A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Riverfront development question: How much?

Written August 24th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

Looking east along Water Avenue from Baker Street on Aug. 22. Could this stretch be redeveloped?

Albany may spend up to $20 million in urban renewal funds to redevelop its Willamette riverfront, including 14 blocks of Water Avenue from Washington Street to Main, but the potential price tag is getting some pushback from at least two members of the city council.

This came up last week when economic dedvelopment manager Seth Sherry briefed the CARA advisory board on negotiations with Walker/Macy, the Portland firm of landscape architects the city intends to hire to design the redevelopment and come up with buildable plans by the end of 2020.

Sherry said the fee negotiations were not complete but they were talking in the neighborhood of $2.3 million, which would be in the standard range if the estimated cost of urban renewal projects along the riverfront turns out to be $20 million.

This struck Councilors Rich Kellum and Mike Sykes as the wrong approach. What if the council, as the agency governing urban renewal, doesn’t like any of the three development alternatives the firm is supposed to come up with? Do they still get paid that amount? What if the council ends up spending less on projects? How does it make sense to set a fee based on a final cost estimate when you haven’t even decided what to build?

CARA decided months ago that it would push for redevelopment of the riverfront as its biggest final task before going out of business. It has about $22 million of spending authority left, based on the urban renewal plan adopted in 2001. The question on the riverfront is just what is supposed to be developed how, and to answer that question the city intends to hire a design firm.

Sherry has told the CARA board that he’s heard from private interests just waiting to make investments along the riverfront if and when the city follows through with upgrades of public areas, including parks and the street itself.

So far there’s been only vague talk about the possibilities, including providing more public access to the river itself. If existing pilings for a former city dock are used, for example, getting state and federal permits would be easier than otherwise.

Progress has been slow. The city notified Walker/Macy in June it wanted to negotiate a contract with the firm, one of two that submitted proposals. The CARA board meets only once a month, and the next meeting isn’t until Sept. 18.

Unless the board, including the council, agrees on the ultimate scope of the project and approves a contract then, the goal of getting the design process finished by the end of 2020 is unlikely to be met. (hh)

Looking west along Water from Main Street, the eastern end of the proposed riverfront redevelopment. At right: Edgewater Village.

29 responses to “Riverfront development question: How much?”

  1. CHEZZ says:

    Having worked on the planning and development of Corvallis Riverfront project, let’s get this riverfront going with a viable plan that works for the public, investors, and the City as a whole. This plan needs a lot of input from the public as to what their vision is of this neglected area. Corvallis made a commitment many years ago to stop turning their back to the river. The river was once a hub for transportation, bringing in people and goods. Their commitment was to once again to turn toward the river and enjoy the wonderful resource that is already there. I hope you spend some time on the ever developing riverfront project in Independence, Oregon. Much has happened since their early planning of moving towards their river resource, utilizing the river as a great resource. The best part is that they incorporated their already beautiful waterfront park, adding the land next to it, into quite a hub of activity, including their hotel (just opened yesterday) with townhouses and apartments to come with many price points. New businesses are literally springing up along their main street. HELLO!!

    • Fred says:

      Albany is not Corvallis and unless someone comes up with 8 billion dollars annually to pump into the local economy as OSU does for Corvallis, Albany should not aspire to be Corvallis. Further, it is unlikely that Corvallis could do the waterfront improvements today that it did 10 years ago due to environmental restrictions that exist today that were not in place at that time.

  2. Michael Quinn says:

    Like I said earlier the cost is outrageous for a basically new side walk and fixing parking lots city makes money off and we’ve let the cara reps hurry up and spend up the remains allotment of funds for urban renewal. I remember back in 2006 when people were talking about beautifying the riverfront that possibly 2 million is all that would be needed. Now like everything else balloons to 20 mil with one arch firm getting 2.3 million. Come folks wake up this will be one of the biggest takings in Albany history and finally 2 of our councilors are listening what about the other councilors let’s get real here please.

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Yes, it will take some necessary heavy-lifting and political backbone to get it done. Take a good look at the process Corvallis went through to get theirs completed. To be sure, there was a LOT of angst about the dollars spent and the efficacy of doing so. But, having worked many years at Community Services Consortium (at the end of 2nd St.), I seriously doubt many people Corvallis would ever want to go back to what it was before that redevelopment! Go for it!

  4. Jim Engel says:

    While my City is having possibly fatal budget shortfalls, our “Nero” is considering fiddling away 2.3K of OUR tax dollars. Leave the rank river front in it’s natural state. That CARA scheme can’t end soon enough!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “While my City is having possibly fatal budget shortfalls…”

      That’s not even *remotely* close to probability…!

    • RICH KELLUM says:

      That would be 2.3 MILLION

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        And still not a even remote possibility that it would result in the city having a “fatal budget shortfall.”

        • Fred says:

          It depends on the meaning of “fatal”. There is no disputing that the majority of the money going to CARA could be used by local government to provide basic services.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            I get that you (whoever you are) don’t like the concept of CARA & the TIF model. Too bad. We have it and the community has benefited mightily because of it (and the earlier ones Albany had) too! It would be a great disservice to the community if it was derailed before completion.

  5. J. Jacobson says:

    Here’s what passes for Leadership in Albany’s Halls of Power.

    Scenario: The City asks a developer to generate 3 waterfront proposals. The Developers proffers a price. Hopefully, someone somewhere is doing due diligence. Negotiating takes place. Hands shake. The Developer generates the agreed-upon materials.

    Now, at least on the surface, WARD III Councilor Kellum raises an interesting query… only in that his thoughts are more self-revelatory than correct.

