A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Streetscape benches, a placement dilemma

Written September 15th, 2018 by Hasso Hering

One of the benches placed downtown as part of the streetscape project completed this summer.

Imagine the plight of a streetscape designer who’s supposed to place a few benches on the newly rebuilt sidewalks of Albany’s downtown. How to position this street furniture so it is inviting and does future bench sitters some good?

Thoughts like that struck me on an idle afternoon last week as I came across new benches on Third Avenue.

If you sit on the one pictured above, the view you have is this:

Not all that interesting or picturesque, you’ll probably agree. You’re staring at the outside of Linn County’s law library.  Inside, the place probably holds great attraction for people trying to find stuff about the law that isn’t yet online. But looking at it from the outside?

So why orient a bench that way, you may wonder, as I did. Until you realize that once you’ve decided a bench should be installed at that spot, that’s about the only way to put it in.

If you turned it around to face the other way, people with long legs might be unable to stretch out without hitting the vehicles parked at the curb. And anyway, looking at the side of an SUV is not much more entertaining than looking at a county office door.

You can’t place the bench close to the building but facing the street, because then it would be blocking the door.

And of course, positioning the bench at right angles to the sidewalk would not allow passersby to pass by. (There WILL be passersby one of these days, right?)

The streetscape project, for which the Central Albany Revitalization Area spent $8.4 million (not counting other city funds for street-related utility work) extended over about two years. Now that ODOT has finished repaving Ellsworth and Lyon Streets, the whole thing is done. Seth Sherry, who took over staff work for CARA in the spring, says a completion ceremony will be scheduled in due course.

You will notice that these streetscape benches have armrests in the center. Maybe that’s so nobody can stretch out for a nap. No, these benches are strictly for sitting up, getting off your feet while perambulating downtown to take in the sights, whether they’re interesting or not. (hh)

On the next block, the view from the bench on the corner is this wall of City Hall.

10 responses to “Streetscape benches, a placement dilemma”

  1. J. Jacobson says:

    CARA might consider funding the installation of 2 or 3 Virtual Reality stations and viewing goggles at each bench currently challenged by a boring or tedious view. The City could pipe-in the virtual imagery of the carousel going round, giving Albany bench-sitters a pulsating thrill ride.

    The City might also consider feeding that speeded-up version of the Veterans Day Parade, seen on the City Government Propaganda cable channel 28, into the bench-riders’ visual cortex, giving bored benchers the opportunity to ride along the parade route.

    Several other “Virtual Destinations” come to mind. Google makes an inexpensive Virtual Reality goggle out of cardboard, easily replaceable as the cardboard may go soggy during the dreary winter period.

  2. Avid Reader 1 says:

    A goodly percentage of CARA projects border on ridiculous, but also are the wrongful spending of taxpayers’ dollars. Urban renewal is dead in California and many other big cities in the nation. But, Albany has to immerse us in it, whether we approve or not. Someone answered one of your blogs a while back re CARA saying people (the City Council) spending other people’s money is akin to a kid in a candy shop.

  3. Tim Suddiqui says:

    Please orient them looking to street. I’ll take my chances looking around the parked cars. I have sat in these benches some, felt kind a goofy unless I was reading a book/paper or visiting with someone.
    This reversed orientation is perhaps an example of over thinking.

  4. James Engel says:

    And the pressing social need for these benches is….? With no cover they are about worthless in the 7 months of rain. And being in the direct sun they are too hot to sit on in the summer. Perhaps separate stools that would spin so you could pick your view.

  5. Ray Hilts says:

    Thanks Hasso…. Your blog is better than the Democrat Herald.. It covers more of Albany and not so much of Corvallis. We are taking the E Version of the paper….. delivery is too expensive to see very little of whats happening in Albany area……

  6. chezz says:

    CARA – move those benches at NO cost to taxpayers to appropriate spots taking into consideration view, aesthetics, use, function; you know, the things citizens know about. Do we actually need to go to a CARA meeting to voice concerns or have a survey taken on placing benches??
    There are many visually appetizing spots in our Downtown – let us make use of them.

  7. Bob Woods says:

    When you get older and have trouble walking like I do, a bench is a godsend. A view is the least of my criteria when I need to sit.

    Thank you Albany. The downtown is so vastly improved due to all the private and public work that has been done.

  8. tom cordier says:

    Corvallis folks should stop any new Urban Renewal Plan. Biggest scam in City’s history. Was at the carousel today. Volunteer host told us the whole cost was from private donations—lots of plaques imply the same.
    As I recall we taxpayers put in roughly $750,000 which taxpayers will be repayed over several years. No credit given to taxpayer “forced” contributions.


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