A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

St. Francis project cost stuns CARA board

Written September 16th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

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)

The St. Francis and adjacent Rhodes Building in February 2019.

19 responses to “St. Francis project cost stuns CARA board”

  1. Debbie Ferguson says:

    Too bad but not shocking.

  2. Monica says:

    From this maybe people will understand why saving the 3 homes in the Monteith district didn’t pencil out. Empty building deteriorate. That’s what they do. Restoration can be much more expensive that building new. My condolences to all involved.

  3. Mike says:

    Very cool project. That would be a wonderful addition to downtown Albany. But it’s hard to justify those expenses at a time like this.

  4. Craig says:

    It’s a building… and an ugly one at that. Hardly worth the cost to save it if the goal is to improve the area.

  5. Jeff Senders says:

    My grandfather A.G. Senders, with partner Sam Frager, owned the St. Francis Hotel for several years until my grandfathers passing in 1964. It was then owned by my father Bruce Senders.

    From what I remember as a young man (I was a freshman in college) who came to visit my grandparents in Albany, the upstairs portion of the building closed a few years later due to unsafe electrical wiring.

    Prior to being a hotel it was the location of the Davenport Music Company and the Charles Brush General Merchandise Store. Back then it was known as the Rhodes Building. The “annex”building housed Morgan’s Bike Shop and the Danette School of Dance.

    Pride Printing paid rent to my father until he sold the building to them around 1974.

    In January of 2011, Innovative Housing asked CARA for $800,000, with $6.7 million in low income housing tax credits to pay the rest of the costs of renovation. But City officials balked at that time because they didn’t want low income types of people hanging around the downtown area.

    It might have been the Hotels best and last chance for survival.

    Costs have only increased since then, and will never pencil out.

    As an historic structure, the City of Corvallis has a better chance of saving the Van Buren Bridge than Albany does of saving the St. Francis Hotel.

    Maybe CARA could make it into an historic parking structure………?

  6. Beyte says:

    Time to tear it down as costs will just keep increasing. They could put something in its place and use the same architecture so blend with surroundings. Also wondering where 30 plus cars would park anyways.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Who is the “they” that would purchase it with multi-million demolition costs and then full-rebuilding costs? The “30 plus cars” parking issue explained at the meeting by using angle-in parking and the existing parking lot across the street…

  7. Ann Kinkley says:

    The building exterior is not extremely remarkable – but if some of the interior woodwork could be repurposed it would be great to do so. But the location is perfect to be a prime hotel destination. So – build a similar-looking hotel in this spot – possibly with basement parking and the cool roof-top dining. That would be a great use of the remaining CARA funds. Unless McMenamins would take it on…..?

  8. Bill Kapaun says:

    Maybe “The CARA board” needs to be stunned more often.

  9. Ted says:

    Sadly the CARA board is stuck in the philosophy of “Who cares? It’s only taxpayer’s (you know, the little people’s) money”. If they approve of this deal if they can’t be fired every one of the politicians that appointed them needs to be thrown out of office in the next election.

  10. centrist says:

    Surprised Shadle hasn’t jumped in. The project has a negative return. No tax increment.
    Unless there’s a private-source rain of money with no expectation of repayment……..

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Yes, the proponents say, there would be a tax increment, and it would amount to about $145,000 a year.

      • Rich Kellum says:

        Tif of 145,000.00? interest on 5 million at 2.9% is $145.000.00 borrowed by CARA to finance the project….. Cara does not pay quite 2.9% but there is really no net TIF, so payoff in 18 years is a fantasy

  11. Ramona N says:

    Pragmatically speaking….is there even a demand or market for a mid/high-end hotel? It’s going to take several years for travel to get back to pre-pandemic levels. Much like what happened during the 1st Great Recession (we are likely in the 2nd now), people are not going to be spending nearly as much money on luxuries. Many people have been financially impacted by the incredible employment hemorrhage. And who knows if some of those jobs will even come back. Albany isn’t necessarily a travel destination, unless for OSU commencement and Linn County Ag center events, but many of them have been put on hold for the foreseeable future. I don’t like that CARA is playing the role of speculator in this case.


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