A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

St. Francis project gets verbal support

Written January 20th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

The St. Francis and two-story Rhodes Building next door in February 2019.

Several members of the Central Albany Revitalization Area advisory board want the urban renewal agency to give financial support to restoring the former St. Francis hotel and adjacent Rhodes building. But after Wednesday’s meeting of the board, just how much the agency would pay was still unclear.

For an hour and a half, developer Marc Manley went over the risks and barriers faced by his team’s proposal, including mainly the costs. But any actual request for CARA aid was put off till next month.

The idea is to redevelop the St. Francis and Rhodes building, which are one property, with retail spaces on the ground floor, about two dozen market-rate apartments upstairs, a “self-service hotel” in the Rhodes wing, and a restaurant on the roof of the St. Francis.

The problem is that doing all this would cost up to $11 million, while the value of the remodeled property would be only $3-4 million.

The city has an option to buy the property that runs out in July 2021 but can be renewed. The city got the option with the idea of recruiting someone to fix up the structures, a key location for reviving downtown.

Councilman Dick Olsen was most vocal in favoring CARA support of the redevelopment. He said CARA was founded to cure the kind of blight represented by the deteriorated hotel and the building next door. Councilors Bessie Johnson, Matilda Novak and Ray Kopczynski also spoke in favor.

According to city development manager Seth Sherry, CARA has money to support both the St. Francis project and redevelopment of the former Wells Fargo branch downtown. He mentioned $1-2 million each. The Wells Fargo project will be on the next CARA agenda for Feb. 17.

Architect Bill Ryals designed the St. Francis redevelopment. He has just been appointed to the CARA board but recused himself from Wednesday’s discussion except to explain something about the Rhodes building.

People have talked about restoring the St. Francis for decades. Whether the current plan is carried out is still too early to say. (hh)

9 responses to “St. Francis project gets verbal support”

  1. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    “People have talked about restoring the St. Francis for decades.”

    Yep, and in 2011 CARA rejected a perfectly fine proposal from Innovative Housing because it would have attracted a basket full of deplorables downtown.

    Now, after more than 10 years of debate, it appears the desire for a “boutique” building is gaining traction once again.

    (Beware: Whenever government uses a euphemism there’s invariably a nefarious desire to pull the wool over the eyes of taxpayers.)

    Perhaps the best “investment” is a “boutique” parking lot, given nobody in their right mind would spend millions on a “self-service” hotel and claim it as “historically appropriate”.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Considering your standing, ya gotta love it when you try and take on the mantle of being the decider of what is deemed “historically appropriate.”

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      Since the architect is in bed with the city council, I’m sure they’ll take care of their own.

      Just recusing himself from this decision is meaningless. Libs taking care of Libs.

      • Ray Kopczynski says:

        Notwithstanding your slam against Bill; considering what he has done for the community over the years, we need many more like him to be involved…

        • Bill Kapaun says:

          Well Ray, I’ve agreed with you once about 5-6 years ago. Then you changed your mind when you realized the City would get a few more pennies/mo. from “the franchise TAX” by allowing Republic Services to do WEEKLY yard trash pick for MORE money. You have no qualms about the residents paying $1 more so the City can get a nickle.

          We definitely have different opinions about what’s best for the majority of our citizens, not those in your snob class. You don’t even make good snobs, but feeble pretenders.

          It’s a foregone conclusion you’ll vote for your bedfellow. Citizen’s money be damned.

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Why should a hotel’s “self-service” be any less “historically appropriate” than its having modern plumbing?

      That said, the numbers — up to $11 million + purchase price vs $3-4 million value — might scare me at first glance if I were an Albany taxpayer (I’m not).

  2. GregS says:

    If “verbal support” were dollars, beggars would ride.

  3. thomas earl cordier says:

    After years and tens of Millions of debt being created by the City Council acting as the Urban Renewal Agency; this decision should be placed before the voters.
    Voters have never been asked to approve even one debt/spending decision and voters never had a voice in the creation of the Plan/Agency.

  4. Ted says:

    Thank goodness I’m not a Albany resident. But then I do have to question why in heaven’s name you would vote for people that think it’s a good deal to spend $11 million on property that might be eventually worth $3-4 million. Oh yeah, that’s right. It’s always easy to spend OPM (other people’s money).


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