Coincidentally, a reader sent me a pic today of IBM Rochester's current OSHA form showing total employment on site. Current total FTEs according to that form: 2,539.
Statement from IBM Rochester:
A statement from: Tory Johnson, Vice President of Supply Chain Engineering, and Senior Location Executive for IBM in Rochester, MN
As part of IBM's ongoing transformation as a cognitive computing and cloud platform company, IBM in Rochester is focused on increased collaboration and innovation, creating work spaces to enable this. To support these efforts, we plan to sell our excess Rochester real estate holdings to an outside developer and bring all IBMers together over the next year into eight buildings on the east side of the campus. These moves will involve no personnel changes other than their relocation within the site, and the move should be completed by March of 2017.
We have begun to redesign and reconfigure office spaces for agile work and collaboration that can better facilitate teamwork and idea generation. This will drive faster innovation, create an even better environment for our employees and result in a win for IBM and our clients.
News release from the governor's office:
Governor Dayton orders I-35W Bridge to remain purple all weekend
ST. PAUL, Minn. – In commemoration of the life of one of Minnesota’s most beloved native sons and an international music legend, Prince, Governor Mark Dayton has directed the Minnesota Department of Transportation to continue the purple lighting on the Interstate 35W bridge in Minneapolis through the weekend.
“Prince, and his music, defined an era,” said Governor Dayton. “His tremendous talent was matched only by his generosity and commitment to improving his community. Minnesotans and our nation mourn the loss of a great artist today, one who has left an unforgettable mark on music history, and whose contributions to the betterment of our state will be remembered for years to come.”
The I-35W bridge is equipped with a computerized lighting system that allows the agency to color the bridge with light in almost any color. It is often lit in various colors for significant regional and national events.
Last week, MnSCU officials announced that the search for a new president for Rochester Community and Technical College has not gone well.
P-B reporter Taylor Nachtigal had that story Wednesday. Finalists were to be announced this week and a new president approved and announced by May 18. That was the plan as recently as a few weeks ago. But we received a tip early last week that things were changing fast, and according to a public statement from MnSCU Chancellor Steven Rosenstone, "Despite best efforts, the search process has not yet identified a pool of candidates of sufficient quality from which to forward to the campus and eventually to recommend to the board for appointment."
Then Rosenstone, whose retirement effective next year was announced just a few weeks ago, went on to make this astounding and outrageous comment, which is as revealing as it is insulting:
"We have learned from the search firm that last fall's high profile Internet and media campaign to oust the president deterred many prospective candidates."
With one sentence, the chancellor offended just about everyone on the RCTC campus who had concerns about how the college was being led by former President Leslie McClellon, as well as local media, led by the Post-Bulletin, which accurately and aggressively reported on those concerns.
I would call it an insult to all on campus and to the community, in part because it was so gratuitous. (Though the statement attributes the information to the search firm, I'll let you parse it yourself and draw your own conclusion.) It also appears to pass the buck and assign a scapegoat for a process that so far has failed.
Here's the document: Download SJR - RCTC re presidential search 04-12-2016 FINAL
RCTC student, faculty and staff organizations all expressed deep, well-documented concerns about McClellon's leadership last year. They expressed those concerns in various public ways and directly with MnSCU. With one stroke, Rosenstone's statement diminishes the value and validity of those concerns.
What happened was just a "high profile Internet and media campaign" -- nothing more than that, apparently.
For reporters and editors at the Post-Bulletin, this seems like an especially personal and gratuitous whack. Our reporting had nothing to do with a campaign to "oust" McClellon. It was good, factual, enterprise reporting. The more we reported, the more people called or emailed with more tips. We checked those out and investigated the most relevant angles.
We did our job.
Did some people who contacted us have an agenda? Probably -- most people do when they call the news media, and we're well-aware of that. Reporters are skeptical by nature. We do our best to question everything, including motives and personal agendas. But Rosenstone's characterization of what happened as a "high profile Internet and media campaign to oust" McClellon imputes only the worst motives to a lot of people of good faith who had real concerns.
It can only complicate the process of hiring a new president and healing wounds on campus. Those wounds are most likely deeper now. It also complicates the job of Interim President Joyce Helens, Rosenstone's chosen leader on campus, and the job of the next interim president, who will be hired for as long as two years.
Among the questions I have about Rosenstone's statement: Do Helens and others at MnSCU share his point of view about what happened last year? If so, we may be in for an even bumpier ride than expected.
I also wonder how Rosenstone's experience as the target of vehement opposition during his own tenure may have influenced his comments about RCTC.
News release from the governor's office:
Imagine Kutzky, the neighborhood organization formerly part of the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association and now on its own, with interests beyond just Kutzky Park, weighs in on the Francisco's restaurant proposal:
From: Imagine Kutzky
To: Members of the City of Rochester Zoning Board of Appeals
April 4, 2016
Re: Variance Request #2016‐004VAR by Francisco Corripio
Address: 1137 2nd Street SW
The above variance requesting a reduction in the required number of parking spaces for a commercial property has the full support of Imagine Kutzky.
Last week, members of Imagine Kutzky met with Mr. Corripio and their representatives to review their proposed restaurant project. The project conforms to the intent of the Imagine Kutzky Vision Plan and the underlying land use and zoning (except for parking) for the site. Because of its unique location between two other buildings and without room on the site for any parking, the variance request should be adopted.
Landlocked buildings like Mr. Corripio’s continue to be commercially viable for use by small businesses. Because there is no on‐site parking on this site, the site is virtually unusable within the current zoning laws. Innovative small businesses are adaptable and can find uses for these types of sites by relying on foot traffic and adjacent street parking to be successful.
Imagine Kutzky supports vibrant street level retail and a walkable neighborhood for the Midtown area. This project is a great addition to the neighborhood and will be an amenity for both neighborhood residents and visitors to the area. We fully support the project and the proposed variance.
Here are two documents that the Minnesota Children's Museum of Rochester put out to explain their decision not to pursue a permanent home at the historic Armory building downtown.
These were sent out in advance of the announcement Wednesday. The first is a strategic statement, the second is an FAQ:
Uniting with the Community to Serve a Growing Rochester
The Museum is looking to the future – and we’re asking the entire community to help us expand our reach and impact.
With so many exciting initiatives underway in Rochester, this is a great time to establish the Museum’s long-term strategy, vision and role in our growing community.
We’re calling it a “strategic impact planning process,” which means we want to work with our members, visitors and other stakeholders to figure out the best way for us to provide playful learning experiences throughout Southern Minnesota.
Experiential learning is key to developing 21st century workforce skills and healthy behaviors. You can learn more about the seven “Powers of Play” here.
Looking ahead, there is tremendous potential to deepen the Museum’s impact to make our communities happier, healthier and more innovative. We know that play will “play” a valuable role in our region’s time of growth.
During the next nine months, we’ll do a lot of listening and will collectively build the museum for the future. We want to hear from members, visitors, partners, community organizations, and civic and business leaders. In the end, our aim is to map out how we can best build our capacity and enrich the Rochester area’s quality of life for years to come.
The conversation has already started over the last few months through interviews with more than 20 civic leaders, community partners and key funders. Based on feedback, the potential growth and opportunity of the Museum is larger than originally anticipated.
With that in mind, the museum’s goal shifted to defining our long-term vision and maximizing our impact in the community, not searching for a specific space or location. As part of this process, the Museum has decided not to seek a lead tenant role at the former Armory building (the “Castle”) in downtown Rochester.
The Castle is a wonderful building and a historic Rochester asset. However, the Museum’s focus at this time is defining our long-term vision and maximizing our impact in the community, not searching for a more permanent home.
This planning process will help us identify community needs and shape our role in the Rochester area. It won’t be long before we’ll be in a better position to evaluate what type of space and which location would best serve our visitors and the entire community.
Since opening in 2012, Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester has grown into a vibrant home for playful learning in Southern Minnesota – serving more than 100,000 visitors and more than 1,000 member families.
The museum remains committed to establishing a larger, more permanent home. Our visitors favor a larger museum. A visitor survey in March 2015 found that 88% feel the current museum is too small and that 85% would visit a bigger museum more often.
In the meantime, the fun and playful learning continues. Our museum at River Center Plaza remains open and we urge everyone to visit our current exhibits Animal Secrets and Air Play.
To stay informed about our progress and learn about opportunities to participate in our planning process, join our email list.
Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester
FAQ – Strategic Impact Planning Process
Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester is working with members, visitors, partners, community organizations and civic leaders to establish its long-term strategy, vision and impact in the community.
The Museum plays a valuable role in our region’s time of growth as the impact areas align with our community’s key initiatives and focus; Journey to Growth, Destination Medical Center and innovative opportunities to build capacity and quality of life for our community.
As part of the museum’s strategic impact planning process, the organization has decided not to seek a lead tenant role at the former Armory building in downtown Rochester.
This is to ensure MCMR takes the appropriate time and process to build and implement the vision that aligns with the region’s projected growth and impact needs of community and visitors.
Why did the museum choose not to move to the Castle (Armory) building?
After the last two months of initial feasibility interviews with over 20 civic leaders, community partners, and key funders, the potential growth and opportunity of the Museum is larger than originally anticipated. With that in mind, the museum’s goal shifted to defining our long-term vision and maximizing our impact in the community, not searching for a specific space or location. This planning process will help us identify community needs and shape our role in the Rochester area. When this process is further along, the museum will be in a better position to evaluate what type of space and which location would best serve our visitors and the entire community.
Is the museum going to stay open during the planning process?
Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester plans to continue to provide playful learning opportunities for families throughout Southern Minnesota. Our museum at River Center Plaza remains open and we urge families to visit our current exhibits Animal Secrets and Air Play.
We will continue to offer additional programming above and beyond our current exhibitory. This weekend we are offering:
Friday, April 1 11 a.m. Enjoy a puppet show with a DNR naturalist from Whitewater State Park
Saturday, April 2 10 a.m. Get up close with a peregrine falcon from Midwest Peregrine Society
Sunday, April 3 12 – 4 p.m. Free admission for everyone as part of Free First Sundays sponsored by Bremer Bank Embargoed: Wednesday, March 30 @ 2:00pm Communications Contact: Heidi Mestad Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 507.269.4475
How long will the planning process take?
The museum intends to complete the strategic impact planning process by the end of 2016.
What will the planning process include? Who will be involved?
Expand the board and committee structure
o Gather data and analysis for informed decision making (market, community gap feasibility analysis)
o Engage community (including youth), organizational and business partners for input and identify community needs assessment
o From input in discovery phase, collectively identify vision and community impact
o Develop strategic plan and sustaining business model
o Gather Feedback from community and partners
Does the museum still want to find a bigger, more permanent space?
