A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Restoration grant request runs into trouble

Written July 15th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Inside the Young Building during cleanup on May 23, before the restoration got under way.

A request for a $259,000 grant toward restoring the historic S.E. Young & Son Building downtown ran into trouble Wednesday when four Albany council members said they could not or would not approve.

Four is a majority on the city council, which acts as the Albany Revitalization Agency, the board that governs the CARA urban renewal district.

Oscar and Tamalynne Hult bought the former department store at Broadalbin and Second this spring and are restoring it. They plan to move their clothing store, The Natty Dresser, to the ground floor, convert the basement to a storage business, use the mezzanine for their garment business, and develop other uses on the second floor. They arranged for private financing for most of the $1.4 million project and are asking CARA for the grant to pay for a new elevator because the old freight elevator was condemned in 2012.

On Wednesday Oscar presented their request to the CARA Advisory Board, which consists of the council and seven others.  Mayor Sharon Konopa and Councilors Bessie Johnson and Dick Olsen spoke favorably of the request, noting that regardless of the particular business involved, the CARA money would be an investment in an anchor of the downtown commercial district.

But Councilors Rich Kellum, Mike Sykes, Bill Coburn, and Alex Johnson II expressed varying degrees of reservations or opposition.

Kellum worried about the “optics” of giving away a quarter-million dollars of tax money when the city government faces cutbacks and perhaps layoffs in the coronavirus crisis.

Sykes didn’t like that the Hults have not been able to get firm bids from elevator companies because of the corona crisis.

“No way I would consider a grant,” Coburn said. And probably not even a loan, he added.

Johnson II said he couldn’t approve the request “as it sits now.”

At the suggestion of Rich Catlin, chairman of the CARA Advisory Board, Oscar Hult said he would refine his request with additional details and come back for another try.

In the meantime the Hults are going ahead with other parts of the restoration. They need the space of the Young Building because their business has expanded and their present, rented quarters on First Avenue are hopelessly cramped.

The advisory board makes recommendations on grant requests, but it’s the council members on the ADA who have the final say. (hh)




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16 responses to “Restoration grant request runs into trouble”

  1. Joyce says:

    I agree with the ‘no’ vote. A loan (if the city actually had the money) is one thing. A grant where there is no expectation of payback is another, especially in a time of tight money. How could explain that action to someone who’s lost their job due to cut backs?

    • Dick Olsen says:

      Once again, This is not your property tax money. CARA borrows the money, the project gets done, the value of the CARA district increases because the building is repaired, and the money gets paid back from the increased taxable value of the district. It’s complicated, but, your taxes are totally unaffected, people are employed during these hard times, and a partially used building is restored to being a full time, beautiful contributor to downtown Albany.

      • Gordon L. Shadle says:

        I’m having a flashback to a 1980 presidential debate – “There you go again.”

        It’s not complicated. CARA steps in between the property taxpayers and the taxing districts and skims real money away from its intended, voter approved, purpose.

        The tax rates approved by voters for specific purposes was never, ever, intended to generate revenue to pay CARA’s debts. This is legalized theft, plain and simple.

        And for Dick to imply that CARA is the only source of the tax increment is nonsense. This has been refuted many times with data sourced from the Linn County Assessor. But CARA continues to take credit for the increment in the CARA area, ignoring the contribution privately financed projects make. To me, taking credit where it’s not due is a form of lying, plain and simple.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “I’m having a flashback to a 1980 presidential debate – “There you go again.”

          I think we all understand your disdain for the concept of URDs. Quite thankfully, we have a representative form of government. And for almost a generation now, the existing URD, which was created by a representative-government process and continued over the years by same — with multiple changes of players, has been doing exactly what it was designed to do. It has been serving Albany very well.

        • Dick Olsen says:

          Foolish comment Gordon. The whole reason for CARA is to encourage investors to come downtown and thereby increase its value. Most people like the idea of a healthy downtown that isn’t a drag on the rest of the city. I certainly hope you have a shabby, down at the heal town to enjoy wherever it is that you now live.

