A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

The St. Francis project: Taking a look

Written February 26th, 2021 by Hasso Hering

Looking northeast across First Avenue from the top floor of the St. Francis building on Feb. 20.

From the fourth floor of the old St. Francis Hotel, you have a fine view of downtown Albany and beyond. You could see even farther from the roof.

Whether anybody gets to be up there in years to come — in an apartment or maybe a roof garden — depends on the building still being there. And that in turn depends pretty much on whether somebody goes to the trouble to save it. Without major work, this 1915 building will eventually come down, either through demolition or on its own.

Saving the building is the goal of Marc Manley, who with his wife renovated the nearby Flinn Block a few years ago and still owns it. He and others have been working on plans to redevelop the St. Francis for more than a year. Last week he led me on the tour of the place.

The ground floor and basement remain the domain of Pride Printing, which has owned the property since the 1960s. The property includes the Rhodes building next door, part of the former hotel. The upper floors of both have been mostly vacant and abandoned for decades, and they show it.

It takes an optimist, or an expert like Manley who has done this before, to see the potential. The place is a mess. Broken windows. Falling plaster. Crumbling bricks and mortar in the south and west walls, where the weather hits. Water coming through the roof.

In the rooms, everywhere there’s evidence of mice. Manley insists we wear N95 facemasks and plastic booties, which we carefully discard when our tour is done.

The infestation of vermin is one of the barriers that must be completely removed and the building sanitized before residential redevelopment can be considered. Another is the utility infrastructure. Power, water and sewer utilities will have to be replaced and modernized before the upper floors can once again be used. The idea is to convert the hotel rooms to about two dozen “market rate” apartments.

Overcoming the barriers to redevelopment would cost around $2.5 million, according to Manley. He’s looking to CARA, the downtown urban renewal program, to cover that cost.

If that hurdle is overcome, Manley envisions turning the present print shop quarters into several spaces for retail or restaurant uses first. Once the ground floor has been revived, redevelopment of the upper floors would follow.

The overall redevelopment has been estimated to cost up to $11 million, most of which would have to come from private investors or historic-preservation grants or who knows what other source.

Manley talked to the CARA board in January. In a month or two he expects to come back with a detailed request. (hh)

Marc Manley has been working on plans to redevelop the St. Francis.


The ceiling in one of the upstairs rooms.



11 responses to “The St. Francis project: Taking a look”

  1. Therese Waterhous says:

    It would be worthwhile to estimate costs to refurbish vs tear down and build new. Is there a group investment option going?

  2. Albany YIMBY says:

    Tear it down and build one that would look similar. Half of Germany was rebuilt that way and now no one cares.

  3. Joyce Bryan says:

    Save it if at all possible!

  4. James Engel says:

    Yimby, what has Germany got to do with this project? The ‘ole Albany Hotel was taken down & who remembers? Take this old hotel and the ‘ole bank building down and create fresh 21st century ground to build on. Geez girl, get into todays world.

    • Albany YIMBY says:

      Would you point out to me what cities and/or countries I am allowed to compare Albany with?

  5. Bill Higby says:

    Tear it down! A building that was built in 1915 would have to be renovated to 2021 earthquake standards not to mention all the rest of the renovation required to bring it up to current building code. There is nothing remarkable about the architecture or the building.

  6. thomas earl cordier says:

    The UR scheme is to borrow money from taxpayers and repay the money from increased property tax revenue over time. If a building is listed as a historical property–the taxes cannot be increased. For example ~$750,000 was spent to rehab the old J.C. Penney
    building. That money will never be repaid. Is the old hotel on the historical list???

  7. centrist says:

    Haven’t been inside, so I can’t judge the claims made.
    Having said that, what is the business case for the options?

  8. Janet Lundberg says:

    Hasso, that building would be a wonderful piece of history to reclaim! I believe my mother, the late Ruth J. (Hoefer) Roth, told me at one time that Dr. Lew Hurd attended patients in that building after he was mustered out of the Army in the post-WWII era. I have always thought it sad that it has remained vacant on its upper floors for so long! Would be wonderful to have a restaurant like McMenamins take over part of it and perhaps develop a rooftop seating area for some of our better summer weather!

  9. Rick says:

    While I haven’t been inside, I took the video tour. The woodwork is very plain and some of the rooms seem odd. This might be attractive to some, but it is not a viable business venture. Bring your own cash and invest away. Keep the city’s cash out of this one.


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