Yes. Since opening in 2012, Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester has grown into a vibrant home for playful learning in Southern Minnesota – serving more than 100,000 visitors and more than 1,000 member families.
Our visitors favor a larger Minnesota Children’s Museum of Rochester. A visitor survey in March 2015 found that 88% feel the current museum is too small and that 85% would visit a bigger Museum more often.
When the museum’s community planning process is further along, the museum will be in a better position to evaluate what type of space and which location would best serve our visitors and the entire community.
What other locations are you considering?
The museum’s goal is defining our long-term vision and maximizing our impact in the community, not searching for a specific space or location at this time.
What’s wrong with the Armory?
The Armory is a great building and community asset. However, the museum will need to identify what the vision is first and if that space could support that vision.
Is the Armory too expensive to convert into a children’s museum?
With our analysis, we don’t believe so. However, that may change once a vision is established. There may be additional components to include, once community needs are identified.
The Rochester Public Library has put out a news release that tees up the library's "next step" in winning approval of its proposed $55 million expansion. Library Director Audrey Betcher is headed next to the Olmsted County Board to seek county support for the project.
These lines in the news release stopped me:
Library Director Audrey Betcher says the proposal hinges on having a partnership with the city, county, and DMC. “The library is built on partnership, so it is not surprising to see the expansion funded in partnership.”
The first financial partner, the City of Rochester, gave tentative approval to funding $35 million for the project at their March 14th meeting.
Did the council really give tentative approval to funding $35 million? Council members did express support for the concept at a Committee of the Whole meeting a few weeks ago, but when it's flatly expressed in this way -- "the first financial partner, the City of Rochester, gave tentative approval to funding $35 million" -- it made me pause.
Our March 14 story on that council meeting was headlined, "City considered $35 million library expansion," and here's what reporter Andrew Setterholm's story says about that council meeting:
The council was fully supportive of the library's plans and tentatively supportive of the funding breakdown; the council gave an informal consensus — without voting — to support the city taking on a $35 million share as long as library leadership could secure funding commitments from the other partners.
There were comments by council members -- Michael Wojcik enthusiastically endorsed it, while Ed Hruska raised questions that need to be answered -- but as the story says:
Betcher and library leaders had not yet approached Olmsted County or the DMC Economic Development Agency — the staff arm of the DMC Corporation — to discuss funding requests, and Betcher was wary to do so without the city's commitment.
"If I can get a commitment from you, we can move forward getting partners," she said. "Without your actual, official commitment it's very hard for us to move forward."
The council agreed that there were still questions to be answered and more discussions ahead but the group was comfortable giving its "tentative consensus" that it would work toward the $35 million funding mark, as long as the library's other partner agencies agreed to fund their shares, as well.
So...I guess it's not inaccurate to call it "tentative approval," but it's certainly loosy-goosy -- "tentative consensus" may be more accurate -- and it's more conceptual than factual, based on a straw poll of council members, not hard votes, at a Committee of the Whole meeting, not a regular council meeting, and with no detailed conversation about where the money would come from.
What makes this whole process unusual is that the library is a city department -- it's a "part of the City of Rochester," as its website says. It's different in that it receives county funding and has a nonprofit foundation as well, but it's a department not unlike the police department or public works, so it's unusual that the department and its director are out front of the city administration and the elected council.
FYI, I checked with the city and they don't post minutes of Committee of the Whole meetings online. They do prepare concise minutes, though, and City Administrator Steven Kvenvold sent a document that I'll attach. The summary graf on the library: "The consensus of the committee was that the city would provide $35 million for the library expansion project if the library board is able to secure funding commitments for the remaining $20 million needed to fund the project." Download Minutes
Here's the full news release from the library:
Library expansion proposal moves on to next step
Library leaders head to the Olmsted County Board of Commissioners in April, asking for their support for a proposed expansion.
A few weeks ago, officials at the Rochester Public Library were given the go-ahead by the Rochester City Council to continue moving forward with their expansion proposal. On Tuesday, April 5th, library officials and outside consultants will present to the Board of Commissioners at their regular committee of the whole meeting.
Library Director, Audrey Betcher, says the proposal hinges on having a partnership with the city, county, and DMC. “The library is built on partnership, so it is not surprising to see the expansion funded in partnership.”
The first financial partner, the City of Rochester, gave tentative approval to funding $35 million for the project at their March 14th meeting.
“We’re asking the county to support the library by funding approximately $6.3 million, which is proportionate to the county’s annual financial support,” says Betcher. The proposed county portion is just under 12% of the $55 million price tag. Olmsted County borrowers make up 18% of registered Rochester library cardholders. In 2015, there were 50,962 Rochester residents registered with RPL and 9,178 Olmsted county residents with library cards.
The expansion proposal calls for adding two additional floors to the building and renovating the existing space. Betcher says the renovation would address access and entry issues, while the additional floors help address other issues. “By adding two new floors we would be able to create an entire floor dedicated to children and teens, which would then allow us to better designate ‘loud spaces’ and ‘quiet spaces.’” Betcher says the additional space would also be used to house programming, which has become increasingly popular over the last few years. “Four years ago we were seeing about 40,000 people a year at our programs and in 2015 there were over 110,000.” Program attendance in 2015 was higher than any other previous year on record.
The proposed funding package for the project includes money from the city, the county, DMC, and individual donors and grants.
Here's another take on IRET's acquisition of 393 luxury rental units in Rochester, including Avalon Cove, along Second Street Southwest:
IRET has been disposing of nonresidential pieces of its portfolio. According to the news release:
"The acquisition of this multifamily portfolio is a strong addition to our platform and solidifies our presence as the largest apartment owner and operator in the Rochester market," said Tim Mihalick, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Company. "Rochester is a growing market with strong fundamentals and a healthy, diversified economic base, including the world-renowned Mayo Clinic, and we believe this acquisition creates the opportunity to generate attractive returns over time. This acquisition, coupled with the sale of non-core student housing assets, continues the evolution of our portfolio and demonstrates our ability to efficiently recycle capital into higher-quality institutional properties as we look to create long-term shareholder value."
Here's the news release from the Lynx and Mayo Clinic regarding their May 8 preseason game in Rochester:
Lynx and Mayo Clinic to Host Preseason Game at Mayo Civic Center
Minnesota to play Washington Mystics on May 8
MINNEAPOLIS/ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Lynx will return to Rochester this spring, marking their first trip back to Southern Minnesota since 2003. The Lynx are scheduled to take on the Washington Mystics in a WNBA preseason game at Mayo Civic Center on Sunday, May 8 at 4 p.m.
“The Lynx are thrilled to be returning to Rochester this spring, especially with the great people at Mayo Clinic,” said Timberwolves and Lynx Team President Chris Wright. “With the Lynx coming off the 2015 WNBA Championship, it’s a great opportunity to give our fans in Southern Minnesota a chance see our phenomenal product as well as showcase our great partnership with Mayo Clinic. We are looking forward to a large and enthusiastic crowd for this year’s game.”
Minnesota’s game in Rochester is its third trip to the Mayo Civic Center and first since announcing a multi-year marquee partnership with Mayo Clinic prior to the 2014 season. The Lynx last played in Rochester when they hosted the Washington Mystics on May 9, 2003. The Lynx also hosted the Portland Fire on May 26, 2000 at Mayo Civic Center.
“We are excited to collaborate with community partners and the Minnesota Lynx to bring the Lynx to Rochester,” said Dr. John T. Wald, medical director of public affairs and marketing at Mayo Clinic. “We share the goal of creating, building and sustaining relationships that benefit the community as a whole.”
Tickets for the May 8 game in Rochester are now on sale through the Mayo Civic Center Box Office and on Lynxbasketball.com. Tickets start as low as $10 and can be purchased by visiting the Mayo Civic Center Box Office or lynxbasketball.com. The Mayo Civic Center Box Office is located in the North Lobby at the main entrance of the Mayo Civic Center. The Mayo Civic Center Box Office cannot take phone orders. For more information, call 612-673-8400.
“It’s such an honor to host the 2015 WNBA Champions in Rochester,” said Donna Drews, Executive Director of Mayo Civic Center. “We are excited to give local fans the opportunity to see professional-level sports so close to home.”
The May 8 contest marks the Lynx’ lone home preseason game before the start of the 2016 campaign. Minnesota will play one additional 2016 preseason game on May 5 in New York at Levien Gymnasium on the campus of Columbia University. The game will tip-off at 6 p.m. CT.
The Lynx will kick of their 18th season in the WNBA at home on Saturday, May 14 against the Phoenix Mercury at 6:30 p.m. on ESPN. A limited number of lower level full-season memberships are currently available by visiting http://event.wolveslynx.com/membership or by calling 612-673-8400.
2016 LYNX PRESEASON SCHEDULE
DATE OPPONENT LOCATION TIPOFF
May 5 New York Levien Gymnasium (Columbia University, NY) 6 p.m. CT
May 8 Washington Mayo Civic Center (Rochester, MN) 4 p.m. CT
TEDxZumbro River speakers were announced this morning...here's the news release:
Local Speakers Announced!
ROCHESTER, Minn. —TEDxZumbroRiver announces the release of the 8 local speakers.
What: TEDxZumbroRiver 2016
When: Thurs, May 5th, 1-6pm
Where: Autumn Ridge Church, Rochester, MN
Speaker lineup features 8 Local speakers and 4 Outside Speakers
The inaugural year of TEDxZumbroRiver will include a diverse lineup of speakers including a ventriloquist, an improvisationalist, a poet, an educator a healthcare revolutionary, and more, all while exploring the theme “Start. Create. Grow.”
TEDxZumbroRiver 2016 is designed to showcase the ideas and talents of the Rochester Community and beyond in 12 engaging, 10 to 18 minute presentations. Speakers were chosen from a large pool of applicants in a long and thoughtful process by the TEDxZumbroRiver curation team and direct community involvement.
Up until today, these local speakers were sworn to secrecy as they work on their speeches and prepared for their TEDx talks.
Today TEDXZumbroRiver is pleased to announce the 8 local speakers and their topics to the general public. (Speaker, bios, contact info and photos are attached.)
The 2016 TEDx Zumbro River Local Speaker Line Up
Local Speaker #1
Entrepreneur and Addiction Recovery Advocate
Local Speaker #2
Inspirational Speaker and Transformer of Inabilities
Local Speaker #3
Ventriloquist and World-Renowned Clown
Local Speaker #4
Architect, Urban Designer, and Bike Advocate
Local Speaker #5
Beekeeper and Master Naturalist
Local Speaker #6
Educator and Failure-Embracer
Local Speaker #7
Biochemist and Molecular Biologist
Local Speaker #8
Rochester resident, Ben Creo, co-lead organizer of TEDxZumbroRiver 2016, will emcee the event on May 5th.
