City waiting to hear back about tax credits for bank building

Published 10:39 am Friday, July 17, 2015

Although West End Architectural Salvage opened a pop-up store on the main level of the Freeborn National Bank building Wednesday, plans are still in the works for the Albert Lea Art Center and housing developments at both the bank building and the Jacobson Apartments building.

The city and West End Architectural Salvage entered into a short-term lease agreement for the retail space through November.

The store lease doesn’t interfere with the separate lease agreement the city is in through January 2016 with Kansas-based developer Cohen-Esrey for redevelopment of the bank building.

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The city reaffirmed its support of the potential development as consistent with its community revitalization plan Monday night.

The city will find out by October if the tax credit is approved, said Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams. Pending tax credit approval, Adams hopes construction can begin in January 2016, and be completed by fall 2016.

If the project doesn’t get the tax credit, the city could re-evaluate why they didn’t get it, Adams said.

There are 24 units of one- and two-bedroom apartments planned for the upper floors of the old Freeborn National Bank and Jacobson buildings, Adams said. He estimated rent will be from $400 to $500 a month.

“The redevelopment is critical because it maintains a jewel of the community,” Adams said.

“We need some complementary housing downtown to serve the businesses that are down there. We want the downtown district to not only be a destination but a place to live.”

Millennials are increasingly looking for places to rent, not buy, Adams said. The housing will help with that, he said. The housing could also be advantageous for seniors, Adams said.

If the tax credit is approved, the city will sell the building to Cohen-Esrey for $400,000, Adams said.

“The bank building is a beautiful gem for the city,” Third Ward Councilor George Marin said. “The city has a significant investment in preserving the building. It is extremely essential to keeping the vitality of downtown. The council understood this was going to be a process. This is a work of patience and progress. “

“This gains attention for the city of Albert Lea and the downtown district,” Marin added. “These are steps in the right direction in keeping with the process.”

The city’s revitalization plan is a redevelopment plan for the city. The downtown area was classified as a major place for redevelopment, Adams said.

In 2007, the city put approximately $2 million into renovating the Freeborn National Bank building. Renovations included a new roof, tuckpointing, a skylight and new water, sewer and electrical service to the building and other improvements.

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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