Archived Story

Still no plans for bank building

Published 10:31am Monday, May 13, 2013

Albert Lea city officials tonight may be ending negotiations with a team out of Minneapolis for the redevelopment of the downtown Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson buildings.

City staff and representatives from Freeborn Partners LLC. have been in exclusive negotiations about the buildings since October.

Chad Adams
Chad Adams

“We knew it was going to be kind of a challenge just based on what we’ve already invested into the project to date,” said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams. “They were very good to work with, but the numbers just didn’t work out.”

Negotiations included what to put into the buildings and whether there should be commercial on the ground level and then apartments on the upper levels.

The company had a history of renovating older structures and turning them into mixed-use buildings.

The Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson buildings — at 201 and 211 S. Broadway — were originally constructed in the 1920s but had been vacant since 1995 until the National Vitality Center opened an office at the back of the lower floor of the Jacobson building. Prairie Wind Coffee opened as a coffee shop in the front half of the lower floor last July and signed a three-year lease.

The remaining areas of the two buildings remain vacant and have not been remodeled.

They were purchased by the city for $75,000 on April 19, 2001, out of concerns that they might be lost. City officials have hoped the buildings could be the key to revitalizing Albert Lea’s downtown business district.

In 2006 and 2007, the city invested almost $2 million for the exterior renovations of the bank building, at the corner of Broadway Avenue and William Street. Much still needs to be completed on the interior, including replacing electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems and installing fire sprinklers, among other improvements.

Adams said it is likely the city will issue a request for qualifications, seeking other developers.

“It doesn’t mean we’re not going to consider them as a developer,” he said. “But we’re likely going to sit back and see if there are any others interested.”