All speakers are now committed and will also attend the TEDXZumbroRiver after party that night.
Approximately 1000 tickets will be sold to TEDxZumbroRiver 2016.
Tickets price is $47.
To purchase tickets or to find out more information please visit www.tedxzumbroriver.com
Why did they announce this on a Friday? Now we have to wait all weekend to find out if the Lynx are moving to Rochester, at least for one year.
Though there were plausible denials in the news stories today, the news release below sure makes it seem that they've all but loaded the moving trucks. Hope they've told the Lynx people how to find their way through the construction zone to get to the right Civic Center lobby:
MINNESOTA LYNX MEDIA ADVISORY & PHOTO OPPORTUNITY
Minnesota Lynx and Mayo Clinic to Make Major Announcement
WHAT: The Minnesota Lynx and Mayo Clinic will hold a press conference to make a major announcement surrounding the upcoming 2016 Lynx season.
WHO: Lynx head coach Cheryl Reeve
Lynx guard Lindsay Whalen
Timberwolves and Lynx Team President Chris Wright
Medical Director for Marketing and Public Affairs at the Mayo Clinic, John T. Wald, M.D.
WHEN: Monday, March 28
WHERE: Mayo Civic Center – North Lobby
30 Civic Center Drive SE
Rochester, MN 55904
INFO: The press conference is open to the general public. Attendees will have the opportunity to get a picture taken with Reeve, Whalen and the 2011, 2013 and 2015 WNBA Championship trophies following the press conference.
Ashley Carlson, Minnesota Lynx, (612) 673-1208, email@example.com
To wrap up the 501 on First issue, Rochester City Council Member Mark Bilderback said this morning that the Historic Southwest and Downtown neighborhood associations "are not receiving any money" from the developer, if any money is available.
That's how the arrangement was reported in our story Tuesday -- that the associations would receive the money, which led to my blog comments on this 00 and while Mark didn't say he gave bad information to our reporter, Andrew Setterholm, I've seen Andrew's notes and he clearly had extended, explicit comments from Mark on the topic.
So the deal is, according to Bilderback: Kraus-Anderson's Adam Kramer "said that if it comes in under budget, the developer may put some money back into the site, with landscaping, benches, trees," etc., "and that he would contact the neighbors to get their input."
"No money would be exchanged," he said.
The deal came out of a meeting Wednesday at Kraus-Anderson that was attended by people from the two neighborhood associations and Bilderback. After that meeting, the two neighborhood groups Download 501 1st. The memo was regarding "501 on First Cost Savings Reinvestment," and it was signed by Lindsey Meek (who's also a Planning and Zoning Commission member) and Brittany Wilson of the DNA and Dennis Davey and E. Christine Schultze of HSNA.
The memo says, "We would prefer that the council support the original design intent and deny the developer's request," but "should the council support the developer's request, we would ask that the approval be conditional upon additional enhancements. ... We are asking the developer to respond to us between now and the next public hearing as to the proposed trade-offs. We look forward to responding to this proposal and working to finalizing a solution."
Regarding those last points: A few people commenting on Facebook (including Meek) have said this issue shouldn't have been hard for the P-B to fact-check, based on this document. Well, assuming we had a copy of the document, it's not at all a final document -- it refers to "working to finalizing a solution" -- and it's not the final language voted on by the council. (The memo also erroneously refers to the day the meeting occurred.)
It's also interesting that the memo refers to "trade-offs" that the associations wanted from the developer, and that the associations would respond to whatever the developer came up with. I know that Mark and HSNA's Dennis Davey have gone out of their way to say this was NOT a negotiated matter, but by the standard definition of that word, it was negotiated.
I read the reporter's notes back to Mark this morning and without acknowledging that he misspoke, he said, "I would say it was probably confusing ... it was confusing to people ... I can understand that that would be what (people) thought."
He also said he'll check with the city attorney's office on the language in the resolution that was approved, to see if it's entirely clear on the agreement. (I've also called the city attorney's office and they're trying to get that language for me, which apparently hasn't been worked up into formal paperwork yet.) That's pretty striking all by itself.
Here's more of what I learned today about the deal that apparently was struck to resolve the 501 on First issue last night. I haven't talked with all parties yet, but it only seems fair to get some of this out now, since I've been discussing it here and on social media.
If you haven't been keeping up, check my last blog post, and here's the story as reported by excellent City Hall reporter Andrew Setterholm:
This is the issue, from Setterholm's story:
(Kraus-Anderson representative Adam) Kramer said as a "trade-off" to allowing the balcony design to go forward as the developer requested, the developer would return some money at the conclusion of the project to the two neighborhood groups, to be used for beautification of public spaces — landscaping or public art.
Bilderback commended the representatives for pursuing a solution together. He did not characterize the meeting as a negotiation.
"The neighborhood did not negotiate. … They talked about what they liked and why they liked it," Bilderback said. "It was still up to the developer to go back and make that decision."
First, I checked with Setterholm, who checked his notes and the council video (http://rochestercitymn.iqm2.com/Citizens/Default.aspx) and said he's confident in the accuracy of what he reported. The comments regarding whatever money may be left for "the public realm" came from Bilderback.
I checked with City Administrator Steve Kvenvold and he said he believes the article is correct.
I need to check with Bilderback, and I have a message in to Adam Kramer. I'll probably also check with City Attorney Terry Adkins, who was involved in some of the discussion.
However, I talked today with Dennis Davey, president of the Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association, and he said it's not true that his organization and the Downtown Neighborhood Association may receive money directly. There was a meeting of the two associations, Bilderback and Kraus Anderson last Wednesday and Davey says "no commitment to the neighborhood association was ever discussed."
Davey said someone "misspoke" -- presumably Bilderback -- in this regard, but he says "no contribution to the neighborhood associations" was promised. Any money that's somehow left over from project costs (and I'm not sure how that would be even be determined) "should go back into the project, in the public realm," with improvements to the streetscape and possibly public art, but the associations would have "no say on that."
That's obviously different from what Bilderback says.
Davey went on to say, "That would be very unethical" if the associations were to receive money from the developer in exchange for dropping their concerns about construction materials. "Nothing of that sort (occurred)," he said, but if it had, "it would be terribly unethical."
Which was my point in the original post -- a comment that generated withering criticism from Council Member Michael Wojcik (and a few of his friends) on Facebook.
So -- there's more work to be done here, and I'll try to get to Bilderback tonight. At minimum, there seems to have been miscommunication among people who either were involved in the meeting with the developer last week or at the council meeting last night.
Either way, it's reasonable to be concerned about how this turned out.
The Rochester City Council approved design changes for the 501 on First apartment project Monday night, but only after the developer agreed to pay two neighborhood associations to go away, basically.
Here's our story from last night's council meeting, and I need a few more details, but how was this not a "negotiation," as Council Member Mark Bilderback says? And how are we to interpret this as anything more than a quid pro quo -- in exchange for dropping their complaints about balcony railings and stone facing, the Historic Southwest and Downtown neighborhood associations get an undetermined amount of money for landscaping or public art.
I'm also curious -- has this happened before? Do developers routinely make cash payments to neighborhood groups to make them go away, and in this case to allow the City Council the comfort level to take action?
Brock told me by Facebook Messenger that he's hanging it up when his contract expires in July. "I'm going into real estate and will be working with my friends Ron and Lynn Wightman. I love talking about the weather, but 2pm-11pm makes it hard to be a part of my family when they're at home or when they've got events/activities."
The last day for his longtime and impressive place at the top of the local weather world is July 7. More in Friday's P-B.
After tonight's corned beef and cabbage, you might be ready for this -- hearty and delicious Spam burgers, with the recipe courtesy of Eileen Dietrich:
Hello, if you are still looking for recipes for spam I have one. Have made them for years and are always a big hit. People sometimes ask what kind of meat is in there, Always surprised.. even those whom have said they do not like Spam.
You can use them on leftover hamburger buns, hot dog buns and cut them to smaller appetizer size. They go like hotcakes.
l can spam, chopped up really small
l lb. of Kraft Velveeta cheese cut in small pieces
1 med onion cut in small pieces (your size if you like)
1 can of mushroom soup , undiluted
Mix altogether so that it is creamy, put on bread or above mentioned items, put under the broiler until cheese is melted and bubbling, cut into bite size pieces and serve. Will be gone in no time.
I have plenty of leftovers from the reporting that led to the story in today's paper about the $63 million Holiday Inn project planned for the Saint Marys Hospital area and why it failed. Here are some random notes, plus a few related quotes.
First, there's Sean Allen's reaction to my story after it was posted Friday. Sean is a businessman, co-owns a real estate business, is a key player in the Imagine Kutzky and Kutzky Park neighborhood groups, has been a critic in various ways of the Brutger project, and is running for city council president.
Sean put it succinctly on Facebook; I'm not sure the comment is still posted, but it was brief and memorable: "Bad developer, bad project."
And Gary Smith, executive director of Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., made a crisp comment to me at RAEDI's annual meeting Wednesday. I had just walked into the Doubletree banquet room and he said without any introduction, "There's only one reason a developer doesn’t go ahead with a project -- it’s not financially -- " and I missed the cryptic last word, though it was obviously going to be something like "viable."
I asked him to repeat what he said, but there were about 400 people in the room and I said I'd call him later because I wanted to hear the full context. In the end, I emailed him. Here's his reply, in which walks back the sharpness of his original comment.
"What I said was that generally speaking, the only reason developers walk is because of the economics of the deal. That being said, there is a definite correlation between process and cost and as you've already pointed out, Rochester has several layers to the approval process."
A few other notes, which may still find a place in a story:
When I talked Friday with Lisa Clarke, the DMC EDA's executive director, I asked if she's concerned that the messy and very public demise of the Holiday Inn project, with blame assigned to DMC and DMC EDA, could cause other developers to think twice about attempting projects here. This is something I've heard from several sources. To paraphrase, in a gentler way than I've heard it: "Who in the world is going to put the time and money into proposing a project when it's clear that the city and DMC don't know what they're doing -- and especially in the Saint Marys area, where it will run into the same neighborhood buzzsaw?"
Clarke said, "I'm not concerned about that at all. This is a moment in time that is something to be embraced." She went on to refer to DMC EDA as "the stewards of the dollars and the plans" and that they're going to "create a successful plan" for the Saint Marys area but "sometimes this means conversations are going to be difficult."
