- Associated Press - Saturday, June 21, 2014

FREMONT, Neb. (AP) - A downtown Fremont icon is up for sale.

The Foundation of the Fremont Area Chamber of Commerce has voted to put its historic building - Fremont’s former post office - on the market. The foundation’s board has hired Don Peterson and Associates as the listing agent.

“We’ve talked about numerous avenues. For the last three years we’ve been discussing this,” Jennifer Greunke, who is chairwoman of the foundation, told the Fremont Tribune (http://bit.ly/1nRaxsR). “This is probably the right choice, but may not be the most popular choice by all people in the community.”

“The foundation board already has reached out to a number of donors and organizers to let them know of its decision. It’s not been an easy decision to come to,” added Ron Tillery, executive director of the Fremont Area Chamber.

Tillery said his organization is the lone tenant in the building that has more than 9,000 square feet of office and common areas. That does not include the basement area that currently is used for storage.

“We’re only occupying 20 to 25 percent of the leasable space in that building,” he said. “The rent that the Chamber pays to the foundation for the space it occupies is insufficient to cover the total operating costs and maintenance costs of the structure. Even when it was 100 percent occupied, the amount of rent revenues is essentially a break-even situation not affording enough revenue to plan for future maintenance or unscheduled maintenance.”

The foundation purchased the building at Sixth and Broad streets in July 1998. Over the years, it has renovated the first and second floors, creating space for the Chamber and several of the community’s nonprofit organizations.

“When the foundation purchased the building back in 1998, the idea was that it would be the home for a lot of the not-for-profit organizations in the community,” Tillery said. “In fact, it was up until this past year when many of the organizations . now have outgrown the space that was afforded to them at the Chamber in some cases.”

Among those former tenants was the Fremont Area United Way, Fremont Area Habitat for Humanity, Fremont Area Community Foundation and Rebuilding Together. Tillery said Rebuilding Together was the last organization to move out of the building.

“It’s terribly underutilized. It is an iconic structure in our community,” he said. “But it is much more than what we require to do business, and to fill it requires a certain amount of expertise and energy. . That’s not in either of the articles of incorporation for the foundation or the Chamber of Commerce.

Foundation leaders recognized three years ago that lease payments were not providing enough to cover operational costs.

“We recognized the problem three years ago. The foundation was underwriting the deficits of the operation of the building. It was a drain on resources,” he said.

“It’s not an easy decision to come to. But we can’t ignore it any longer.”

The foundation board has discussed potential buyers.

“Among the things that were discussed were it has to be the right buyer, the right kind of buyer - another organization or business that appreciates the landmark status of the building and will preserve it in a way that the community will remain proud of,” he said.

The Chamber has not decided on its future location.

“We want to stay in the downtown core - I think that’s our first preference,” Tillery said. “But where in the downtown core? It’s a little too soon to get serious about it.”

It also is possible that the Chamber may stay in its current home if a lease arrangement can be made with the building’s new owners, he said.

Tillery added that the sale of the building should not be considered a sign of problems for the Chamber.

“The Chamber of Commerce is on very solid footing,” he said. “We’re very comfortable with the progress we’ve made over the last few years.”

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Information from: Fremont Tribune, http://www.fremontneb.com

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