the other area for someone, ideally a physical therapist, to come in and build something out themselves. That remaining area would have its own entrance, and access to the riverfront and it would be the last/only area that we will leave somewhat unfinished, as it has finished walls and a complete bathroom area.”

The Johnsons completed the Wheelhouse construction in 2010 at a reported cost of about $7 million. For those of us who now and then got a chance to attend a reception on the fourth floor with its stunning views, or even an open house at ground level, the end of such events may be an occasion for regret. But for the owners working for years to find long-term tenants, it obviously is, as Janet puts it, “an exciting change.” (hh)

3 responses to “On the riverfront, ‘an exciting change’”

  1. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Bravo to the Johnson’s for staying the course and continuing to believe in their vision!

  2. centrist says:

    I was impressed with the architecture of this building when I got to Albany. Nicely done!!!
    It takes a sound business plan, financial backing to ride through a startup, and intestinal fortitude to see things through.

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    A striking, bold building it is. Definitely growing on me. Allow me to echo the sentiment of sticking with it. Must have been tough from an emotional and financial front,

    Now let us change the traffic flow on Lyon St. Bridge so we can admire this rectangle cuboid from a distance. Maybe ease the traffic congestion in & around downtown at the same time. Tick two boxes!


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