Clarke also said that EDA initially planned meetings for March 15-16 that would address the Brutger project, so that it could be taken to the DMC Corp. meeting on March 24. When I asked if she meant that EDA expected to talk through the issues involved with the Brutger project and have a recommendation for the DMCC board on the 24th, she said, "That was our goal ... the goal was to bring the strategy forward, creating this strategy for the whole (Saint Marys) subdistrict."
That more Brutger-oriented meeting has now been recast as a one-day "design session" and is set for Wednesday. EDA has invited three neighborhood leaders, three city council members, some city staff and a few business people to the private meeting. According to an email from EDA's economic development and placemaking director, Patrick Seeb, to the invitees, "Developing an areawide plan for the public realm/infrastructure remains of paramount importance as we advance projects in the district."
At the meeting, they hope to "establish agreement on the goals for the process, the information and resources needed, identify parties who ought to be involved and sketch out the design timetable. Getting agreement on this at the front end will help ensure greater success going forward."
This obviously is a much different meeting than one that would work out TIF issues related to the Brutger project and come up with a recommendation for the DMCC board a week later.
I interviewed both Clarke and Seeb at the EDA office. Among Seeb's comments that didn't make today's story, mainly for time and space reasons:
He said that last fall when Brutger asked for tax-increment financing for the project (to cover some costs of the pedestrian tunnel under Second Street and for public parking spaces in the hotel ramp), "it changed all the dynamics and it became a public project." He referred to taxpayers as being among the "customers" who were affected by DMC's decisions on the enhanced TIF, and he said "millions of dollars in public consequences" were involved.
And when I told Seeb that some sources close to the process believe that EDA essentially put on a "four-corner stall" to put the project to sleep, he said that's not true.
Worth noting for the Ides of March...news release from "The Dairy Queen System":
|The Dairy Queen® System Proclaims the End of Winter Five Days Early With Free Cone Day on March 15
Donations will be accepted for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals®
|MINNEAPOLIS - In the Dairy Queen® system, a Berkshire Hathaway (NYSE: BRK.A and BRK.B) company, winter is over and spring has officially begun on Tuesday, March 15 with a Free Cone Day benefiting Children's Miracle Network Hospitals®.
"We want everyone to celebrate our official kick-off of spring by enjoying a signature DQ® cone on us," said Barry Westrum, executive vice president of Marketing for American Dairy Queen Corporation (ADQ).
Throughout the day, participating non-mall Dairy Queen and DQ Grill & Chill®locations across the U.S. will serve fans a FREE small vanilla soft-serve cone with the signature curl on top (limit one per customer while supplies last).
"Last year's success of Free Cone Day surpassed all expectations and we have our fans to thank for that," added Westrum. "Together we raised $140,000 in one day for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals and we averaged serving more than 1,330 cones per store. We are looking to surpass those numbers this year. We can't wait."
Soft serve is part of the DQ system's brand DNA and the taste is unmatchable. The DQ soft-serve cone fans have come to love is one of the most recognized treats in the world. It's fondly referred to as the "cone with the curl on top."
During Free Cone Day, the DQ system is accepting donations for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals, which raises funds to help save and improve the lives of kids treated at 170 children's hospitals across the U.S. and Canada. Over the last 30 years, the Dairy Queen system has raised more than $100 million for Children's Miracle Network Hospitals in local communities.
For more information about the Dairy Queen system, visit DairyQueen.com. Connect with the DQ system on Twitter using #LOVEmyDQ and at twitter.com/dairyqueen.Visit the DQ Facebook fan page, which has more than 10.2 million friends and become a friend at facebook.com/dairyqueen.
Funny that Schmacon is aimed more at the Hormel end of our market area...here's the news release:
Schmacon, “Beef’s Answer to Bacon™,” announces its retail launch at Hy-Vee stores across Minnesota. Media samples of the smoked and uncured beef slices for review are available upon request. Schmacon™ is now available at the following Hy-Vee stores:
Schmacon is a delicious take on a food favorite that provides an appealing option for those who do not eat pork products, those who simply love beef, or adventurous eaters and creative cooks ready to try something new. With less calories, fat and sodium and more protein than most pork bacons, Schmacon is primed to become a not-so-guilty pleasure.
Please let me know if you would like more information on Schmacon, including samples, recipes or photos.
Schmacon is a smoked, uniquely seasoned, crispy whole muscle beef product. It is easy to prepare, cooks in half the time of raw pork bacon and has less calories, fat and sodium. Schmacon can be used anywhere traditional bacon can be used - as a breakfast protein, in side dishes and sandwiches, or as a topping. For more information, please visit schmacon.com.
Some quick notes from Wednesday night's Post-Bulletin Dialogue on the proposed $55 million Rochester Public Library expansion:
Plans for the expansion, which first hit the news last summer, came from the most recent round of strategic planning in about 2012, said Library Director Audrey Betcher.
That said, a former library board member who was in the audience last night left no doubt that DMC's launch in 2013 and the fact that DMC schematics of the riverfront area don't include the library were a catalyst for the expansion plan. When I asked the question directly -- whether DMC was the reason that the library was moving quickly to "anchor" its location -- the former board member emphatically agreed with that. Betcher was more circumspect, saying the current building is well-established and popular.
When asked whether the library or city officials have been contacted by developers interested in the library site, Betcher said she's not aware of any contact.
She said the cost of building at a new site downtown would be prohibitive. And she and others left no doubt that they believe the library needs to be downtown.
When asked if a site closer to Mayo and the DMC Discovery Square area wouldn't be even better in terms of traffic, the reaction was swift that no affordable site would be available.
There have been some discussions with DMC about the library and expansion plans, but nothing more than informational, Betcher said.
The cost of the expansion has gone up sharply in just a few years, and an audience member asked if the cost wouldn't be higher than $55 million by the time it gets city approval, etc.
The notion of building branch libraries rather than doubling down on the downtown building was considered, and Betcher said branches could be the next phase of the library's development, but for now, they'd be less cost-effective. She also said one of the downsides to branch libraries is that once established, they're almost impossible to close because of neighborhood reaction.
Operational costs for the expanded building would be higher and that will be part of the final proposal to the city, though Betcher said the expansion would make the building more energy efficient.
There are no plans to include more parking as part of the building expansion, Betcher said. She and others talked about the city's growing emphasis on mass transit. She didn't know if the city ramp adjacent to the library could be expanded upward.
Betcher spoke passionately about the library's role as a community gathering place, where people who work downtown cross paths with the homeless, for example. Her comments here were the most emphatic of any comments expressed Wednesday night.
A few people in the audience questioned whether more public "gathering places" are needed, at a time when other facilities (including the Rochester Senior Center at its new merged facility with the Rochester Recreation Center).
The library doesn't have any offsite storage. I asked what percentage of the current floor space is devoted to materials -- books, digital media, etc. -- and while library officials didn't have a firm number, a staff person guessed 60 percent.
Betcher said about half the $55 million cost of the project will be spent on remodeling of the existing floors.
Former Rochester City Council President and library communications director John Hunziker said the city had to scrimp on the size of the building when it was built in the early '90s, which is one reason expansion is needed now -- and it's also an argument for not scrimping now. As Betcher said, "We only want to remove the roof once" for this type of project.
When asked whether the library could get along with just one floor of expansion, rather than two, she said that in the end, the community will have to decide what its priorities are.
The next step is a meeting with the City Council on March 14, and the library foundation won't launch a fundraising campaign until the project is OK'ed by the city.
There's no doubt that changes are ahead for how development projects are processed by the city of Rochester in the aftermath of the Brutger Holiday Inn project.
At least one City Council member and key city officials are expected to roll out proposals to clarify and improve the process, in light of the Holiday Inn episode. That $63 million project proposed for the big vacant lot across from Saint Marys Hospital was withdrawn by St. Cloud-based developer Larry Brutger last week after several months in the city's grinder for approval.
Brutger said in a letter to the city on Feb. 19 that "without a clearer path and a realistic timeline for DMC/EDA approval to allow our project to move ahead, we regrettably must withdraw our application at this time."
Brutger Equities submitted an application to the city six months earlier, and among other hurdles, it went through three visits to the city Planning and Zoning Commission. As far back at late October, Brutger expressed frustration with the city's cumbersome review process, and that was before he encountered the brand-spanking-new DMC process for seeking "enhanced" TIF for the project.
Several people I've talked with have said the way this went down was a black eye for the city at a time when major developers from the Twin Cities (such as Opus and Ryan) to Abu Dhabi (such as Bloom Realty, which is working on a riverfront deal) are watching closely. They want to know whether the city and DMC are ready for prime time.
The Holiday Inn episode wasn't an auspicious debut.
City Council President Randy Staver told the Post-Bulletin last weekend, "The most important thing now is what are we going to do fix this. We have multi-million ideas on the horizon. We have got to be able to up our game. We need to make sure we aren't throwing up unnecessary barriers."
Staver also said, "We need the DMC EDA to pull in the same direction. Quite frankly, I think they need to create a greater sense of urgency in terms of how they are responding to some of these projects."
Staver told me Friday he expects to have a draft proposal of ways to "fix this" within several days, and City Administrator Stevan Kvenvold also said Friday he planned to make recommendations to council members on process changes to consider.
How big a deal was the Holiday Inn project? Aside from the total price tag, which was nearly half of what Gus Chafoulias intends to do with Broadway at Center, here's what Brutger told the city:
It would have created about 120 construction jobs. Sales tax revenue from construction materials would be have $1.3 million. Payroll tax revenue during the construction phase would have amounted to about $2.1 million. Direct tax revenue from construction and property-related taxes was estimated at $3.4 million, and local tax revenue from indirect economic impact was estimated at $1.4 million, for a total local tax impact of about $4.8 million during construction.
The hotel would have employed about 200 people.
Property taxes paid on the property after completion were estimated at $728,000 per year, versus the current $81,000. About 90 percent of the property taxes could have been directed to TIF, still leaving about $145,000 in property tax revenue.
The hotel would have generated about $460,000 in lodging and hospitality taxes annually, based on a perhaps optimistic 80-percent occupancy.
And in addition to the new townhomes on the First Street side of the block, additional parking, etc., it could have advanced the city's goal of a pedestrian tunnel under Second Street to serve the north side commercial properties, not just the Holiday Inn.
Total it all up and it's easy to understand why many people in town want to know what happened, and deal with the process so that applications of this kind aren't dropped for reasons of delay, confusion between the city and DMC, nitpicking, personal animus or whatever.
One intriguing question is whether Larry Brutger would come back to the table. Sources tell me it's not out of the question if the TIF issue could be resolved in a timely way. Brutger wasn't available for a call late this week; I'll try that early next week.
