A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

What’s up with Wells Fargo lot: An update

Written January 3rd, 2024 by Hasso Hering

The lot where the Wells Fargo branch sat, shown Dec. 22, 2023. It’s available for parking pending the lot’s sale.

Some day there may be a building there, but for now the former site of Wells Fargo Bank’s downtown Albany branch is serving the need for more parking slots.

After buying and then demolishing the former former Wells Fargo branch, the Albany Revitalization Agency agreed in October 2023 to sell the property to Scott Lepman for $310,000.

His was the only offer. The ARA board, meaning the city council, accepted it after Lepman proposed to cover the entire half block with a four-story building. The building would have commercial space, 20 apartments or condominiums, and 47 covered and secured parking spaces, 17 of which would be reserved for the St. Francis building across Ferry Street.

The sale won’t close until after the council approves an agreement nailing down details of the proposed development.

“We are working on the development agreement with Lepman and his team but don’t have a closing date set yet,” Sophie Adams told me in an email Wednesday. She’s the city economic development manager and administers the CARA urban renewal district.

The sale to Lepman includes the gravel lot where the branch was demolished in 2023 as well as the former bank parking lot to the west .

I wondered about the availability of the space for parking while the city is still the owner, and Adams replied:

“The west portion of the lot is a combination of leased and customer parking and is still managed by ParkWise, who uses the revenue to fund the parking program. The gravel section is temporarily helping to offset decreased customer parking caused by construction of the Waterfront Project. The lot will remain as it is until ownership changes this year.”

I’m guessing the gravel lot, on the corner of First and Broadalbin, has parking spaces for about a dozen cars, though the spaces were unmarked last time I looked.

People often complain about not enough spaces for parking downtown. Now there are a few more, at least for a while. (hh)

18 responses to “What’s up with Wells Fargo lot: An update”

  1. Cap B. says:

    Thanks, Hasso! Also thanks for reminding us that CARA (also known as the City Council) got $310,000 for the bank building lot PLUS the parking lot just south of the bank building lot. Don’t know that I ever realized Lepman bought the whole shooting match that consists of two large city blocks. CARA could have sold the bank building before it was demolished for 1.5 million to Linn County!!! (That probably included the parking lot, too.) But, nooo, they didn’t do that; they were sure they could get a bigger amount of money than that. Not so. The city (taxpayers) paid over 1 million to have the building demolished and then got only $310,000 for two city blocks!! Oh, as a compensation to make the Council not feel blue, downtown now has a huge sign in a very visible shade of orange on the corner of 2nd and Ellsworth (on another former bank building) that says boldly, CAPITAL PAWN. Tee, hee! It is in huge orange letters!! Oh, I said that.

    I think we need a new Council!!

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      A new council? It’s called elections. For almost a generation now we’ve had new councils with *multiple* new people over the years involved with CARA & ARA. Sorry they haven’t met with your approval… Albany is hugely better for their effort.

      • Al Nyman says:

        In your opinion which most viewers don’t agree with. If you think Cara’s expenditures have been prudent, please reply and show me something they have done where tax revenue generated will pay for the cost in 20 years.

        • Ray Kopczynski says:

          TIF bonds, loans, etc. *require* a payback – generated by future TIF income. Whether or not it is more/less than your timeline is irrelevant. They will be paid back – just as earlier URDs have been.

          • Al Nyman says:

            Coach K continues his obfuscation as everybody knows the taxpayer bonds to raise the money for Cara will be paid off but where does the money come from to reimburse the excess the taxpayers are short for the WF bank building debacle, the $500,000 bulbouts, and a myriad of other investments the taxpayers are on the hook for that are to numerous to list. If you really cared about enlightening the taxpayers, you would produce a list of all monies spent and the return to date of the increased tax revenues that will pay off the bonds as promised.

      • Cap B. says:

        Don’t get so know-it-all, Ray. Thank you very much! I know the Council is elected…I never said I didn’t know that.

      • Bill Kapaun says:

        How about a “Community Survey” included in our sewer bills asking that question. “Is Albany better now than 10, 20, 30, 40….years ago. YES/NO PERIOD!

    • BR says:

      Let me begin by saying I have been in favor of downtown improvements, and for the most part support CARA.

