What to do with Freeborn Bank Building?Published 9:38am Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Column: City View, by Chad Adams
The city has been investing a lot of time, resources and funding on the downtown in an effort to revitalize the area as a destination point for the community and persons visiting Albert Lea. The city has identified the downtown revitalization as a high priority in past year goal-setting sessions.
While the city has provided support toward the Broadway reconstruction and streetscape project, potential creation of what’s termed a “Diversified Central Zoning District” to provide more flexibility in uses, as well as grants for exterior façade and back door improvements, we have also been very pleased by the collaborative approach to revitalizing the downtown.
Some great examples of private and civic investment in the downtown include the Wind Down Wednesday events, Fall Festival, spring Strawberry Festival, Albert Lea Farmers Market, additional productions at the Marion Ross Performing Arts Center, Albert Lea-Freeborn County Chamber of Commerce hot dog events on Saturdays throughout the summer, new business openings in the downtown, and the private business matching grant dollars to improve their storefronts.
As we continue to provide support for the revitalization of the downtown, we recognize that the Freeborn Bank Building and Jacobson Building will be an essential piece to the downtown’s success.
Over the past few months, we have held a number of focus groups from various sectors of the community to engage and seek more collaboration from the public on ideas for best use of the buildings, along with feasibility and options for achieving those desired uses.
On Tuesday, we will hold an open house to invite your feedback and advice on the buildings. Beginning at 6 p.m. at the Freeborn Bank Building, we will open the doors to provide some guided tours to offer the public a feel for the physical space of the buildings. At 7 p.m. we will provide a short presentation and some background on the building. Following the presentation, we will have an open forum for your feedback and thoughts.
To date, the city has invested about $2 million to acquire the buildings, restore the historic exterior façades of the building, replace the windows and roof, and remove the asbestos from the buildings. We have engaged in serious negotiations with a few development prospects in the past few years but have been unable to come to terms on an agreement.
It is ultimately the city’s desire to release our ownership of the buildings to another owner/developer and to get the buildings back on the tax rolls. However, before we start marketing the buildings or soliciting proposals over the next several months, we want your input.
Downtowns are often viewed as a measure of a community’s vitality and success. We appreciate the community’s support for economic development in the downtown and improving the downtown’s character and appeal as a pedestrian friendly destination place for the future.
We look forward to hearing your ideas or opportunities to improve the downtown and use of the Freeborn Bank and Jacobson buildings on Tuesday. If you are unable to attend the forum, please feel welcome to contact your City Council member, mayor or the city manager’s office at any time with your feedback.
Chad Adams is the city manager for Albert Lea.