A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Smashing the walls at old bank building

Written March 1st, 2023 by Hasso Hering

Looks like some office equipment ( a copier?)  was sitting there while the wall was being shattered.

Keeping up with this particular change in downtown Albany: On Wednesday a contractor started tearing down the walls of the former Wells Fargo branch at Broadalbin Street and First Avenue.

“Tearing down” may be the wrong words. It was more a matter of “smashing with a battering ram.”

Take a look:

I was on my way out of town when I heard the noise and stopped to record that brief video.

The city council, with three new members since January 1, has not had a chance to decide exactly what to do with the property once the building is gone and the site is cleaned up.

The presumption, from previous discussions, is that the city will seek a potential developer, negotiate a development agreement specifying what is to be done with the lot, and then sell the property to that party.

I’ve inquired with City Hall whether anyone has shown any interest. I’ll keep you posted when I hear back.

Ironically, about 12 years ago the council, acting as the CARA urban renewal agency, commissioned a Portland firm to do what was billed as a “retail refinement plan” for the downtown area, building on the CARA urban renewal plan adopted in 2001.

The refinement plan called for the Wells Fargo branch, then still a going business, to be torn down and the space to become a downtown plaza, an open area for community events.

To reiterate: Construction on this building, originally five stories tall and called the First National Bank Building, started in 1912.

First National, a successor of the original First National Bank of Albany, took off the top four floors in 1973, remodeled the shrunken building in 1974, and then was absorbed by Wells Fargo Bank in the 1990s.

In 2018, Wells Fargo closed the branch. The city’s urban renewal agency bought it in 2019 for $1.5 million.

Plans to redevelop the structure for commercial use and housing did not prove economical, and the council voted last year to tear it down.

Laneco Demolition, Portland, was awarded the $238,687 demolition contract, which gives the company until June 30 to finish the job. (hh)

19 responses to “Smashing the walls at old bank building”

  1. Connie Shrout says:

    I noticed the former US Bank building is empty now too. Are there plans for that building?

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Not that I know of. It’s still for sale or lease, as far as I know. My guess: the longer it stays vacant, the greater the chances that it too will one day be razed.

      • Matthew Calhoun says:

        An appropriate date as most of those “modern” bank buildings between Ellsworth and Lyon razed quite a few “historic” structures themselves back in the “good ‘ol days.”

  2. Cap B. says:

    Good article, Hasso. But, you left out that CARA could have sold the bank building to Linn County. The county wanted to put their County Clerk’s office there and develop the rest of the building for apartments or retail businesses or maybe a restaurant. But, Nooo, CARA picked some high-flyin’ developer and that didn’t pan out. So, that led to the wrecking ball.

    • Matthew Calhoun says:

      If memory serves wasn’t the “high flyin’ developer” the guys from Coastal Farm, Sybaris, and Gerding? Not exactly Albany outsiders.

  3. Hartman says:

    CARA and the Portland-based Urban Renewal firm were prescient some 12-odd years back. These wise leaders understood that Wells Fargo was largely a scam, opening unwanted savings accounts for their customers as well as what the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau said, “repeatedly misapplying loan payments, wrongfully foreclosing on homes, illegally repossessing vehicles, incorrectly assessing fees and interest and charging surprise overdraft fees.”

    If ever there was proof of the inevitable corruption of unfettered business, the Wells Fargo bank scheme is the Poster Boy for evil. Now, thanks to CARA, this sad era for downtown Albany comes to rest, financial cruelty cursed and crushed by those who believe that Corporate Amerika must be watched carefully at all times. The hydraulic jackhammers are finally bringing a small justice to the people of our fair city.

    • Cap B. says:

      No one is lamenting the demise of Wells Fargo. They are a Johnny-Come-Lately as far as being in the building in downtown Albany that was built in 1912. The building is what we mourn…the way it was before stupid First National Bank took 4 or 5 floors off it in the 1970s. Wells Fargo bought it in the 1990s.

      Besides, the City of Albany (CARA, that is) are now the owners of that building that is taking the wrecking ball hits, and of the land it stood on, and of the parking lot. They could have sold it to Linn County, as I said, and Linn County would have taken that ugly 1970s facade off and restored the building as much as they could. But, of course, CARA, made up of less-than-intelligent people, wouldn’t sell to Linn County. CARA got stars in their eyes and sold to some developer who soon realized he didn’t have the money to refurbish the building, and no one was begging him to move into it if he was able to upgrade it.

      So, don’t accuse those who hate what has happened to the building of having a soft spot for Wells Fargo. Not so. And, CARA doesn’t have a clue about Wells Fargo’s honesty, nor do they care. I don’t know where your idea to say they did comes from.

