Chamber moving to old BOA

BY WILL DAVIS
Published:

Thursday, April 9, 2015 2:54 AM CDT
The Forsyth-Monroe County Chamber of Commerce is purchasing the old Bank of America building and will move there in a matter of months.Chamber CEO Tiffany Andrews said they have a contract to buy the facility on a 30-year note and hope to close in a few months. Andrews said they looked at seven different buildings in town over the past few months and chose the former BOA building at 35 S. Lee Street.

The chamber has been leasing space in the city-owned Welcome Center since it was renovated and re-opened in 2007. The parties changed the lease in 2013 so that the chamber became responsible for maintenance but only paid a $1 per year lease. There had been talk that the city and chamber might part ways after the city revoked funding the chamber with hotel-motel tax funds and instead created its own Convention and Visitors Bureau. There was also discussion of whether the city was fulfilling a promise to fund a receptionist on the first floor for the Welcome Center. But the chamber board of directors sent the city notice it was moving to the BOA building saying that it had had a “30-year desire” to own their own building. Andrews is also the executive director of the Monroe County Development Authority, which leases her services from the chamber, so it’s assumed the BOA building will also be the new home of the authority.

The chamber has occupied the upstairs of the Welcome Center, which has five offices while the city’s Main Street program had two offices downstairs. City administrator Janice Hall said the city is only adding one employee as it opens its Convention and Visitors Bureau and said the building is awfully big for just three employees. She said she would be bringing options to the city’s public relations committee on how to use the Welcome Center going forward.

“We are reviewing all possibilities,” said Hall, who didn’t rule out making the Welcome Center a new City Hall or perhaps recruiting another tenant.

Hall said she’ll report her ideas to a joint meeting of the public relations committee and the chamber board of directors on Wednesday, April 15.

Hall said contrary to some reports, neither party demanded the other entity move out of the Welcome Center.

As for the BOA building, Monroe County Bank had purchased it after BOA closed in 2013 as part of a nationwide BOA effort to shutter rural branches. When United Bank merged with Monroe County Bank in 2014, the BOA building fell to the ownership of Monroe County Bank CEO Bill Bazemore. The Monroe County tax assessors list the property as having a value of $505,800. Andrews refused to say what the chamber is paying Bazemore for the building. She said the chamber plans to do some renovations before moving there.