City Council approves bank building sale

City and Bank Building

ALBERT LEA, Minn. – The plans are in place for the future of a historic southern Minnesota building. All that is left are a few formalities.

It has been empty for decades, but now excitement is building around plans that would put the Freeborn Bank Building in downtown Albert Lea to use once again.

“We are so excited about it. This is the most beautiful building in Albert Lea,” said Bev Jackson Cotter, Treasurer of the Albert Lea Art Center Board.

The art center would settle in on the first floor for $1 a year, but they need to fix it up a bit first. That is why they are asking for help with their “Capital Campaign.”

“We know that there’ll be movable walls for display area, and we have an area selected for the store, and we’re just really planning or trying to figure out what works best for the classroom, store room area, that kind of thing,” Jackson Cotter said.

The building is one step closer to being off the city’s hands for the first time in more than 15 years.

“For all of us, it’s a great moment to see that building finally get into the hands of a developer that we really feel confident about developing it to make it a great place for the community,” said Albert Lea Mayor Vern Rasmussen.

$1 rent each year is not what makes this a deal for the developer. It is the 21 multi-family housing units on the upper three floors.

“Just the general exterior appearance, number one, and the beauty of the building. It was very clear that this deserved to be, not just saved, but treated with respect. It’s an absolutely extraordinary building and it’s in great shape,” said Clint Jayne with Kansas-based Cohen-Esrey Affordable Partners.

After hearing the public’s support, the city council approved the purchase agreement with Cohen-Esrey and is ready to move forward to make these plans a reality.

“Here we are, almost 90 years later, more than 90 years later, still using this building. To me that’s just remarkable,” said Jackson Cotter.

Just over five years ago, the city spent roughly $2 million to fix up the exterior of the building. City leaders say they still owe about $1.6 million on that bill. The $400,000 from the sale would go toward paying it off.

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