Archived Story

Editorial: Bank building is example of local collaboration

Published 9:17am Monday, May 19, 2014

It’s almost hard to believe the news is right there in black and white. There is progress being made on the cherished Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson Apartments buildings.

Kansas-based developer Cohen-Esrey last week announced plans for 21 multi-family housing units in the upper floors and the Albert Lea Art Center is set to occupy the lower floor of the former Freeborn National Bank. Prairie Wind Coffee will remain in the lower floor of the Jacobson Apartments.

It is interesting that the Jacobson Apartments once again will feature apartments. And there seems to be no better fit for the first floor of the old bank building than the Albert Lea Art Center.

Kudos are warranted all around:

• To the city, for having the foresight to preserve the buildings and then the patience for finding the right developer.

• To the Albert Lea Historical Preservation Commission, for being much-needed advocates.

• To Cohen-Esrey, for finding the workable solution. Using historic and housing tax credits make the project feasible.

• To the Albert Lea Art Center, for pursuing the right space to show off local art. We look forward to peering through the windows. We look forward to meeting at the Art Center not only for art but for other social and business reasons, too.

A sale and development agreement are next. The Albert Lea Planning Commission will review to proposed use of the buildings on Tuesday, then the Albert Lea City Council holds a hearing on the sale and development agreement May 27.

This situation is an example of the collaboration that occurs in Albert Lea to better the community — and save two gorgeous, architecturally important downtown buildings for future generations.

Thanks and acclaim to all involved.

As a sidenote, the use of a former bank building with a vault inside reminds us of Hotel Minneapolis and Restaurant Max in downtown Minneapolis. It is often where opposing NFL teams stay when they play the Minnesota Vikings. It, too, is a former bank building. The restaurant keeps its wine selection in the vault. If you ever get to the corner of South Fourth Street and South Second Avenue, stop in for a look. It might be a good place to get ideas for the interior.