          • Steven Reynolds says:

            After the Dick and Gordon exchange, they’ve brought up some interesting questions.

            1) Is there a list of projects funded by CARA that specifically were designed to directly increase Maximum Assessed Value (MAV) with improvements, excluding infrastructure and non-profits? Calculate intangible non performing assets separately.
            2) How many of those projects are currently on a MAV freeze and for how long?
            3) How many have come off of the MAV freeze and what Is the additional MAV increases that are now calculated with the improvements?
            4) What is the percentage of CARA contribution for increased taxable MAV, CARA v. private funding?

            I would be curious to see what projection chart Seth was referring to.

            I think the gentleman that brought up the question at the CARA meeting, what are the current taxes and what are the taxes projected when the project is complete? Hit the nail on the head.

      • Rich Kellum says:

        “Once again, This is not your property tax money.” WRONG. the money spent is from loans against future property tax. The repayment is with Property Tax Money, you can go to your property tax statement and see… URD

  2. Paul Pritchard says:

    Good grief! One of the Northwest’s finest shops trying to make an even better presence in beautiful downtown Albany. Help them out!!

  3. James Engel says:

    Sorry bunch of Councillor naysayers! Ya just spent $$$k on improvements in the downtown streets so why not give a leg up to a business? I expected more from Sykes being a business man himself. That CARA money has already been skimmed off tax measures so it’s not like the “City” is going to be out on a limb. Too bad for those unemployed that CARA money can’t be provided to those folks. Good gawd, when you mix dollars with government there is rarely a good, equatable outcome.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:


      For Tax Year 2019-2020 CARA will siphon $1,256,048.35 from the city’s general fund.

      Isn’t that number a big enough limb?

      And CARA will siphon $313,925.66 from Linn County.

      And CARA will siphon $46,673.96 from the Vet’s Home.

      Isn’t it better that this money stay with the taxing districts to help fund essential services through the voter approved tax rates?

      On what moral grounds is CARA justified in robbing Peter (voter approved taxing districts) to pay Paul (private cronies & non-profits)?


  4. thomas cordier says:

    Thank you to the no votes. Mr.Hult has dipped into the CARA trough based on his City contacts over a period of time. Enough. Anybody asking about upgrading to current earthquake standards?

  5. Ray Kopczynski says:

    A formal vote was not taken. It will come back to CARA/ARA if/when Hults get their ducks in a row vis-a-vis bids.

  6. hj.anony1 says:

    ” Councilors Rich Kellum, Mike Sykes, Bill Coburn, and Alex Johnson II”

    What an interesting block of negativity! yuck

  7. James Engel says:

    Well dang…apparently I was really in the dark as to the “behind the scenes” issues on this request. If the Hults have been to the trough once or maybe twice before maybe they shouldn’t get a 3rd chance. My broadside to the councilors was a bit miss aimed!

  8. Anon says:

    Councilman Olsen? If my property taxes do not go to CARA, why does my property tax bill show a contribution to CARA?

  9. George Pugh says:

    I don’t have a dog in the funding fight, other than the money that is skimmed off the other taxing districts to finance it without a vote of us out of town financiers. (Albany folks may have a similar feeling about the county sheriff’s budget as well as the county road department.)
    But, I knew the building as the home Montgomery Wards or “Monkey Wards” in the dialect of a preschooler in the late 40ls. We didn’t do a lot business on our infrequent trips to “town”, as we knew Albany. But at Christmas time, oh boy ! Santa was inside the door, at the head of the stairs to the basement. Sit on his lap, pick up a small, striped sugar cane. Then it was down stairs to rows of tables with toys beyond our imagination at eyeball height.. We country kids had only seen such treasures in the pages of the fabled Christmas catalogs from Monkey Wards and Sear and Roebucks.
    Later in my life those tables had fishing tackle during the year. I think maybe tools and such too but I my focus of interests were pretty limited at the time.
    Christmases haven’t been quite the same these last seventy years.
    I do hope the building can be put to a good and profitable use.


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