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What do developers want to do with Freeborn National Bank?

Published 10:29am Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Albert Lea officials are again seeking proposals for the redevelopment of the Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson Apartment buildings.

During the Albert Lea City Council meeting Monday, the council approved posting a formal request on the city’s website and the Minnesota League of Cities website.

The two buildings, on the southeast corner of Broadway and East William Street, have been under city ownership since 1998. City officials have hoped the buildings could be the key to revitalizing Albert Lea’s downtown business district.

Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen encouraged developers to consider participating in the project.

“Take advantage of it if you can,” he said.

According to the history provided in the request, the Freeborn National Bank was built in 1922. It was originally constructed as a bank on the first floor and medical and professional offices in the upper floors. The Jacobson’s first two floors were constructed in 1888, and the two upper floors were added in 1923. The buildings share a staircase and elevator.

In 2007, the city spent about $2 million to restore the exterior of the bank building, including tuckpointing, a new roof, a skylight and new water, sewer and electrical service to the buildings, among other improvements. Inside, crews have cleaned out asbestos, filled in the basement and taken out a majority of the plumbing.

A developer would need to replace electrical, plumbing and heating and air conditioning, amount other improvements.

The proposal states the project comes as the city has this summer nearly completed a $4.6 million reconstruction on Broadway. The city has hosted focus groups and public forums to determine the community desires for the buildings.

The request states there is about 22,000 square feet of developable space in the Freeborn Bank building and about 6,000 in the Jacobson building, not including Prairie Wind Coffee, which presently occupies a portion of the building.

The request states city officials understand that some financial participation from the city may be necessary to develop the buildings, and the city will consider providing assistance with parking needs.

At one point, city officials estimated that renovations would cost another $4 million to $6 million.

The city will establish a committee of staff and elected officials to work with the selected developer.

Developers must submit a statement of intent by Dec. 6. On Dec. 13, city staff will meet with developers for a roundtable discussion and offer tours of the buildings.

The final submittal due date is Jan. 31, 2014.

City officials hope to select a developer by Feb. 28, 2014.