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Council voices support for bank building proposal

Software startup company to bring 3 dozen jobs

The Albert Lea City Council Monday supported a proposal by an Albert Lea company to develop the Freeborn National Bank and Jacobsen Apartments buildings, which could bring about three dozen jobs to the community in the next 15 months.

The council supported an application from Mortarr LLC to the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development to develop the building. The company is a software startup company established last July in Albert Lea. The organization is undergoing final beta testing and is expected to go live this summer.

The firm expects to turn in the application this week.

Mortarr co-founder and chief operating officer Steven Pulley thanked city officials and Albert Lea Economic Development Agency Executive Director Ryan Nolander for supporting the project.

“We are really excited about the opportunity,” Pulley said. “And we think we have a really good idea and are really happy to be in Albert Lea.”

Mortarr is an imagery-driven and search-based website and app that serves as an inspiration gallery, networking and promotional tool for professionals, brands and end-users in the commercial construction and design industry.

The firm is now the parent company to The Marketing Plant, which will eventually be rebranded as an internal agency for Mortarr.

Phase one construction would be on the main floor and mezzanine levels to accommodate approximately 35 workstations, two conference rooms, a break room, two Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant bathrooms, a half-bath on the mezzanine, flexible work seating and lounge areas.

Additional phases of the project are expected to include demolishing and reconstructing each floor to keep pace with the company’s growth.

The firm’s headquarters are at 137 S. Broadway Ave. The building’s capacity is 21, which is expected to be eclipsed if all open positions at the company are filled.

In connection with the development of Mortarr, employees have reportedly been hired from Colorado and Oregon. Someone who lived in Conger and is involved in the project has bought a house in Albert Lea. The company is reaching out to college seniors majoring in the technology field to gauge their interest in coming back to the community to join the firm.

“We’re really excited about that,” Pulley said.

Second Ward Councilor Larry Baker said the group seems excited to undertake the project.

“Just listening to you, with your energy that you guys have going toward this got me excited,” he said.

Third Ward Councilor Jason Howland agreed, saying the project was “very exciting.”

Amy Petersen of The Marketing Plant, and co-founder of Mortarr, said of Mortarr’s development that “there’s nobody really doing what we are doing.”

After the meeting, Abby Murray of The Marketing Plant, who also helped co-found Mortarr, expressed optimism of how the project will go.

“We’re very pleased with how things went tonight,” she said. “We’re really excited to move forward and keep our headquarters in Albert Lea.”

Look for more from Monday’s meeting in Wednesday’s Tribune.

In other action, the council:

• Did not pass a resolution to support the Albert Lea Area Schools bond referendum after councilors expressed concern in a study session prior to the meeting over voicing support of a matter that does not involve the council. The school is requesting $24 million to finance facility upgrades at Albert Lea High School and Hammer Field, as well as expanding the gymnasium and securing the entrance at Halverson Elementary School. The referendum is not expected to increase property taxes.

Albert Lea Superintendent Mike Funk discussed the need for the project and work expected to take place.

• Approved proposed changes to city code pertaining to accessory buildings and structures. Maximum square footage of carports, garages and sheds per lot were added. Larger lots are not allowed more square footage. Provisions were reportedly added for temporary structures and language on cargo and shipping containers to help staff address issues with temporary structures, including tents, cargo containers and non-code structures. Definitions were added for sheds, temporary accessory structures, carports, gazebos and pergolas.

• Authorized removal of the house at 1326 S. Broadway Ave. Action took place after the property reportedly had broken windows, no natural gas or electricity, foundation under the front porch, poor siding, and the back porch appeared to fall off in September 2014. Minimal work was apparently conducted last summer, and “no work on the structure has been noted since,” City Manager Chad Adams said in a report.

About Sam Wilmes

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

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