A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

St. Francis comes up at city meeting

Written October 19th, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The former St. Francis Hotel as it looked in February this year.

The former St. Francis Hotel, a downtown landmark for more than a century, was mentioned twice at last week’s meeting of the Albany Revitalization Agency. That’s the city council when it acts as the agency governing CARA, the Central Albany Revitalization Area.

First, Mayor Sharon Konopa said she was encouraged by several councilors’ comments in support of a contract to develop a design and buildable plans for redeveloping the Willamette riverfront. And whether the city spends money on that or the St. Francis or the former Wells Fargo branch downtown, she said, the same people would complain.

Then, a few minutes later, Councilor Bill Coburn asked economic development manager Seth Sherry whether, even though it was not an executive session closed to the public, he could say anything “on the topic of the St. Francis… Is there any update?”

“I don’t have anything to share in this forum,” Sherry replied. “Thanks for asking.”

The 15-minute ARA meeting took place Wednesday. You can listen to the audio here.

The St. Francis property, home of the Pride Printing Co. since the 1960s, has been for sale, according to the Albany Downtown Association. Neither the city council as the ARA, nor the advisory board of CARA has held any recent public discussion about it.

Following an executive session of the CARA board in June, though, the council/ARA voted to “direct the staff to execute an option to purchase a building within the CARA district.” That may have been the action, the substance of which is still confidential, on which Coburn wondered if there was anything new.

Councilor Rich Kellum then asked for an update on the Wells Fargo property, which the city bought from the bank for $1.5 million in February. Sherry said he would have one for the next CARA board and ARA meetings on Nov. 15.

In June, the ARA granted a six-month purchase option on the former bank property to BGW Partners, a team consisting of Buzz Wheeler, owner of the Albany-based Coastal Farm and Ranch Stores; Matt Bennett, co-owner and chef at Sybaris; Tom Gerding of Gerding Builders; and architect Bill Ryals.

The six months were intended to give the team time to negotiate a development agreement with the city. (hh)

11 responses to “St. Francis comes up at city meeting”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    “Then, a few minutes later, Councilor Bill Coburn asked economic development manager Seth Sherry whether…he could say anything “on the topic of the St. Francis… Is there any update?”

    “I don’t have anything to share in this forum,” Sherry replied.

    The CARA/ARA/Council secrecy reminds one of the swamp Albany and Linn County voters sent Trump to drain in Washington DC….yet the fetid ooze seems alive, gurgling away just fine here in Our Fair City. Oh well…one person’s morass is another’s pasture.

  2. J. Jacobson says:

    If Seth Sherry is tasked with Albany’s economic development, then why does Albany give Albany-Millersburg Economic Development Corp. something north of $50-thousand dollars annually? Needless duplication or something more sinister?

  3. Ray Kopczynski says:

    “…or something more sinister?”

    LOL! Do you get headaches at night dreaming up conspiracies & other nefarious dealings of city government?

    • J. Jacobson says:

      No, but I do have a sense of an ongoing fleecing operation running out of City Hall.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Riiiight… That’s waaaay too much paranoia for my tastes, but whatever floats your boat…

    • J. Jacobson says:

      One feels as though one has been transmigrated into the musical, “Oliver”.

      One of the more notable tunes from the musical seems especially apropos:

      (With thanks to Lionel Bart) “You’ve got to pick a pocket-or-two”
      Imagine the tune as you contemplate Fagin’s demise.

      “In this life
      One thing counts
      In the bank
      Large amounts
      I’m afraid these don’t grow on trees
      You’ve got to pick a pocket or two
      You’ve got to pick a pocket or two
      You’ve got to pick a pocket or two

      Large amounts don’t grow on trees
      You’ve got to pick a pocket or two”

  4. West End Gal says:

    The St. Francis would be such a wonderful asset to diwntown–for hotel on lower floors and apartments above. I hope some group can buy and renovate ..soon!

  5. thomas cordier says:

    One City building inspector says he “trembles every time he enters the building” because it is in terrible shape. He says has pushed a wooden pencil thru outside wall–thru brick.
    Landmarks without a life should be demolished —lets get a group to push it over–on the count of three!

  6. GregB says:

    Wells Fargo building was mentioned at one point in this article, which the city owns now. Why in the world are there several 10 minute only parking spaces in front of the building where users of the long gone ATM parked? My wife got a $25 ticket there several months ago. Is it a trick to make money for the downtown association? Those spaces should be freed up for people to use without a $25 fee!

  7. centrist says:

    Much maundering without support. A junior-grade debater would be all over this…


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