Other notes from conversations I've had this week with key people involved:
The Holiday Inn brand was a pinata: I've heard from more than a few sources that the Holiday Inn brand wasn't favored explicitly by a few key figures in the debate, which others thought was absurd. "There's no need for a four-star hotel across from the hospital," said one source, "there's a need for high-quality, affordable hotel rooms for people with friends and family who are patients across the street."
The financial viability of the project was a concern from the start: The price Brutger planned to pay for the site on Second Street at 13th Avenue Southwest, which is owned by Kahler owner/executive Javon Bea, was said to be lofty for what was planned. Sources say the land cost amounted to nearly 20 percent of the project's total cost.
There were concerns about what, if anything, DMC EDA was doing to move the application for enhanced TIF forward after the DMCC board meeting in December. The next DMCC board meeting wasn't until late March, and DMCC action was needed for the city council to move forward in early April.
The EDA's reaction after Brutger withdrew the application was fairly muted. For the record, the EDA felt that the P-B should have gotten comments from them for last Saturday's story, and ideally we would have. That said, EDA's comments earlier this week were restrained, emphasizing the long view. Maybe that's appropriate, from EDA's perspective; they take a very long view on the 20-year timeline for DMC development.
But as Staver and others said, that's clearly not in sync with what the city is expecting.
Here's the text of the letter from the Me to We Racial Healing organization to Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede, Police Chief Roger Peterson and others, about Police Officer Ben Schlag. I copy-and-pasted one of the image files...there were others.
February 17, 2016
Ardell Brede, Mayor
Roger Peterson, Police Chief
Director of Human Resources
City of Rochester Minnesota
201 4th Street SE
Rochester, MN 55904
CC: Darrel Hildebrant, Crime Prevention Specialist
Rochester Police Oversight Committee
Randy Staver, City of Rochester Council President
Mark Dayton, Governer of the State of Minnesota
Dear Mayor Brede and Chief Peterson,
I am writing on behalf of Me to We Racial Healing, a national group of nearly 1,000 citizens with headquarters in Minnesota. The primary purpose of our letter is to bring your attention to a troubling Facebook posts made by Ben Schlag. It is our understanding from news and public social media that he likely works for Rochester Police as an officer. We seek your response and swift action.
Though he has since removed them from public view, up until yesterday evening, Mr. Schlag’s public posts on his Facebook page indicated significant prejudice towards black people, Muslims and civil rights activists. Below is a selection of the numerous violently racist posts he made to his page:
Beyond the obvious messages in these images Mr. Schlag uploaded, the timing of when he chose to post them is chilling.
November 17, 2015: Image depicting a car running over protesters.
November 26, 2015: Text image suggesting shooting Muslims in the face.
August 13, 2015: Text suggesting Ferguson demonstrators are criminals.
Mr. Schlag’s comments show a clear pattern of disregard for systemic and interconnected realities and a distinct disrespect for people of color and people who care about racial justice.
His comments furthermore show deficiencies in critical/higher order thinking capacities that balance diverse realities, a persistent and callous disregard for the lives of others, as well as a lack of understanding of civil disobedience and non-violent demonstration practices commonly used in justice and equality efforts worldwide. Including in most of the 150 countries our US military is currently deployed to protect the civil rights of oppressed citizens. And, much like those used to achieve the US Civil Rights Act of 1964. Including by the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr and others and in demonstrations like the famed march on a bridge in Selma, Alabama. They are particularly well explained in King’s A Letter From A Birmingham Jail.
His comments would seem to violate the mission of the City of Rochester: “The City will strive to enhance community pride by improving the physical, environmental, economic, cultural and social quality of the city. “ They also conflict with the Rochester Police Department’s mission statement: "To work with the public to improve the quality of life in the community. " We should note here the conspicuous underutilization of Rocheseter public safety staff who are people of color. Of your 96 staff only 3 (three) are people of color. Of these, all but one serve in the lowest position on the force. No doubt, witnessing hostility from officers like Mr. Schlag wouldn’t likely inspire people of color to apply for positions at the Department.
Indeed, we’re especially troubled given Mr. Schlag’s position as a police officer. It is unsettling to imagine how his racism would play out in relationships with other officers, the Rochester community and surrounding areas in engagements that are isolated and/or out of public view. His behaviors demonstrate deficits in emotional maturity, professional circumspection, composure, and restraint. And specifically relevant to public safety: a severe lack of situational judgement--given the increasingly poor reputation police departments have with black people and other people of color.
Most immediately serious, however, is that this type of rhetoric contributes to, and escalates racial tensions in our communities and country, tensions that are endangering lives and undermining civic esteem.
The collective effects risk the health, safety and well being of both citizens and police. This was evidenced by attacks on Minneapolis police by anarchists which came after the day after Mr. Schlag, along with many others, expressed incitement of violence against demonstrators on social media. A similar environment was present on social media in the days before the shooting of five black demonstrators by four young white men.
Just yesterday St. Paul police officer Jeff Rothecker resigned his position due to racist comments he also made on social media. Notably, just as Mr. Schlag’s image comment calls for running over protesters, so did Sgt Rothecker’s comments. Rothecker is just one of a number of people in public safety nationally whose racist social media comments have led to investigations, firings and resignations.
More specifically: comments like these, coming from city,state and federal public safety officers continue to further erode trust between police and citizens—of all races; and perpetuate further cross-cultural tensions, if not gaslight more violence. They also undermine the hard work of fellow officers and other public safety departments. As government employees such behaviors are increasingly resulting in significant costs to city budgets and citizens whose taxes pay for public safety departments.
Should the impact of Mr. Schlag’s comments be misunderstood or mishandled by city, state and/or police officials, the lack of appropriate response(s) might imply acceptance of, or complicity with, institutional racism.
With all of this in mind, we ask that you address this issue immediately and comprehensively, as follows:
We hope you agree that this incident provides engaged leaders like you a powerful opportunity that the globally-recognized City of Rochester needs to seize for both short-term and ongoing positive outcomes for your city, surrounding communities and our state. Please respond promptly to this letter at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Andrea Morisette Grazzini
Organizer Me to We Racial Healing
Founder & CEO WetheP
PO Box 3121
Burnsville, MN 55337
Here's the letter that Brutger Equities wrote to the city Thursday, I believe, saying they were pulling the plug on the $63 million Holiday Inn project. As Larry Brutger says toward the end, "Without a clearer path and realistic timeline for DMC/EDA approval to allow our project to move ahead, we regrettably must withdraw our application at this time."
This pointed reference to the "realistic timeline" for DMC EDA, fairly or not, explains why people there were nervous as cats about how this news was going to be reported.
I received an interesting note from Steve Borchardt, of the Rochester Area Foundation, over the weekend about the link between Imagine Kutzky, the Kutzky Park advocacy organization; the foundation; and First Homes, the affordable housing initiative of RAF.
Imagine Kutzky was a "reinvestment initiative and partnership established by the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association, First Homes and Rochester Area Foundation," according to a webpage that's still posted on the neighborhood association's website. "As an organization, the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association was increasingly put in a position of reacting to development proposals, often in negative terms. In an effort to become proactive and preserve our neighborhood, as well as promote neighborhood-friendly development where needed, Kutzky Park neighborhood leaders began planning Imagine Kutzky."
Imagine Kutzky's mission statement is described on that webpage: "To preserve, enhance and promote Kutzky Park as a vibrant and sustainable, mixed-use urban neighborhood."
Imagine Kutzky does have a Facebook page that says it became an "independent advocacy group in fall of 2015" and that it aims to represent more than just the Kutzky Park area -- its mission is said to be "supporting great urban design policy, projects, and initiatives in all downtown neighborhoods."
The organization also has a website that doesn't turn up well on Web searches and is fairly light on information. (It also narrows the mission to Kutzky Park.)
In any case, a few of our recent news stories have referred to Imagine Kutzky as being a spinoff of those organizations or affiliated in some way, but the foundation wants that clarified. In an email over the weekend, Borchardt says the foundation hasn't been affiliated in any way with Imagine Kutzky for four or five years, and "I think that it is important to note that our boards of directors, for both RAF and First Homes, desire neither credit or blame for the activities of Imagine Kutzky."
He goes on, "The activities the Imagine Kutzky group has been involved with since 2012 are not in alignment with the policies or opinions of RAF and First Homes."
The collapse Friday of Brutger Equities' plans for a $63 million hotel project across from Saint Marys Hospital was a big deal. A lot of powerful forces came together to challenge the developer, the city's planning and zoning process, city administration, the Destination Medical Center bureaucracy, and eventually the City Council's competency, and developer Larry Brutger decided he'd had enough.
Here's my take on who won and who lost in the Holiday Inn debacle. There are many more losers than winners, but let's start with winners.
The biggest winner, at least for the moment, is the Imagine Kutzky neighborhood group, which is an offshoot of the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association, and the city's neighborhood associations generally. Imagine Kutzky and people allied and associated with it, including City Council Member Michael Wojcik and council candidate and businessman Sean Allen, raised concerns about almost every aspect of the project, including its Holiday Inn brand, which apparently was too declasse for some.
Whether Imagine Kutzky was reflecting neighborhood concerns or imagining them is hard to know, in part because the top concerns weren't headline-grabbing. It's not as if the project involved demolition of a beloved landmark, major planning and zoning changes or whatever. There were concerns about its frontage on First Street, how well it fit with transit plans for the Second Street corridor, and of course tax-increment financing that would have been involved. But neighborhood activism about the project was in place before the TIF and Saint Marys tunnel angle emerged.
In any case, Kutzky Park activists helped put the brakes on the project. If delays in winning city and DMC EDA approval were the reason Brutger abandoned ship, Imagine Kutzky played an important part.
Neighborhood associations have become organizations to reckon with in Rochester, which generally is a good thing. That said, it's reasonable to wonder whether neighborhood leaders always act in a way that reflects neighborhood interests, and how that community input dovetails with the elective process of running a city.
That brings up another big winner: Politics. The Holiday Inn project got caught up in the gears of a much larger political debate involving City Council politics as well as concerns about DMC. Allen, co-owner of Forager Brewery and of what's described as a boutique real estate firm, Midwest Landing, plans to challenge City Council President Randy Staver this fall, and Wojcik, who's running for re-election, has made no secret of his wish for a new governing majority on the council, with two other seats up for grabs.
Both have commented extensively on their blogs and social media about this project and criticized just about every facet of the project and the process. Wojcik's postmortem comments on his blog were somewhat muted -- he sounds almost wistful about "what could have been" if the project had gone ahead, though he says, "I think the public will be excited to see some of the other projects being proposed in this area."
Wojcik blames the project's demise on city zoning issues, poor city staff work and communication, "high land acquisition costs," "lack of public benefit to justify high subsidies," the Holiday Inn brand and Larry Brutger's personality.
