Owners have a difficult history with the city. "We listed it ... so we can move on to something else."
Farmington's most prominent downtown landmark, the historic Exchange Bank, built in 1880, is for sale about 14 years after the city sold it for $1 to the father and son team who own it.
The city has had a tangled history with Hosmer A. Brown III and his son, Hosmer A. Brown IV. The city's former Housing and Redevelopment Authority restored the outside of the long-vacant, two-story building before selling it to the Browns in the late 1990s for a dollar and a promise to restore the interior.
The Exchange Bank, 344 Third St., is the city's second-oldest commercial building. The Victorian-era structure houses an ice cream parlor and, upstairs, a yoga and fitness studio in its grand hall, once home to a vaudeville theater. The Exchange, with Romanesque and Italianate elements and tall, arched windows, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The brick edifice was built after the Great Fire of 1879 destroyed much of downtown.
The city tried to light a fire under the Browns' lagging restoration efforts in 2008 after they missed another deadline for improvements. The HRA, now renamed the Economic Development Authority, voted to draw on the Browns' $80,000 letter of credit to get the work done. The HRA quickly dropped the idea on its attorney's advice, recalled City Planner Lee Smick.
But the Browns sued and won clear title to the Exchange Bank and adjoining Larsen building, which was part of the package the pair had acquired.
The lawsuit "was ugly," recalled Mayor Todd Larson, who said he was served papers at home a few months after taking office in January 2009. The lawsuit "was over who owed who money, things not getting fixed. They wanted us off the title." He said when the Browns finally completed interior restoration they received $21,000 from the city under the settlement.
Larson noted that his first mayoral ball was held in the Grand Hall, with its maple hardwood floors and high tin ceiling.
The Browns took out brick walls and did extensive woodwork and other restoration, Smick said. She said the Exchange has one vacant space, and the Larsen building is vacant and boarded up where a car crashed into the first floor a few years ago.
The two buildings are listed by Keller Williams on Loopnet.com with no asking price.
Hosmer Brown III confirmed that the Exchange Bank is for sale.
"We listed it with a broker ... the same as most people, so we can move on to something else," said Brown, 91, at his Edina law office. Asked for more details, he said to contact his son, a property manager. Hosmer IV didn't return calls.
Dakota County tax records show the Exchange Bank had an assessed market value of $305,100 this year. The Larsen building was assessed at $148,400. The Browns' property taxes on the two buildings this year total $17,668 and they owe special assessments of $1,481.
Jim Adams • 952-746-3283