Architect Bill Ryals’ concept of the restored St. Francis Hotel with a roof-top restaurant and diagonal parking on Ferry Street.Renovating the former St. Francis Hotel in downtown Albany would cost $10-11 million, and when it’s done it would be worth $4-5 million. This means that for the project to go ahead, the CARA urban renewal district would have to cover a gap of $5-6 million with public funds.
That’s the sobering message that developer Marc Manley and architect Bill Ryals gave the CARA advisory board Wednesday night.
They were hoping for some signal that the board would consider such a big chunk of aid. But all they got was an invitation to come back next month with more detailed information and maybe alternatives to the project they have spent a year getting worked out.
Part of the problem is that the century-old building, which has been mostly vacant for 60 years except for the print shop on the first floor and in the basement, needs major repairs and reconstruction to make it safe in an earthquake.
When the next big quake hits, Ryals told the board, people will be digging through the rubble for survivors if the seismic work is not done.
The proposed renovation Manley and Ryals have been considering would have businesses on the ground floor, 30 two-bedroom apartments on the upper floors, and a possible bed-and-breakfast with six to 10 rooms in the adjoining Rhodes Building, connected to the St. Francis by hallways and part of the same property.
About $5 million of the project cost is to take care of work to replace part or all of the roof and make both structures safe for the uses being considered.
CARA board members seemed stunned by the price tag. They should not have been. Two previous cost calculations over the last 10 years came to the same result, and a study by University of Oregon students concluded that renovating the building was not economically feasible.
At least one board member, Mark Spence, wondered about saving the facades of the Rhodes wing, and perhaps the St. Francis as well, demolishing what’s behind it, and building a new structure in its place.
The city obtained an option to buy the St. Francis-Rhodes building last year. If it exercises the option, the intent is to resell the property under an agreement with a developer. Manley, who previously restored the Flinn Block downtown, agreed to attempt the St. Francis project.
If nothing is done with the building, the board was told, it will deteriorate until it will have to be torn down. (hh)