City still open to developers for bank building

Published 9:44 pm Monday, November 27, 2017

Plan for hotel at downtown building slated to be released today

The city of Albert Lea is still exploring options relating to the planned development of the Freeborn National Bank Building and Jacobson Apartments.

Albert Lea City Manager Chad Adams said Monday during an Albert Lea City Council meeting  the city will listen to groups interested in developing the two buildings.

The development comes after the council in May approved a request from Freeborn Development Group LLC to submit a proposal for development of the two buildings.

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In May, Craig Hoium of Freeborn Development Group said the company hopes to develop a 30-room historic hotel. Nine extended-stay suites were planned, with the rest of the rooms a combination of king and double-size queen rooms.

At the time, the development group consisted of a general contractor, registered architect, Hoium and consulting firm Business Plans Etc.

The resolution allowed Freeborn Development Group until Aug. 23  — later extended by 90 days  — to compile a complete proposal, and the action permitted the company to be the exclusive entity to work on a proposal for the building.

As of Monday, the group had not compiled the complete proposal. The proposal was expected to be unveiled to the city today.

After the meeting, 4th Ward Councilor Reid Olson said he hopes a local developer is selected for the project.

“If other people are contacting us, we will listen and talk with them,” he said. “We are under no exclusivity with anybody. So if somebody wants to come to us and say, ‘Hey, we have an idea,’ we will listen to their idea. We’re not openly shopping it out right now.”

This is the fourth time the city is seeking to develop the two buildings. Plans by Kansas-based developer Cohen-Esrey last year called for turning the buildings into 21 apartments on the upper floors, with The Albert Lea Art Center and The Interchange Wine & Coffee Bistro on the ground level. The project did not receive tax credits in the fall 2016 grant round from the state.

Olson expressed doubt the state will allocate the funds for the project.

“I have no confidence in the state doing anything,” he said.

In other action, the council:

• Approved an interim use permit to the Shell Rock River Watershed District for actions relating to the dredging of Fountain Lake, such as overland piping of dredged material from Fountain Lake, access along the water’s edge for the placement or removal of the dredge from points around the lake and storage and signage areas for the contractor providing dredging services.

• Had a first reading of a proposed rezoning of property at 726 Fountain St. for the possible opening of a hair salon.

• Amended a tax abatement agreement to shift the interest of the development of Wedgewood Cove Townhomes from Wedgewood Cove Townhomes LLC. to Nicollet Business Center LLC.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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