On that last point, I can't remember a time when a developer's personal qualities, his outreach and engagement with people involved, has been so closely analyzed. Regarding the Holiday Inn brand -- really? Are the other hotel brands within a few blocks either direction from that site any more prestigious? The "Holiday Inn brand" issue was absurd from the start.
And regarding TIF financing, we'll see how that plays out and what the record shows for Wojcik and other council members regarding TIF and "choosing winners and losers."
Allen, in the Post-Bulletin story today, is less wistful about the project's demise. He lays the blame on the developer and says, "This is not a huge loss for Rochester. We lost a $63 million project, but we're likely to gain a $90 million project that will be better."
We'll see how long it takes for that $90 million project to come along. As Staver says in the P-B story today, based on how this project was treated, that property might remain a parking lot for a while.
A few other winners might include other hotel owners along Second Street, especially Tom Torgerson and TPI Hospitality, which owns three other hotels within a few blocks of Saint Marys. Torgerson wrote an open letter to the council last month that publicly hammered the Holiday Inn project and its TIF request. That was a pivotal moment in the whole series of events that led to Brutger's announcement Friday.
Another winner might be the owner of the site, Oronoco businessman and Kahler executive Javon Bea, who presumably gets to keep some earnest money from Brutger, though one would assume he'd prefer to close the deal and move on.
Losers? There are many: The City Council, and Staver probably takes some extra lumps because of the political atmosphere. City Administrator Steven Kvenvold and city staff get some blame for how the project was handled, especially in the presentation to the DMC EDA. The DMC EDA, and by extension DMC, which is likely to come under more pressure to get moving or get out of the way so the city can move on projects of this kind. Brutger, who lost some time and money here but presumably has other fish to fry.
And the biggest loser? The city, which just lost a $63 million investment.
There'll be other developers and other projects, and that land across from Saint Marys won't sit vacant for long. But this wasn't Rochester's finest hour.
The Rochester Public Library Foundation board announced plans last summer for a feasibility study to look at adding two floors to the library and nearly doubling its size, at a cost in the range of $47 million to $54 million. Recently, the foundation released more detailed plans, and a feasibility study for the now-$55 million project is to be released tonight.
Some public officials, such as City Council Member Michael Wojcik, have already embraced the idea, which would keep the library right where it is, at a time when some wonder whether Destination Medical Center planning might displace it. Where the money would come from is an even bigger question. Most of it presumably would come from city bonding, and the city already has major DMC obligations, but the foundation has suggested Olmsted County and maybe DMC money would be available.
This sounds like a good topic for a Post-Bulletin Dialogue, so we'll do it on Wednesday, March 2, in the library auditorium. The informal 90-minute forum will begin at 6:30 p.m., and joining me will be Library Director Audrey Betcher, plus others who will contribute perspective and context on this important community issue.
Watch this space for more details, and we'll get a story in the paper within a few days, but plan to join us if you can.
Thanks to all who joined us for the Dialogue at the Rochester Public Library last night -- one of our best-attended ever. The room was packed to the gills and people, as always, came prepared to talk.
Thank you to the arts leaders who joined me at the head table also: Andy Westreich, of SEMVA; Bari Amadio, CEO of the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust; Patrick Seeb, director of economic development and placemaking for DMC's Economic Development Agency; Megan Johnston, Rochester Art Center executive director; Gregory Stavrou, Rochester Civic Theatre executive director; Audrey Betcher, Rochester Public Library director; Steve Schmidt, executive director of the city's music department; and Jere Lantz, CEO and music director of the Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale.
Though I was up and about with the microphone for much of the evening and couldn't take notes, here are eight takeaways from what I heard:
Big things are just ahead for arts and culture in Rochester: This may seem obvious, but there's a strong feeling (again, based on comments at the meeting, including from leaders of key organizations) that we're on the cusp of a transformation of the local arts scene. The challenge will be to channel it and maximize it, and that will take genuine collaboration and listening by DMC, city and arts leadership, artists and audience.
The former Armory (Rochester Senior Center) building is a giant opportunity: The city owns it, it owns the adjacent parking lots now, and it already has features that would make it work as an arts center. As a familiar, beloved historic building on Broadway, it's a dream come true for this type of center.
The future of Rochester arts isn't just downtown: Several people said the future growth in arts organizations, venues and space won't occur only in downtown. That's also obvious -- there aren't that many buildings or sites available in or close to downtown, and Mayo and DMC-related growth will certainly gobble up more than their share of downtown space. But we don't have a warehouse district, we don't have a Lowertown or Torpedo Factory like St. Paul and Alexandria, Va., and we barely have any historic buildings close to downtown. Where will that future arts growth occur?
Arts leaders insist they're all working together: They tended to protest too much, in fact, that they're all on the same page. It was striking that more than a few people insisted there are no conflicts between arts groups such as the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust and the Rochester Arts and Culture Collaborative, or disagreements about the suitability of the remodeled Presentation Hall at Mayo Civic Center.
There's no big pot of money for arts coming from DMC: An audience member asked about the "1 percent" of DMC-related spending that would be put aside for arts, and I've heard from others that they think there's a windfall coming for the arts. There's no such mandated 1 percent in the DMC statute; Mayor Ardell Brede noted that the statute says public officials "may" choose to prioritize that spending, but that's it.
At best, a plan for the Chateau Theatre is a year away: ...and that's on a fast track, said a few of the committee members working on that "visioning process." When I asked when we'll be able to catch a show or movie or whatever will be available at the Chateau, nobody offered a guess.
There's no one-stop navigation point for Rochester arts: An audience member asked where an artist or arts consumer can go to navigate what's available and how to access it. There are plenty of publications and websites available, including ours, but there's no one contact point in the local arts community that brings all this together.
It all comes down to the artists: All the planning in the world won't change the fact that the city has to be an attractive place for artists to live and work. Stavrou made some great comments about how local artists need to stay focused on their art as the priority. They need to stay fearless and passionate in pursuing their vision; that's what will make local art compelling, and audiences and patrons will find them.
I pulled the plug on the Four Stars blog a few weeks ago -- one too many blogs for me to manage -- so I'll be posting Four Stars-related items here instead. Here's one from a reader who appreciates Spam, my theme last week, as well as the Four Stars of Hawaiian Food, which I covered in January:
News release from Treasure Island casino/resort and the Prairie Island Indian Community:
Treasure Island Resort & Casino will open The Lagoon Water Park and Wave Spa at a ribbon cutting ceremony. The Lagoon is 40,000’ of fun and relaxation. It was a $19 million dollar project that began in May 2015.
The Lagoon features a 320’ long lazy river with rapids, a water fall and an island in the middle of the pool that has benches and lounge chairs. There is 119,000 gallons of water between all four pools and a state-of-the-art eco green filtration system that utilizes natural Sphagnum Moss as a pre-filter water conditioner that is much healthier for swimmers. The Barefoot Bar is the only swim up bar in Minnesota, located in the adults only section of the water park. There is also two hot tubs, one inside and out outside.
There is 14,000’ of outside terrace areas and custom fire pits.
The upscale Wave Spa is a full service salon and spa that offers hair services, manicures/pedicures, facials, waxing, make-up and nail services. Guests can choose from a variety of massages and spa packages will be offered as half or full day experiences. The relaxation room has a wall fire feature, lounge chairs and can accommodate up to 12 people. Catering is available for special spa events.
The fitness center has the latest technology in bikes, elliptical and treadmill equipment.
This $19 million dollar project added more than 30 new jobs, bringing the workforce to more than 1,500 team members.
Enter at the hotel lobby to access the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The Prairie Island Indian Community owns and operates Treasure Island Resort & Casino.
Bloomberg business wire is reporting that the retailer Sports Authority, which has a store in Rochester, is considering Chapter 11:
Here's a link to the website Chain Store Age, which has a take on the story, posted Friday:
Sports Authority "has a debt payment due in 10 days and in talk with its lenders about a reorganization plan under which it would close as many as 200 of its more than 450 stores, the report said.
"Sports Authority reportedly skipped a $20 million in interest payment in January on a $343 million loan. It has 10 days to make the payment.
"Sports Authority saw its corporate credit rating downgraded by Moody’s Investor Service on Jan. 20 after the retailer said it elected to not make a $21 million interest payment that was due on Jan. 15. Moody’s cut its corporate family rating and $300 million secured term loan due 2017 rating to Caa3 from Caa1 issued a negative outlook on the company."
There's an interesting quote in the Twin Cities business journal Finance & Commerce from the city of Rochester's public works director on the hypothetical Second Street streetcar proposal. We reported Saturday on the "Zumbro Transit Co." website and made clear, there's apparently no financing, engineering or anything else behind it at the moment -- it's just an idea, and not a particularly new one.
We had a followup Tuesday identifying Rochester architect Adam Ferrari as the transit promoter who launched the website, which we just discovered last week -- it wasn't something that Ferrari or others were pitching at that point.
According to Finance and Commerce, when Public Works Director Richard Freese was asked to comment on Zumbro Transit Co., he characterized it as a “'hoax' aimed at restarting local conversations about a streetcar line on Second Street."
"Hoax" is a strong word, but it's fair to say, for a proposal that has a pretty website and nothing else behind it so far, it doesn't seem far off the mark.
We have quite a court story from reporter Kay Fate today on three charges against the former executive director of Southeastern Minnesota Historic Bluff Country Inc., the tourism organization. Tricia Ann Parrish is accused of felony theft and two counts of financial transaction card fraud.
Parrish didn't show up for her first hearing in Fillmore County District Court Monday and a warrant has been issued for her arrest.
She's the second consecutive director of the nonprofit tourism organization, which represents many tourism-related businesses in the Root River bluff country, to be accused of felony theft. The last one, Kristina Nolte, was convicted and ordered to pay $14,000 in restitution.
The organization was based in Harmony, then in Rushford after the Nolte matter came to light in 2012. Now it's apparently functioning without a director and a home office.
The membership of Historic Bluff Country Inc. was informed in late September that Parrish had resigned and that the office would be closed, but there's no indication of why. I found a copy of the letter to members online...here's what it says, in part:
"Over the last 18 months we have been challenged to work within the HBC budget. One of our major expenses has been salary for the executive director. Another major expense has been loan payments to the Rushford EDA. We are presented behind on these EDA payments, but the Rushford EDA has been very understanding and is working positively with HBC.
"The board has decided to close the office, effective Oct. 5, in Rushford until further notice. We will also not be advertising for a new director at this time...
"We realize that HBC can promote the whole area with great success, something that a single community of group of communities is unable to do, but we are unsure if this organization is viable as it is structured now. Thus, the board is in the process of evaluating the future of HBC and how we can best serve the membership and visitors to the region."
