The most obvious takeaway from our Dialogue meeting on the $110 million Alatus project last night at the Rochester Public Library: Many people care a lot about the Folwell neighborhood, and they're concerned about how the project will change the area.
The project, proposed by Twin Cities-based Alatus LLC with local partners headed by Ed and Nick Pompeian, is a 13-story luxury apartment building, with townhomes, commercial space and most problematic for many people at the meeting, an 880-space parking garage, with all the related traffic.
Reporter Andrew Setterholm's story -- CLICK HERE -- covers the high points. Here are a few other notes:
Bob Lux, the Alatus principal who gamely defended the project from complaints that mostly were about the parking garage and traffic, put the current estimated value of the project at $110 million. (And it hasn't been named yet.)
If all goes according to plan, it could be under construction early next year.
Lux said we can expect the request for public funding, whether tax-increment finance or whatever, to be revealed in about 45 days. (My guess: $7 million.)
He said the firm's traffic study -- one of the most important issues on the table Monday -- has been turned in to city officials, but he hasn't looked at it personally.
Most important, he seemed to say the project could go ahead without the colossal parking garage, which is more than twice as large as needed for the project to provide for contract parking related to Mayo/Saint Marys.
Lux also promised flexibility on other neighborhood concerns, one being the exit from the garage onto 15th Avenue Southeast. If the city finds that dumping traffic onto 15th isn't acceptable, fine, he said.
Though Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik said he wouldn't have much to say about the project because of his "quasi-judicial" role as a council member, he made clear that he believes the developer has gone extra miles to gather neighborhood input and accommodate concerns.
Wojcik, who's up for re-election in November and has called for voters to elect a new council majority that would see things his way, managed to slip in at least one plug for that new council majority -- he said voters should elect four members who care about historic preservation, if they're concerned about the integrity of neighborhoods such as Folwell.
(At least three other council members, including Council President Randy Staver, who's also up for re-election and is not part of Wojcik's plan for a new majority, were in the audience.)
Few people commented on the height and size of the project, as if it's a given that a big development will occur on that corner. Even Mark Bransford, one of the more passionate speakers at the meeting, said explicitly that he's not opposed to the project -- assuming that parking and traffic can be addressed.
Folwell resident Kevin Lund, who's a leading preservationist and has major problems with the Alatus project, wasn't buying what Wojcik had to offer. He blasted the council member for his role in the project's rollout to date, saying he found his demeanor and comments at the meeting "smug."
Lund told Lux that it was game on, regarding the project. I need to look at the videotape on the library website when it's posted to get his full quotes; I was wandering around with the mic and not taking notes.
Wojcik responded that he wasn't afraid to side with neighbors or the developer, however it turns out, and that he'd do the right thing as he sees it. Lux was more agitated by Lund's comments. He said Lund hadn't been a part of neighborhood meetings to date, and that he didn't take well to threats.
That's how it ended -- as Setterholm says in his story, on "tense terms."
Judging by the comments last night, they'll stay tense until the traffic engineers determine what's feasible for that project and the immediate neighborhood.