Prospects for ‘Vault’ building still unclear

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 20, 2002

Nothing is certain yet, but if the city is able to finalize a deal with the company that owns the Hansen Building, it will only be a matter of time before the building comes down, say city officials.

Once the lot has been cleared, they will be able to start working with developers to do something with the Freeborn Bank (the Vault) and Medical Arts buildings.

According to Bob Graham, city planner for Albert Lea, the process is at the vision stage at the moment, mainly because of the uncertainty about the sale of the Hansen Building, which is located at 128 William St. in downtown Albert Lea.

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&uot;We never really knew what was going to happen with the Hansen property. Would we get it or wouldn’t we? It just wasn’t clear,&uot; said Graham. The city has been trying to purchase the property, off and on, for several years.

Earlier this month, the owners contacted the city with a proposal that would allow the city to buy the property, knowing that the building would probably be demolished. The deal is fairly complicated, involving a purchase price of $200,000, a donation to the city by the current owners of $50,000, and a clause that allows the current owners to have 15 days of salvage rights after tenants have moved out and before the building is demolished.

Once the property questions are resolved, then Graham foresees the city providing a framework or general plan for developers to work with.

&uot;We have some visions in our heads, but not a lot on paper yet. It’s something we’ll be working on in the future,&uot; Graham said. The concrete, detailed plans will come as city officials and private developers work together, he said.

According to Paul Sparks, city manager, the first concrete step will come when the city interviews engineering design firms about creating plans for the area. Then they can work with developers who are interested in what the plans suggest.

Sparks and others also caution patience as the process continues to unfold.

&uot;Even after the sale is final, it will be some time before buildings start falling,&uot; said Sparks.

Relocating existing tenants will be the most time-consuming, although some may qualify for HRA-managed housing.

One thing that has been discussed in the past is space for developing enough parking to support retail stores and apartments in the buildings east of Broadway, Graham said.