    What if the council, as the agency governing urban renewal, doesn’t like the three alternatives the firm comes up with? Do they still get paid that amount?

    Here’s how it works. You make a deal. You agree on a price. The mutually-agreed upon terms are met. The payee coughs-up the agreed amount. This in not rocket science. Yet, at least one of the Ward III Capos seems to think any deal can be reneged upon if the City doesn’t like what they agreed to. Or does Albany now do business on the “You Work Now – We Might Pay Later plan?”

    In many ways, the Ward III Councilor’s beliefs mimic our well-documented Commander-in-Chief’s business practice. Not happy with the work? Don’t pay!

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Next time why don’t you actually find out what was said before you throw acid….
      The company quoted 2.3 million dollars and want a contract for that amount of money… that figure is based on a percentage of 22 million dollars….
      The job is to figure out what something looks like and how much it would cost. 3 different plans…. so no one knows whether it is 12 million that we would want or 40 million that we would want… this is a quotation of a percentage of how much money is left to spend in CARA, not how much work is to be done…. If they were asking for a contract for $660,000.00 for the first 30% of a plan, then we would know what we are getting. The way it is??? it is a pig in a poke. Why don’t you actually show up to a meeting, give some suggestions how to save some money instead of whining from the shadows…

  6. Mike Martin says:

    I realize that the money to fix existing streets comes from different pots, but this project still rubs me the wrong way. Yes Corvallis did a nice job, but we have RR tracks to deal with.

  7. Fred says:

    How can the Albany City Council ask for more tax dollars for basic services after a story like this? At the very least they need to under levy CARA in an amount that will cover the current budget shortfall.

  8. CHEZZ says:

    Citizenry, you gotta get out more, see the riverfront towns and see it happen – elsewhere…

  9. Richard Vannice says:

    It isn’t just government that thinks they can renege on a deal. How about Pepsi??

  10. Bill Kapaun says:

    I just find it difficult to believe CARA money would be spent more than 3-4 blocks from “Our Queen’s Throne”.
    Does she live in that direction from “work”?

    Why not put this on hold and allow the citizens to present their concepts. Maybe there are architects/engineers that live locally that can submit their ideas for FREE!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      There was ample time for anyone to respond to the RFP. Only 2 firms bothered to do so. That said, there will still be much more opportunity for the public to weigh in down the road. This is not a “speedy” process by any means for a project of this scale…

  11. Stephanie says:

    Housing prices in Albany have increased drastically in the past few years, as have the amount of property taxes collected. I believe that was the point of CARA, correct? We build nice things, the people come, everything gets more expensive, increased tax revenue pays off the bill for building the nice things. Except, even with a stream of increased tax revenues, Albany is still facing budget cuts. How many things do we need to “renew” – and how expensive must things get – before it pays off?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “Housing prices in Albany have increased drastically in the past few years, as have the amount of property taxes collected. I believe that was the point of CARA, correct?”

      No. Housing prices are determined by the marketplace and the taxes are determined by the Linn County Assessor. There is minimal amount of CARA $ devoted to “housing” per se. See CARA info here: https://www.cityofalbany.net/departments/ecodev/cara

      • Jon says:

        Not everyone in Albany lives in Linn County. You and your esteemed colleagues should remember that. It hurts some of us that much more when you shaft us with “fees” because you know you’ll never get a new tax passed. For a city that’s “not Corvallis,” you sure have learned a lot from their poor behavior.

      • Stephanie says:

        I am sincerely wondering how my post conflicts with this statement on the CARA site (******for emphasis******):

        “The goal in establishing the Central Albany Revitalization Area (CARA) was to increase the economic vitality of the area, encourage the use of vacant and underused land and buildings, and rehabilitate structures while *****increasing property values both in CARA and the city of Albany.***** The investment of these tax increment funds is expected to *****increase property values*******, with total value growth in the renewal area over the duration of the plan expected to be $230 million. ******When the plan is completed, the values will be returned to the tax rolls, and the various taxing bodies that share values in Albany will receive that increase in tax collections.”******

        And additionally from the plan:
        “At current tax rates, the increase in values from the CARA will produce approximately $3.5 million in property tax income for the overlapping taxing bodies.”

        Is it not a CARA objective to increase the value of Albany real estate in “the marketplace” in order to enable the tax increment financing mechanism to work?

        • Fred says:


          Your statement does not conflict with the stated goals when CARA was started. There is a lot of fluff in the stated goals, and then along the way some pretty suspect financial decisions have been made. Spending another 20 million on downtown beautification would involve a lot of fluff and some poor financial decisions, kind of like the big flurry of fireworks we see at the very end of a 4th of July show.

          • Ray Kopczynski says:

            “…and some poor financial decisions, kind of like the big flurry of fireworks we see at the very end of a 4th of July show.”

            LOL – Why don’t you grab a microphone and address the thousands of folks waiting to watch them…

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          “Is it not a CARA objective to increase the value of Albany real estate in “the marketplace” in order to enable the tax increment financing mechanism to work?”

          Absolutely correct *IF* you are one of the recipients of CARA funds *IN* the district that receives CARA funding to improve your property. After improvements are made, then it is up the Linn Co assessor to determine what the new tax-value is. CARA gets zero say in that process. It is quite possible that if you have property adjacent to the newly improved one, the value of your property may also go up. CARA has zero affect on the taxing rates outside its defined boundaries…

  12. Richard Vannice says:

    How about using engineering students from Oregon or Oregon State to do the proposal? Seems to me that this was been done for another project in the past?

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Students from UofO did some gorgeous “vision-concepts” for different areas of town a few years ago. However, there were zero “cost constraints” used as part of their concepts…


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