I need to do more checking on how much Rushford EDA money is involved, but it's fair to say it's public money -- economic development agencies generally operate with taxpayer money to leverage other money -- so this second go-round of financial scandal at the Bluff County nonprofit raises all types of questions. Not only have members of the organization who presumably kick in money been victimized, it's a good bet that some area taxpayers have been as well.
A board member of the organization declined to comment when contacted by the P-B on Wednesday.
Here's how the organization describes itself on its website: It's a "convention and visitors bureau that was incorporated in 1985. It is a regional association comprised of communities, businesses, individuals and organizations working together to promote tourism and related activities in Southeastern Minnesota."
Among other tourism material, it produces the "Bluff County Magic" brochure.
...SNOWFALL REPORTS PAST 24 HOURS... LOCATION AMOUNT TIME/DATE LAT/LON ...MINNESOTA... ...MOWER COUNTY... GRAND MEADOW 8.5 IN 0420 AM 02/03 43.71N/92.56W ...OLMSTED COUNTY... ROCHESTER INTERNATIONAL AIRP 8.9 IN 0554 AM 02/03 43.91N/92.50W ROCHESTER 2.6 NE 7.0 IN 0600 AM 02/03 44.04N/92.44W ...WINONA COUNTY... WINONA DAM 5A 6.5 IN 0600 AM 02/03 44.09N/91.67W LA CRESCENT DAM 7 5.5 IN 0600 AM 02/03 43.87N/91.31W
From Rochester emergency management:
Heavy snow band looks like it is lifting north and out of our area. A second band of snow will fall overnight. Here is an updated YouTube weather briefing with maps showing the timing of additional snow: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DycyfsnParI&feature=youtu.be
A few more things to share:
The Rochester city administration staff, which reviews development proposals and recommends action to the City Council, has produced a 23-page report on the proposed $65 million Holiday Inn project across from Saint Marys Hospital.
Bottom line: They think it's a good project and worth tax-increment financing, though not nearly as much as St. Cloud-based developer Brutger Equities wants.
According to a Jan. 27 memo from City Administrator Steve Kvenvold to council members and to Destination Medical Center economic development officials, city staff "believes that the usage of the enhanced TIF authority for the proposed hotel facility and possible subway connections could significantly improve the infrastructure in subject areas to better serve the patients and visitors" to Mayo's Saint Marys Hospital complex.
The memo notes that DMC Corp. board wants to view "possible private and public improvements" to the whole stretch of Second Street from 11th Avenue to 16th Avenue Southwest before it considers "enhanced TIF" under DMC authority. Kvenvold says that "undertaking such a task will consume several weeks, at a minimum," and the developer may not wait around for that decision.
Kvenvold recommends a decision on the project by the DMC Corp. board by March 24. "Brutger has indicated that he would be willing to continue consideration of his incentive development application for the proposed hotel project for another 30 to 60 days in order to allow for the expanded area development review to take place."
But the developer, Larry Brutger, also "indicated that the TIF amount suggested by city staff was insufficient" for him to proceed. Brutger had asked for $5.6 million in TIF.
From the executive summary of the memo to the council, the city staff recommends $1.7 million in TIF for Brutger, to help underwrite about 115 public parking spaces in the hotel's ramp. The developer and city would each spend $1.2 million for the pedestrian tunnel access, and the city put another $1.4 million for utility relocations.
Remaining proceeds from the estimated $9.3 million to be raised with the enhanced TIF district would go to improvements not related to the hotel project itself, including roads, streetscape work, "improved connections to the Kutzky Park neighborhood," etc.
So expect a lot of drama as this project, which some neighborhood activists have opposed for various reasons, heads to the finish line.
We'll have a full story on the city memo, but among other details:
A city memo to the council on Jan. 14 points out that the DMC Development Plan calls for a hotel on the very site of the proposed Holiday Inn.
The project is appropriate for the phasing that DMC anticipated in that aea.
The DMC Development Plan calls for creation of 1,400 new parking spaces in the Saint Marys area, and the Brutger plan to include 115 spaces available for public use (and a total of 340 underground parking spaces for the project) contributes to that.
Starting from scratch, it would cost the city about $2.7 million to build a facility for 115 public parking spaces.
The city has considered a pedestrian subway in the Second Street/Saint Marys area since at least 2009.
Mayo is only interested in the subway link from Saint Marys if it connects to more than a single property, and the developer agrees with that concept.
The "proposed Phase I subway system" would connect with four existing hotels, with a total room count of 361 rooms, in addition to the proposed Holiday Inn, which adds another 225.
The city doesn't have a policy regarding who pays for construction of a subway in the public right of way. "The city's practice on skyways in the downtown area has been that the city pays up to 50 percent to extend the skyway across the street, generally with TIF funds, with the benefiting adjacent private property owners paying the remaining 50 percent." The subway plan could follow the same formula.
"Twelth Avenue has been mentioned as becoming a 'greenway' connection from the Saint Marys complex to Kutzky Park," four blocks to the north.
If the DMCC board doesn't allow for enhanced TIF authority, the city memo says the developer would "need to determine if the project is feasible without any public financial assistance," and the scope of the project would likely change.
The administrative staff "believes that there is the strong potential" for the use of TIF to "effectuate significant positive changes in the Saint Marys area."
Just in from Rochester Public Schools:
Due to inclement weather, RPS will be closed tomorrow (February 2, 2016).
A separate release from MnSCU -- isn't higher education fascinating?
News release from MnSCU, with Rosenstone standing behind prezes:
Here's the full news release on H & M coming to Apache Mall:
GLOBAL FASHION RETAILER H&M EXPANDS IN MINNESOTA
H&M to Open New Location at Premier Shopping Destination, Apache Mall
H & M, Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M), one of the world’s largest fashion retailers, famous for offering fashion-forward apparel at affordable prices in a sustainable way, is thrilled to announce a new location in Rochester, Minnesota. Measuring approximately 22,000 square feet, the new location at Apache Mall is set to open in the fall of 2016. H&M is especially excited to expand its reach in Minnesota, a quickly growing market for the retailer, and add to the eight locations currently open in the state.
The new H&M location will offer Rochester residents a one-stop shopping destination for quality clothing for the whole family, with collections for ladies and men, as well as separate “store within a store” sections for accessories. The Apache Mall location will also carry H&M’s children’s collection, for newborns up to fourteen years. The breadth and variety of H&M collections make it easier for any consumer to find fashionable products, no matter their personal style. With an emphasis on design, quality, and sustainability, H&M offers inspiring, high fashion at an unbeatable value.
H&M prides itself on its support of local economies by adding jobs with each new location. As a continuously expanding brand, H&M constantly searches for new talent to grow within the company. With the opening of the Apache Mall location, H&M is proud to add to the current, ever-expanding total of approximately 16,000 US employees. The brand continues to grow in both new and existing markets while remaining focused on quality, high profitability, and sustainability. In 2015, H&M was ranked number 21 on Interbrand’s list of 100 Best Global Brands and was selected by Great Place to Work as a top 25 Best Multinational Workplace. For available job opportunities, please visit career.hm.com.
Sustainability is an integral part of H&M. The brand is growing and making significant long-term investments for sustainable development. In 2013, H&M launched Garment Collecting, a clothing recycling project in store and was the first global fashion company to implement such a program. Since 2013, 53.6 million lbs. of garments have been collected globally. H&M was also selected in 2015 as a U.S. EPA Green Power Leadership Award winner. The company has committed to sourcing renewable energy wherever possible in order to reduce indirect emissions stemming from the company's purchased electricity use.
Since H&M opened the doors to its first U.S. store on New York’s Fifth Avenue fifteen years ago, the U.S. has been one of the retailer’s most successful markets. H&M is proud to offer U.S. consumers quality fashion at competitive prices at its four hundred and seventeen locations across the country, and looks forward to continued expansion at the best properties worldwide.
News release regarding Ash Wednesday:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Church takes Ash Wednesday to the Streets
On Ash Wednesday, 10 February, ministers from several churches will be offering “Ashes to Go,” a new approach to a centuries-old Christian tradition, from 7 - 8 a.m. near the bus stops on 2nd Street and 1stAvenue downtown.
Ashes To Go is part of a new nationwide movement that has clergy and lay people visiting transit stops, street corners, coffee shops, and college campuses to mark the foreheads of interested passers-by with ashes and invite them to repent of past wrongdoing and seek forgiveness and renewal.
In the Christian tradition, Ash Wednesday marks the start of the holy season of Lent, a time for reflection and repentance in preparation for the celebration of Easter. For centuries, Christians have received a cross of ashes on the face at the beginning of that season as a reminder of mortal failings and an invitation to receive God’s forgiveness. Ashes to Go provides the opportunity to participate in that tradition for people who may have lost their connection to a Faith Community or have never participated before.
“This is an opportunity to meet people where they are…for a moment of prayer in the midst of their busy lives,” says the Rev. Doug Sparks, Pastor of St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Rochester.
“Ashes to Go is about bringing the important traditions of our faith out from behind church walls and into the places we need them every day,” says the Rev. Emily Mellott, who maintains the website AshesToGo.orgwith resources and stories about this ministry. “As people get busier and busier, we need the church in new and non-traditional ways. We especially need reminders of forgiveness in the tough places of our working lives. The people who accept ashes on the street are often people longing to make a connection between their faith and the forces of daily life, and Ashes to Go helps them feel that connection.”
In Rochester, this is the fourth year several ministers from the Ecumenical Community are offering Ashes to Go. We will gather just before 7 a.m. on Ash Wednesday and find a corner near several bus stops in hopes of meeting people for a moment of prayer as they make their way to work!
Contact the Rev. Dr. Douglas Sparks, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, email@example.com or 507-272-1777 for more information. More information about the Ashes to Go movement can be found at www.AshesToGo.org.
The closing of the SEMVA Art Gallery last month, along with rising real estate values and rents, has many people asking, including artists: what's the future for arts organizations, galleries and performance space in downtown Rochester?
The question is especially relevant as the future use of the now city-owned Chateau Theatre is being worked out, and with Destination Medical Center planners shifting into overdrive to show results this year.
Several arts leaders and advocates will come together at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8, at our next Post-Bulletin Dialogue for conversation about the future of the arts downtown. Managing Editor Jay Furst will moderate the informal, 90-minute talk in the Rochester Public Library auditorium.
Joining the conversation will be Andy Westreich, of SEMVA; Bari Amadio, CEO of the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust; Patrick Seeb, director of economic development and placemaking for DMC's Economic Development Agency; Megan Johnston, Rochester Art Center executive director; Gregory Stavrou, Rochester Civic Theatre executive director; Audrey Betcher, Rochester Public Library director; Steve Schmidt, executive director of the city's music department; and a surprise guest or two.
