A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Riverfront project: Albany candidates answer

Written September 25th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

Looking east on Water Avenue in June 2019. This area is part of the riverfront redevelopment project.

Whether the multimillion-dollar Albany Waterfront Project gets off the ground, and to what extent, will be up to the city council in office next year. At this point the project has the support of both candidates for mayor but only three of the seven running for the council.

I asked the candidates whether they supported the riverfront redevelopment being pursued by CARA, the downtown urban renewal district, and how much they would be willing to spend on it.

Each had a different answer, of course. But basically, the project has the support of Councilman Alex Johnson II and Mayor Sharon Konopa, both running for mayor, and from council candidates Sean Knowles in Ward 1, Ray Kopczynski in Ward 2, and Marilyn Smith in Ward 3.

Johnson supports it “wholeheartedly” and Knowles “definitely.” Kopczynski sees it as the “capstone to sunsetting” CARA.

Konopa says the top priority should be the reconstruction of Water Avenue, but she also hopes for a water “splash pad” and children’s playground as added amenities to the Albany Carousel.

The other candidates expressed varying degrees of reservations.

In Ward 1, Keith Kolkow would like to see CARA focus on “revitalizing buildings and infrastructure (especially Water Street)” in order to get the greatest return on money invested. Matilda Novak says CARA’s main focus should be to help small business, and she doesn’t see how the riverfront does that.

In Ward 2, Amanda Dant says the project is a good idea but goes beyond what CARA funds are intended for. In her view the city can’t afford it when other city services are at risk of losing funding.

In Ward 3, Jessi Brenneman said it would be “irresponsible to give an answer on the riverfront project when the final drawings have not been submitted….I have no idea what it will look like.”

The council and other members of the CARA advisory board got a briefing this month on a shortened list of possible changes to be made in Monteith Riverpark and on Water Avenue and the Dave Clark Trail. They asked for more information and cost estimates to be presented in October.

CARA has about $20 million in spending authority left and has tentatively budgeted $15 million of that for upgrading the riverfront. All the money would be for changes on public property.

Riverfront improvement was one of the goals of the 2001 urban renewal plan that started CARA, and the plan lists eight specific projects toward that end. (hh)

6 responses to “Riverfront project: Albany candidates answer”

  1. thomas cordier says:

    they don’t dare letting the voters have a direct vote. candidates all represent their special interest groups. All such a waste of time and money. Only the insiders will see economic benefits at the expense of the masses for decades

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    You want a real “capstone”? Think iconic.

    Somebody on this blog suggested a ferris wheel – call it the CARA Blur. The Seattle wheel on Pier 57 comes to mind.

    It could be built for about $20 million and a 10 minute ride would only cost about $10-$15. What a deal.

    Imagine looking out over downtown Albany and the river as you rise to heights of over 150 feet with a couple hundred thousand blinking LEDs.

    A fitting, end-of-life monument to CARA.

  3. James Engel says:

    What is the urgent need to do this project in the first place? We’re still in this Chinese COVID & it may take years to recover. Then there will be the immediate monetary aftermath of the forest fires. So the council wants to finish their “pet” project! Absolute fiscal nonsense. With our City being short of money to keep services all the council can think of is…. “tax’em more”.

  4. Mike quinn says:

    The biggest issue right now with the waterfront gala event street scape is the architect s hijacking over $ 2 million from cara. ALL architect s charge a customary 10 per cent fee for a project. So having aprox $22 million for the riverfront to rid us of cara money once and for all The architect s charged
    $2 million plus dollars only problem now our economic chief Seth sherry some how wants to get city back involved with the hotel again. Thought that was a dead issue. But anyway to the tune of $5 million if so then the riverfront turns into a $15 milllion project. GUESS what the architects owe albany back $500,000.00 dollars but with the way albany staff has that big room to sweep it under the rug. The hotel was a dead issue. We have the facts on construction costs. And the mayor knows it. Stop the parade

    • Dick Olsen says:

      In the not to distant future, a new Albany City Council will be asked to allocate the remaining funds CARA can legally borrow or spend on fixing the blight and decay that continues to plague our Downtown. There are many opinions on how that money should be spent. So perhaps we should start with the founding documents that initiated our CARA urban renewal project to begin with. (You can find them by Goggling, “Central Albany Revitalization Area – City of Albany”)

      In the original CARA plan, adopted in 2001, the first three priorities are; (1) Property Acquisition, (2) Commercial Building Rehabilitation and (3) Storefront Revitalization. Coming in at number 47 on the list we find Public Facilities. In that category they list libraries, museums, performance areas, parks and the arts. Parks come in almost last. They knew then what we know today, fixing up fancy parks does not cure blight.

      I truly believe that a new, forward looking Albany City Council will take a good look at the original CARA plan. It is a plan that has worked and we need to keep it going. We have many small businesses who want to restore and improve the downtown. They stand ready to make substantial investments in buildings and infrastructure. This will permanently increase the tax base by millions. All they need is a little help from CARA. A large and expensive new park won’t increase tax revenues by a penny. But it will increase our park maintenance budget at a time when we can’t even take care of the parks and facilities we have.

      A revitalized Downtown will be a great place to live, shop and dine in a variety of locally owned businesses and restaurants. Small local business keep the local economy strong and growing. Let’s keep our money in Albany, for Albany. Not send it to Amazon and Walmart.

      I hope the voters agree. Examine the City Council Candidate’s views and vote accordingly.

      (Dick Olsen says he meant these remarks not as a reply to Mike Quinn but as a comment on the article itself.)


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