A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

On Wells Fargo site, a setback for CARA

Written April 21st, 2022 by Hasso Hering

Leaning a bike against it is about all the former Wells Fargo branch downtown is good for these days.

Hopes of rebuilding the former Wells Fargo Bank branch in downtown Albany by adding three floors of apartments have been dashed by the rising cost of construction.

That’s the gist of the news the city council got today. It came in the form of a memo attached to the agenda of a scheduled Monday meeting of the Albany Revitalization Agency or ARA.

The ARA is composed of the council and governs the city’s urban renewal district or CARA.

The ARA agreed almost a year ago, in May 2021, to lend Gerding Builders $900,000 to buy the former Wells Fargo building and grant the company $2 million toward the cost of rebuilding it, a cost then estimated at $10 million or more.

In September, the ARA was told the project was still  being pursued.

In the memo for the upcoming ARA meeting, following the council’s work session on April 25, economic development manager Seth Sherry says Gerding can’t go ahead because by this spring construction costs for the project had risen nearly 30 percent. The project was already “thin” in terms of financial feasibility, and the cost increase made it uneconomical.

This is the second recent setback for the CARA urban renewal program. The ARA this month rejected all four bids for what was intended as the first phase of CARA’s riverfront redevelopment project, cancelling construction plans this year.

The city of Albany bought the Wells Fargo property for $1.5 million in January 2019 after the bank closed the branch the summer before. Officials hoped to find someone to buy and redevelop the place. But the city still owns it.

Linn County at one point offered to buy the former bank property as a possible location for county offices, but the city declined. Now it looks like things are back to square one. (hh)

10 responses to “On Wells Fargo site, a setback for CARA”

  1. TLH-ALB1 says:

    With those two projects off the table, how about takin’ the money and fixin’ the city’s roads. If I owned a home and paid taxes, I’d be very pissed having “Roman cobble roads” in front of my place. You sure as hell would hear about it EVERY city council meeting!!

  2. Al Nyman says:

    Somebody should figure out the return on investment when you buy a building for $1.5 million and then sell it for $900,000 and agree to lend money to add 3 floors for whatever purpose. You start with a $600,000 loss and you hope to make that up in future tax collections. You are now into the project for 3 years and I don’t believe Cara is paying taxes on their $1.5 million boondoggle which at 1% is 15,000 in lost taxes for the past 3 years plus all the other costs incurred such as maintenance, interest expense and any number of other expenses such as staff time wasted, consulting fees as the government does nothing without a consultants advice. Perhaps Bob Woods could enlighten me as to my stupidity.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Happy to, Al. You’re an ex CPA, right, and live only within the world of profit versus loss.

      CARA, and all of government, is not in the business of making profits. They are in the business of expending money to serve the interests of the entirety of the citizens of Albany.

      The specific charter of CARA is to change run-down, decrepit buildings, in areas that are economically dead or dying, into areas where the private sector can make investments that revitalize the declining areas and actually make a profit.

      Now that fact that you need an old ex-employee to explain that to you means that your ability to track what’s going on is seriously in jeopardy. This is not new stuff.

      Maybe you should get a medical check-up. Though it heartens me that you called on me to correct your misinformation. But at age 70, I’m out of date on what the employees of the City know. Unfortunately as city employees, they’re not in a professional position to take on the misinformation you seek to sow,

      • Al Nyman says:

        Thanks Bob. I knew I could count on you. I am old and decrepit but I would love to take a cognitive test with your president taking one at the same time.
        I am only going to discuss your second paragraph which defines the liberal problem. Cara, and all of government is in the business of losing taxpayer money on foolish schemes such as taking an old bank building and trying to turn a loser into a winner by throwing money at it. Even if you were able to put an apartment building in the spot it would do nothing for the downtown area. Has the low income apartment building a block away on 3rd street had any effect?
        Squandering taxpayer money seems to be a problem at all layers of government as the State just spent a $2.5 billion surplus on the homeless and other liberal buzz words and the help for the homeless in Albany has been the churches and they had to fight for one lone Porta Potti.

        • Bob Woods says:

          Sorry Al, but way too much right-wing BS.

          You folks had control, and like all conservatives you did everything you could to starve government. And you succeeded.

          You killed downtown Albany. You turned it into an economic wasteland. When I started working at the city in the late 90’s it was a disgrace. But the people got fed up with your approach and wanted help to change. And you know who was in there working to save things? The Chamber of Commerce. The business leaders who saw decline for the destruction it was. And they and the City Council got together and said it’s time for changes.

          So spare us your complaints. When things died, you DID NOTHING. You didn’t stand tall to try and fix things, you let downtown die. Why? Because you’re wedded to a philosophy of denial and hatred. Especially hatred of government in any form.

          • Al Nyman says:

            In left wing Oregon, completely controlled by the left wing liberals with totally biased media, with the exception of HH, you have the gall to blame it on conservatives. Jimmy Carter destroyed Albany and the Oregon economy when he shutdown the lumber industry so get your facts straight and put the blame where it belongs. How did that Silicon Forest Crap put out by you liberals workout. And I hate to point out the obvious, but the last Republican governor was before you started working for the state. At least have the you know what to stand up and take the responsibility for downtown Albany turning into a disaster, and I didn’t give permission for building the mall which is the real reason downtown failed.

  3. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    A setback?

    The city attorney has described CARA as a “lender of last resort.” Meaning it’s primary function is to provide liquidity assistance to profit seeking developers to reduce the risk of sketchy projects.

    In other words, “free”, unearned money to rich folks to guarantee a big profit.

    This type of behavior creates moral hazard. It transfers risk from the private sector to the public sector. And it is deeply unpopular with fiscally responsible taxpayers.

    But the city isn’t concerned with moral hazard. A set back? Heck no. This is an opportunity.

    So, using CARA-logic the answer here is….wait for it…..give Gerding more “free” unearned money.

    Give them enough so Gerding feels total protection against the consequences of taking on too much risk.

    Heck, give them the whole $10 million if they ask for it. According to the city attorney, this is CARA’s reason for being.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    Wells Fargo, Cumberland church etc. When is this City Council going to realize they are too stupid to be in the real estate business?

  5. Richard Vannice says:

    Maintenance on the building? I doubt it. The City owns the property; but, the windows probably haven’t been washed since they took ownership. It’s a bit like many other publicly owned buildings, wait until the needed repairs get too costly then just build a new building.


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