A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Water Ave.: A future ‘plaza street’ in the smoke

Written September 12th, 2020 by Hasso Hering

One side effect of facemasks: Your eyeglasses tend to fog up.

Here we’re looking at the west end of Albany’s Water Avenue, shrouded in wildfire smoke on Saturday afternoon. Now try to imagine this as a “plaza street” where traffic can be blocked for street fairs, the farmers’ market, or other public events.

This — the plaza street idea — may survive as the only part of a plan to rebuild Water Avenue between Washington and Main streets, a distance of 14 blocks.

The CARA downtown urban renewal district had planned to redevelop the entire riverfront including Monteith Park, the Dave Clark trail, and the 14 blocks of Water Avenue between Washington and Main streets. But now it looks like doing the entire street would eat up pretty much all the money CARA had envisioned spending on this project, leaving nothing for doing anything with the park or the riverfront path.

Last Wednesday, the city council agreed to be “flexible” on the plan for the street alone. Translated, that means the council likely will not object if the CARA advisory board — meaning the council and seven others — decides to cut back the street project to just the four blocks from Washington to the Ellsworth Street Bridge (barely visible through the smoke in the photo above). That’s the area that’s been proposed for the plaza street treatment.

The CARA board will meet Wednesday to consider this. (If you have an opinion about it and want the board to hear it, you can register it ahead of the virtual, online meeting. Look up the agenda on the city’s website on how to do that.)

The CARA urban renewal program has about $20 million of spending authority left. Economic Development Manager Seth Sherry reminded the council last week that the riverfront redevelopment has been assumed to cost around $15 million. And he said redoing the entire street according to a design the council adopted in 2008 would probably take all of that.  Hence the need to cut the street project back.

Another option, presumably, would be to say: What’s wrong with Monteith Riverpark that demands to be improved? And as for the Clark Path, how about clearing it of vagrants, fixing the pavement, and otherwise leaving it alone? Wouldn’t that leave enough money to turn all of Water into a street that is properly improved so that private and taxpaying redevelopment might occur along its length? (hh)





11 responses to “Water Ave.: A future ‘plaza street’ in the smoke”

  1. JoshFMason says:

    Clearly you know that wildfire smoke isn’t good to breathe but do you know the 2.5 particulate matter level amounts in the smoke we’ve had in the Mid-Valley consistently since Monday afternoon have been very hazardous to breathe with potentially permanently damaging effects to your health? And, obviously you’re aware that the mask you’re wearing can help protect you and others from transmitting COVID-19, but it offers no protection to your lungs from the most harmful air pollution particles which aren’t visible to the eye? The particles are invisible and small enough to move from the air to your lungs into your bloodstream all in one breath. I really hope you weren’t actually riding around in these conditions for long. At the moment Western Oregon has the highest levels of air pollution in the entire world. Please fact check what I’ve said.

    • Joanna Stockslager says:

      Excellent – I was just about to post “Hasso – we like you now go inside!” Only an N95 mask – in my research – can protect you from the particulate. Well said Josh!

    • HowlingCicada says:

      Don’t know for sure, inclined to agree with you. But I wonder if smoking a day’s worth of cigarettes isn’t worse than a short ride outside. I’ve chosen to “shelter in place” as long as I can. Commenting mostly because of the attack below — nothing “ass-o-nine” when Hasso’s photo clearly shows what’s happening.

      Caption: “One side effect of facemasks: Your eyeglasses tend to fog up.”
      I suspect it’s because that kind of mask can’t make a tight-enough seal over the nose.

      • centrist says:

        Good point about the seal. Some of us have a prominent nose arch. The clip isn’t always long enough to match contour for a seal.
        Takes some fiddlin’
        It’s tough for condition-inclined folks to go inside, but that’s the current best choice.
        Stay well, all

  2. James Engel says:

    Josh…now what has particulate matter got to do with H. H’s. article?? Stick to the issue at hand & not go off making ass-o-nine comments. Do you also spit into the wind?

    I can see no reason for this rehab of an former alley as a viable increase to the value of Albany! For some reason the Council and CARA have a passionate desire to spend the last of it’s skimmed off taxpayers money on “lipstick” to beautify our downtown PIG.

  3. Karen chandler says:

    Thank you, Hasso. Water Avenue needs consideration its entire length and that planning should address vagrants as well as the ongoing traffic speeding by all drivers including those with city and utility stickers attached to them. There are many homeowners who pay exorbitant taxes and are weary of these daily issues.

  4. Bill Kapaun says:

    CARA- Central Albany Revitalization Area

    What’s CENTRAL about this location? If it wasn’t for North Albany, this would be North Albany!

  5. Just Some Poor Schmuck says:

    Who was it that said, “nothing is so vicious as small-town politics.”

  6. CHEZZ says:

    Think: Farmers Market/Music/Food Use the facilities that you already have. Why aren’t we doing this already??
    On Saturdays at Monteith Park and Water Street – food trucks,mini music venues, artisan booths, food booths, information booths, non profit booths, sitting areas, porta potties, washing stations,trash cans.
    Take a walk through Salem and Independence Saturday Markets. Why can’t we do this? Eugene’s Saturday Market – what a romp!
    The cost: Blocking off Water Ave. Coordinating vendors and contracts. Onsite volunteers. Removing people living on the riverfront. The City can create this enjoyable experience for Albany yesterday. No infrastructure changes. They already have the venue – make use of what is there. Spend your funds here – we don’t need fountains and froth – only from beer and wine tasting! Come on City!!!


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