    • Al Nyman says:

      It’s funny you should bring up Indian princess Senator Warren’s CFPB which is now before the Supreme Court because the funding for it was a swindle on taxpayers. I can’t figure out if you are an uber liberal or an actual communist. Why don’t you enlighten me so we can figure out anonymous Hartman.

  4. mike says:

    The situation with this property and Hasso’s writings about it pushed me to try and learn more about the history here. It didn’t make sense to me why they would remove 4 floors of a building. While I didn’t find a good answer in old newspapers, I did gain a lot more context of what was going on around that time.

    The local paper kept mentioning the remodeling of this building as part of First National Bank’s “expansion” project. At first that made no sense, but then I saw that in 1972 they had just completed the 40 story First National Bank Tower (now Wells Fargo Center) in Portland. They were also opening new branch locations in the valley, and the branch in Scio was going to have a whole new building built, and the old one razed after the new one opened (this building still exists today, but not as a bank).

    So, while the company was expanding, the treatment for the Albany downtown branch appears to be more of a modernization project. Still doesn’t explain the removal of the floors, there was no reporting I could find of a big fire or weather damage that might attempt explain it away. First National also purchased the buildings next to them and eventually razed those and made them into a parking lot. Seems silly to get rid of office and storefront space that could provide supplementary income to the bank, but their actions make it clear to me they weren’t hurting for money. And while today I almost never need to set foot in a bank, back then I could believe extra dedicated parking and space for a drive-up teller had more value to their business than renting out adjacent building space.

    I was not alive when all this happened, so I’m certainly open to corrections and/or personal experiences from others who were around at the time.

  5. Cap B. says:

    All the dentists and doctors who had offices in the upper floors of downtown Albany buildings from the early 1900s on had all abandoned downtown by the time you were born. So, you don’t even know they were there downtown. Everyone was in houses in the 70s or duplexes or apartment buildings in the outer reaches of Albany away from downtown. So those upper floors in buildings that had been full of offices from the time they were built from 1900 to 1920 were empty. No one cared. Oh, they did care a lot about the buildings that were torn down to make the parking lot…especially French’s Jewelers’ building. There were sit-ins and demonstrations to save it. But, who can fight the moneyed interests successfully? Once in a while you can win, but not often. Money talks, and banks were a big deal still in the 1970s.

  6. Bill Kapaun says:

    Don’t forget the actual cost of PAVING the parking lot. Add other non essentials such as charging stations etc. The wiring grid for something like that would be quite expensive.

    Hell, what’s $250k here and there…..

  7. Bob Woods says:

    So… The point is to fill that space with something that builds a better downtown.

    The community gets their say, The bloggers on this site DO NOT, unless they are willing to tell the City Council WITH THEIR TRUE NAMES.

    Let’s see how many of the cowards here are willing to do that. You, Hasso, can require that if you’re willing.

    The CARA/Council will make the ultimate decision.

  8. Ray Kopczynski says:

    More basic info about the process we’re going through with the WF location:


    • Rich Kellum says:

      Ray, the info given in the link speaks of a couple of “anchors” More appropriate name would be “Millstone” I spoke against buying both this and the St Francis because I pointed out that they would become millstones around the neck of the Taxpayers. When the first groups could not do what they said, I said sell it to the county and get our money back, Being right the first time does not bring me peace.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Since the St. Francis is going to be developed (yes, by Scott Lepman), it’s no longer part of the equation. And I’ll wager that the coming “shovel-ready” WF lot will garner interest and at the end of the day, it will be developed and back on the tax rolls – as it should be. Time will tell. :-)

  9. M. Scott says:

    Okay I’m not up on the whole story (& wading through all the stories about it isnt an option for me right now) but I dont know why it wasn’t remodeled for some other business(es) instead of being torn down? Could someone enlighten me please? Thank you

    • Hasso Hering says:

      The would-be developer, Gerding Builders, determined in the spring of 2022 that because construction costs had risen sharply, its project was no longer economically feasible. The project was to build two or three floors of apartments on top and put commercial uses on the ground floor. That’s what the city council wanted too, and last fall it reasoned that getting something built there would have a better chance if the old building was out of the way. (hh)

  10. MarKZ says:

    Well means they razed the building. I think the city should build a parking garage there can even build outside walls to fit in historic downtown. This would make parking downtown easier and more people would be able to come to Albany for concerts at Monteith Park. Would even bring in more people for carousel that has the worse hours for any business .

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Carousel hours:
      So — What’s your solution? What hours would you suggest for being open at the Carousel? The *ONLY* reason we’re not open more hours is lack of volunteers… And almost every volunteer-based organization is in the same boat. Try it – you’ll like it.


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