      This series of decisions appears to be financial mismanagement, but I wanted to learn more before I made up my mind. When the story broke I emailed city council members asking for more information and an explanation. Their response….. nothing. One answered and said they would defer to another’s response. That second council member never answered, even after a follow up email.

      The city had two opportunities to sell this property, both for about $1.5 million. Both offers are declined… and then they sell it for $310k? Something is rotten in Denmark.

      • AG says:

        I’m also generally a supporter of downtown and riverfront improvement projects too, and I agree that this bank purchase and subsequent missteps has been a big problem. Instead of Linn County purchasing the bank building for $1.5 million, they have now purchased the Wheelhouse building for $6 million. A purchase of the vacant bank building would have displaced no one. However, the Wheelhouse has existing tenants who will now need to vacate at the end of their leases or sooner. I am aware of one business that had been negotiating with the prior Wheelhouse landlord for much-needed additional office space. That negotiation was put on hold when the county expressed interest in a purchase. The county now will not allow this existing tenant to lease additional space, which is forcing the business to find another location. Due to the city’s choices, the nicest office space in town (the Wheelhouse) is no longer available for private businesses, and for those who need to leave now, there is nothing else of a suitable size currently available in town.

  2. RICH KELLUM says:

    $310,000.00 for the bank property and the city property adjacent to it. 2 million dollars plus the value of the parking lot that was already there.
    They basically paid Scott Lepman to take it……… I take pride in saying “I told you so”

  3. hj.anony1 says:

    Parking LOT!

    Way to go Albany City Council. Way to over pay!!! LOL

  4. Dala Rouse says:

    The citizens of Albany have a right to question the expenses of CARA as we are all paying for CARA on our property taxes. Look at your property tax bill under ALB REVIT UR. That is CARA payments. If that wasn’t on the bill that money would go to all taxing groups. CARA is costing the General Fund of Albany that pays for Police and Fire approximately a Million dollars a year which is why we have the $9.00 service fee on our sewer and water bill.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      Nothing new whatsoever. That is exactly how URDs function – by design. Always has been that way for all of them. The current iteration has now effectively used almost all its borrowing authority with conpletion of the Waterfront project…

      • Dala Rouse says:

        Your are wrong on that comment. The Albany Redevelopment Agency in the 1970’s and 1980’s was only paid off by improvements in the district and only the district was responsible for the payment of the debt not the whole city. The state changed the law after that so all city taxpayers are responsible for the debt.

    • Gordon L. Shadle says:

      Here is how much CARA will siphon (Hasso’s word) away from the taxing districts in tax year 2023-2024 according to the Linn County Assessor:

      Albany City – $1,881,930.42
      GAPS (state education fund) – $1,348,562.37
      Linn County – $469,851.66
      LBCC – $147,643.63
      ESD – $89,595.70
      4H – $25,658.86
      Total – $3,963,242.64

      Enjoy that cool splash pad and stage on city owned (tax exempt) property.

      • Dala Rouse says:

        The council should have been given that information before their decisions especially what it is costing general fund.. I asked somewhat the same questions of previous CARA director and I don’t think he knew the answer and told me, “I don’t have time to answer your questions”. That answer won’t go over very well in private enterprise he will find out.

  5. chris j says:

    The city council is informed very little concerning projects that the city manager wants to push through. They unfortunately presume that they get full disclosure and accurate advise from him. It has backfired on them more than a few times. The bad decisions they make come off as the city council failing to listen to the public, which is true and being at fault for the fallout. The council needs to do their job and replace the city manager with someone who has the citizens welfare as a priority rather than satisfying his own ego and goals. If the city council is not willing or up to doing their job to call him out and find a new city manager they can trust, they need to resign and let us vote in a new council that takes their commitment seriously rather than just going with flow.

  6. Cap B. says:

    Hasso: Referring to your last sentence in the above blog which says that we have more parking spaces downtown “at least for a while,” I think it will be for quite some time. Lepman owns about every building or vacant lot in the city now. They are the Council/CARA’s construction guru! So, they are booked out for years on completing remodeling and erecting new buildings. In the future, I can see someone proposing to change the name of Albany to Lepmanville!!!! Signs can be put up on the sides of roads entering the city proclaiming, “Entering Lepmanville, formerly Albany” in big orange lettering, no less! Tee, hee!


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