Post-Bulletin Dialogue meetings are free and informal Q & A sessions with audience members about issues in the news. They're videotaped and posted on the library website, and this one will be livestreamed onPostbulletin.com. If you have a question or comment and can't attend, go to the Furst Draft blog at Postbulletin.com.
RPU put out a news release about its water quality, after Flint emergency...Answer Man addressed RPU water Friday.
Here's the release:
Rochester continues to provide safe drinking water
ROCHESTER, MN— Rochester Public Utilities (RPU) continues to provide safe drinking water for Rochester residents to drink and use.
In response to recent news reports regarding water quality, RPU would like to share pertinent facts regarding the Rochester water system.
· Rochester’s water source is from the Jordan groundwater aquifer, which is historically of high quality and lead-free.
o RPU continues to meet all state and federal drinking water health standards.
· The main source of lead in drinking water is older water service lines and household plumbing.
o RPU adds polyphosphate at the wellheads for corrosion control, by coating water service lines and household plumbing to prevent the leaching of lead into drinking water.
· RPU collects and tests water samples from inside 50 homes every three years to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act.
o RPU has never exceeded the 90th percentile action level limit of 15 ppb (parts per billion). The 90th percentile is the value required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
o RPU’s 2014 Water Quality Report, as required by the Minnesota Department of Health, measured 6.4 ppb of lead.
· Current water sustainability studies have shown the Jordan aquifer in Rochester will provide a high quality, long-term source of supply for future generations.
o A sustainable source allows RPU to continue its proven treatment methods.
Here's where it gets tricky for political candidate Sean Allen.
Allen, who's running for Rochester City Council president, is a prominent businessman who happens to co-own one of the hottest restaurants in town. He co-owns what's called a "boutique" real estate company, Midwest Landing. And he's a neighborhood activist.
All four roles intersect at an event coming up next week.
Allen announced last month that he'll challenge City Council President Randy Staver for his job in the November election. "As I've thought about the leadership of our community, I think we need to have more visionary leadership, more independent leadership," he told the Post-Bulletin when he announced his candidacy on Dec. 16.
He's made a few allusions since then to the fact that Staver works for Mayo Clinic, and in an interview with the website Med City Beat, he said, "I don’t have a problem with Randy Staver. Personally, he’s a very nice guy. But I do think we need more people who are independent on the council — people who are not attached to any other organization in the community directly."
"In 2001, Sean was asked to join the Rochester Area Foundation staff to lead the First Homes Initiative. As executive director of First Homes, Sean oversaw the creation and financing of more than 1,000 workforce housing units. In addition, Sean developed the Imagine Kutzky initiative with Kutzky neighbors and through First Homes invested more than $20 million in the Kutzky Park neighborhood. Sean is still an active member of Imagine Kutzky, an organization that advocates for great urban design in the core neighborhoods."
If you're not aware of Imagine Kutzky, here's how that organization is described on the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association website:
"Imagine Kutzky is a reinvestment initiative and partnership established by the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association, First Homes, and Rochester Area Foundation. As an organization, the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association was increasingly put in a position of reacting to development proposals, often in negative terms. In an effort to become proactive and preserve our neighborhood, as well as promote neighborhood-friendly development where needed, Kutzky Park neighborhood leaders began planning Imagine Kutzky."
The group's mission statement is "to preserve, enhance and promote Kutzky Park as a vibrant and sustainable, mixed-use urban neighborhood."
So it's a spinoff partnership from Allen's former employer, with presumably a different focus than the neighborhood association.
In any case, Imagine Kutzky is planning a public meeting next week on "the future of Second Street Southwest between 11th Avenue and U.S. 52." According to an email from Imagine Kutzky, the meeting was sparked by the dispute over the proposed $65 million Holiday Inn hotel project on Second Street and issues related to that project, including talk of a pedestrian tunnel from Saint Marys Hospital to the north side of the street, and the developer's request for tax-increment financing.
The TIF request led to an email Sunday from the CEO of the company that owns three other hotels in the area, objecting to any public money for that project. The email went to city council members, Mayor Ardell Brede and the Post-Bulletin; we posted it online Monday.
Allen has big problems with the Holiday Inn project. When he put up his campaign website, that project was Blog Post No. 1. Here's some of what he said about it:
"The December Destination Medical Center Corp. meeting was an interesting showdown between locals versus out-of-towners, and the locals lost.
"The city representatives (Council President Randy Staver and Council Member Ed Hruska) fell over themselves trying to persuade the DMCC Board to give them enhanced tax increment financing powers for a ho-hum hotel on Second Street Southwest. The DMCC Board members balked at the suggestion that this enhanced TIF power – a power that no other city in the state has – would go to something as pedestrian as more parking and a tunnel for a Holiday Inn.
"I have a number of issues with this particular project, but chief among them is competitive advantage. The City Council is picking winners and losers – and I don’t say that lightly. When a private developer proposes something that gives them a competitive advantage (a direct tunnel to St. Mary’s) over other similar businesses in the area, and then asks the City to pay for it, I have a problem."
He also has concerns about design, transportation aspects, the impact on the neighborhood and more.
Fair enough. He's making it a campaign issue, apparently, and it's a good one. There's a lot of interest in it, a lot of angles related to DMC, and the P-B has aggressively reported on it. I might try to pull together a Post-Bulletin Dialogue meeting about it as well.
Imagine Kutzky contacted me about the P-B possibly partnering on a meeting, but that didn't seem appropriate, considering the group's involvement in the issue.
They're going ahead with a meeting next week. Here's the email they sent out today: "Due to the high level of response to this subject/email" -- the Holiday Inn project and the email from TPI Hospitality, which opposes the Holiday Inn proposal for TIF money -- they'll have a public meeting for "further education and interaction around some of the urban design topics that have been raised ... The goal of this session is to further the conversation and engagement around the development of 'Midtown' Rochester."
The event will be at 7 p.m. Jan. 21 -- at Forager Brewery.
Though the campaign season hasn't officially begun -- the filing period is months away -- it's an interesting choice for a locale.
Also interesting is that City Council Member Michael Wojcik -- who's also up for re-election this year -- recirculated the email today with this note: "Please join concerned neighbors, community leaders, and one really concerned city councilman at this event to discuss the future of the evolving neighborhood around St. Marys. Can we build a safe people-oriented place for neighbors and businesses in a city so dominated by automobiles?"
Wojcik's comment is limited to the transportation angle, but the angst about the Holiday Inn project is about a lot more than transit -- and the event at Forager would seem to be more than just an information session.
Here's the news release from MnSCU on Chancellor Steven Rosenstone tapping Joyce Helens, president of St. Cloud Technical and Community College, as acting president of RCTC, effective Saturday (strangely):
Joyce Helens Named Acting President of
Rochester Community and Technical College
Peg Shroyer to serve as SCTCC acting president
ST. PAUL, Minn., Jan. 7– Joyce Helens, president of St. Cloud Technical and Community College (SCTCC) since 2006, has been named acting president of Rochester Community and Technical College (RCTC) effective January 9. The appointment follows the resignation of current president Leslie McClellon. During this temporary assignment, Peg Shroyer, vice president of academic affairs at SCTCC, has been named to serve as acting president of SCTCC.
“As an experienced sitting president of a highly successful technical and community college, Joyce Helens is the ideal person to guide RCTC though this transition,” said Steven Rosenstone, chancellor of Minnesota State Colleges and Universities. “She is a thoughtful and effective leader who works collaboratively with students, faculty, staff, and community partners to get things done. Her deep experience means that she will be ready on day one to help RCTC prepare for the search and recruitment of its new, permanent president.”
Helens’ accomplishments include leading the enhancement of SCTCC’s mission to a comprehensive technically-based community college and initiating new programs to meet the changing needs of the region. Previously, she served as executive director of the University of Alaska Statewide System Corporate Programs, dean, chief instructional officer, and interim chief executive officer at University of Alaska Anchorage Community and Technical College, president of Peninsula College (WA), and executive dean of Continuing Education and Economic Development at Collin County Community College (TX). She holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Martin’s University and a master’s from Portland State University.
“I am honored to have been selected for this role, and I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, and students at RCTC as well as the members of the Rochester community who are so committed to the continued success of the college,” said Helens.
Shroyer has served as vice president of academic affairs at SCTCC since 2009, providing leadership for academic matters related to technical/general education and four academic divisions. Her responsibilities have included oversight of all academic budgets, curriculum and academic programming, connections to the community and K-12, and custom/contract training. Previously, she served Spoon River College (IL) as dean of the Macomb Campus and dean of Continuing Education and Workforce Development, and Itasca Community College where she taught for ten years and served as the administrator of the Center for Continued Learning and the director of the Computer Education Center. She holds a bachelor’s degree from Fort Lewis College (CO), a master’s from the University of Arizona, Tucson, and a doctorate from the University of Minnesota.
“I have had the privilege of working with President Helens for many years, and I am honored to have been selected to serve as acting president during her absence,” said Shroyer. “The college is in excellent shape and I look forward to working with the faculty, staff, students, and members of the St. Cloud community to continue our momentum until she returns.”
Chancellor Rosenstone has initiated a search for a permanent president for RCTC with the goal of having a new leader in place at the start of the 2016-2017 academic year. He expects to recommend to the Board of Trustees at their January 27 meeting that Helens be named to serve as interim president until the permanent president is in place. Helens also will serve as chair of the RCTC presidential search advisory committee. Once a permanent president is in place at RCTC Helens and Shroyer will return to their respective roles at SCTCC.
The future of the arts community in downtown Rochester will be the topic of the next Post-Bulletin Dialogue, set for Monday, Feb. 8, at the Rochester Public Library auditorium.
The closing of the SEMVA art gallery on the Peace Plaza last month was the latest development to raise concerns among arts leaders that Destination Medical Center development pressure, available space and rising costs threaten the viability of downtown as an arts destination. Also up for grabs is planning for the future of the Chateau Theatre building, now owned by the city.
Joining P-B Managing Editor Jay Furst for the Dialogue will be Gregory Stavrou, Rochester Civic Theatre executive director; Bari Amadio, CEO of the Greater Rochester Arts and Cultural Trust; Megan Johnston, Rochester Art Center executive director; Patrick Seeb, director of economic development and placemaking for the DMC's Economic Development Agency; and possibly others.
Post-Bulletin Dialogues are monthly, informal public meetings on issues in the news, with most of the 90 minutes devoted to audience questions and comments. For more details, go to the Furst Draft blog at Postbulletin.com.