Glenwood native wants to restore Fremad
Pictured: Nicolas Helgaas, who owns and operates Cobbler’s Last and Lastmade Co. in Glenwood, stands in front of the vacant county-owned Fremad building in downtown Glenwood.
By Tim Douglass
Local and native Glenwood businessman Nicolas Helgaas is interested in purchasing the Fremad building in Glenwood and, instead of demolishing it as others have proposed, wants to start a restoration effort that would reach building standards put forward by the Minnesota State Historical Preservation Office.
Helgaas, who currently owns and operates Cobbler’s Last, a shoe repair and leatherworking business in Glenwood, says he has come up with a plan that he hopes will see him restore the building and providing more retail or business space, as well as residential space, to downtown Glenwood. The Fremad Building has been vacant for years and Pope County acquired the building through the tax forfeiture process.
Helgaas said he had been working on the plan for months and had met at least twice with the Pope County HRA / EDA explaining their plan to restore the Fremad Building, but told the Tribune last week that ‘he was on a schedule with the state in the restoration efforts and must purchase the building as soon as possible.
âThe state portion of a historic discount program ends in June 2022,â Helgaas said last week. The program, he explained, would allow him to recover some costs incurred for the restoration and cleaning of the building. âI’m only going to do what qualifies for this rebate program,â he said.
Helgaas said the topic will be on the agenda for the Pope County HRA / EDA meeting on Wednesday (December 15).
The Fremad Building has been a subject for County Council and HRA / EDA County for a number of years. The building became county property when it was ditched for tax in 2016. When the county took possession of the building, it was empty and in need of repair. In February 2017, Pope County Council learned from an assessment of the building carried out by Engan Associates, that the Fremad Building was “structurally sound” and could be restored, it was reported.
Richard and Andy Engan, Engan Associates, provided council with the results of a “condition assessment” of the building and Richard Engan told council there were “minimal cracks, notched square joints that would need to be repaired and bricks that have cracks, âit was reported in the Pope County Tribune on February 27, 2017.
âIt’s nothing you wouldn’t expect from a building over 100 years old,â Engan told the board at the time.
The county board of directors used a grant from the Minnesota Historical Society to hire Engan Associates to conduct the condition assessment of the Fremad Building to determine whether the building should be demolished or restored. Restoration of the building was an option recommended by Engan Associates if the county could find a suitable use for the building. But restoration costs have always been an issue for potential buyers and prompted an effort to remove the building from the historic register so that it can be demolished.
The following year, the county turned the building over to the HRA / EDA County to find a suitable buyer, and that agency worked to remove the building from the state’s historic register so that it could be demolished rather than restored. While there was some interest in demolishing the building, potential buyers did not come forward and cited the building’s valuation and demolition costs as a deterrent to purchasing the vacant building.
Helgaas said he had recently been interested in the building and what it could bring to the community and worked on a plan that would form an association, much like the original Fremad association, which d ‘first constructed the building in Glenwood.
âAll I really need now is the HRA / EDA County Board of Directors to sell me the building and I will do the rest,â Helgaas told the Tribune last week. The HRA / EDA Board of Directors discussed Helgaas’ plan and decided last week to issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to first determine whether the building is strong enough to be safely refurbished and occupied. before being sold.