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23 posts from May 2012

May 31, 2012

Mayo Clinic's proton beam center growing

Work continues to hammer along on Mayo Clinic's the Richard O. Jacobson Building and the pencil-beam proton radiation therapy center continues to rise in downtown Rochester. 

05302012mayoprotonbeamwork1This the massive project at Second Street Northwest and First Avenue Northwest. With a few massive projects underway, I thought I should be clear.

At the start of this month, there was a 24-hour-long "Big Pour" of concrete for the $187.5 million building.

With that forest of rebar, it Looks like they still have plenty of concrete to pour.
And remember, this might be just the first phase of a much larger project.

Mayo Clinic also has conceptual plans on the table for the possible second phase to build a 17-story tower on top of the Jacobson  complex.

With 19 stories above ground, the building would fall just two floors short of the Gonda Building's 21.

Mercedes dealership cruising to Roch.

Been watching for this one to come over the horizon for a while. Should be a good add to the market.

After idling for a while, it feels like auto sales here are now in gear and starting to pick up speed.

Rob Gregory is opening his new Mazda dealership at 2955 48th St. N.W. That's the former Saturn dealership became a Mitsubishi facility that closed in 2011.


The wheels are in motion for a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Rochester.

On Wednesday, the Ballweg Family of Dealerships filed a development plan to move its Mercedes dealership from Wausau, Wis., to a location in south Rochester.

"We have a parcel of land under contract within the Shoppes on Maine area," Ballweg CEO Jason Brickl said.

2012-MERCEDES-BENZ-SLK-Class-SLK350-Wausau-WI-WDDPK5HA6CF007786-459While this is an early step in the process, Brickl said his company is very excited about its plan for the dealership, which will be called Mercedes-Benz of Rochester.

"Rochester is a vibrant community," he said. "It is clearly a terrific fit for our brand."

Ballweg has six dealerships in Wisconsin, including in La Crosse, the Madison area and Sauk City. In addition to Mercedes-Benz, the dealerships sell Chevrolet, Ford, Toyota and Buick vehicles.

Specific details, including a timeline, will become available later as Ballweg's project moves through the city permit process.

As it stands, the plan is to build a 21,000-square-foot facility with about 12 service bays and a showroom to display up to 10 vehicles.

It will need about 25 employees. While some employees will come from Wausau, the majority are expected to be new hires.

"We'll have a full lineup of new Mercedes, plus certified pre-owned vehicles," Brickl said.

Rochester has been without a new Mercedes dealership since about 1998, when Park Place Motors stopped offering the brand.

May 28, 2012

Pannekoeken is back

After two months with its door closed and newspapers covering its windows, a Rochester favorite returned this morning with a brand-new look and well-known flavors.

A kitchen fire shut down the Pannekoeken Huis Family Restaurant in March. Owner Tasos Psomas then decided to launch a remodeling project that he had been planning for the fall.

05272012panne1At 6 a.m. today, the drought of breakfast skillets and Dutch pastries downtown ended when a much more colorful and spacious Pannekoeken re-opened for business.

"I'm very excited about how it turned out," says Psomas, gesturing at the high-topped tables and bright orange, yellow and green colors that give the restaurant a very upbeat and cheerful feel.

"We brought Pannekoeken into this century," he says.

When asked why he went with so much orange on the walls and on the new logo, Psomas points out that orange is the Dutch national color.

Some longtime fans might miss the flower patterns and blue colors, but they shouldn't worry about any changes to their favorite dishes.

"You don't spit into the wind, you don't tug on Superman's cape and you don't mess with the Pannekoeken recipe," says Psomas with a chuckle. "We didn't dare mess with the skillets, potato pancakes and, of course, the Pannekoekens."

However, they have given "a twist" to some of the old standards, such as the hot-beef and hot-turkey sandwiches. The traditional slices of wheat bread have been replaced by crunchy bruschetta.

While some menu items might have more of a modern spin, the flavors that people have grown to love over the years remain the same, he says.

The updated restaurant now seats 112, a few more than before. It features more two- and three-seat tables for the lunch crowd. Look for a new counter along the Center Street window for people watching and a quick bite.

Psomas has about 50 employees staffing the restaurant for the opening.

He says he is so thankful for all of the help from his employees and the community as the restaurant worked to recover from the devastating fire on March 24.

The experience did show him how much Pannekoeken means to the people of Rochester. For the past two months, everyone has been asking when it would re-open.

"That is one of my biggest joys," he says. "People missed us and really wanted us back."

May 26, 2012

Last call at Syler's/ Break Room

As the holiday weekend kicks off with burgers on the grill, it is the finale for one Rochester bar and grill.

Today is the last day of business for Syler's Tavern, formerly known as The Break RooGet_photo-1m, at 1635 U.S. 52 N. When the doors close tonight, that's it.

"We did have a good run," says owner Troy Wing ruefully on Friday.  "Unfortunately, when you look at things from a financial perspective and they don't look good, you've got to make some tough decisions. That's the position we're in right now."

A team of 17 people work at Syler's.

Wing originally opened The Break Room in 2004. That building had housed two short-lived businesses in quick succession in the two years prior.

The Break Room became known as a laid-back bar that often offered live music. It is where the always sold-out Americana Showcase began before it outgrew the venue and moved to the Rochester Civic Theater.

However, the abundance of similar night spots in Rochester made it difficult in recent years, so Wing decided to try a new approach.

In January, he revamped The Break Room and re-named it as Syler's Tavern. He expanded its menu to make it more welcoming to people looking for a full meal as well as a drink.

As part of that approach, he tried to get a permit for a patio. His request was denied at first, but the Rochester City Council reversed that decision and gave Syler's a green light at its most recent meeting on Tuesday.

Wing, who testified at Tuesday's meeting, says it wasn't the patio dispute that caused him to pull the plug on Syler's.

In the end, it was simply not enough money was coming in the door.

"We tried moving 'up market,' but the rate of expansion here is incredible," he says. "Every time something new opens, there's a little less of the pie for the rest of us to eat."

May 25, 2012

Limo service to stretch out in new space

A fleet of stretch limousines and passenger vans can take up a lot of room.

Just ask Maurice Driscoll. Driscoll, the founder and owner of Rochester's almost 25-year-old Gold Crown Limousine service, has completely filled two different locations with about 12 to 15 vehicles.

As it became apparent that more room would soon be needed, he decided against looking for yet another place to park his limos.

Instead he chose to build a new 8,500 square-foot complex in northwest Rochester at U.S. 52 and 65th Street.

GC_limo"We were just running out of space. Now I'll be able have it all in one place,"  says Driscoll.

The project at 6155 Rome Circle has been under construction for a while. He hopes to have it open and ready for use in July.

While Gold Crown does its share of proms, weddings and other special occasions, trips to Rochester International Airport as well as the Minneapolis-St.Paul airport are what occupy the majority of his 12 drivers' time.

Looking down the road, Driscoll feels pretty good about the future and his decision to build. He says thousands of baby boomers are turning 65 every day.

"And that means they'll need health care," he says. "And that means they'll come to Rochester."

May 24, 2012

Mayo Clinic's graft onto St. Marys moving at healthy pace

Construction is really ticking along at Mayo Clinic's tucked-away $33 million expansion of Saint Marys Hospital.

I clambered back into the nook behind Marian Hall to check on the progress o05242012stmarysexpansion1f this project today. It is pretty impressive. The crews under guidance of Rochester's Benike Construction.

It was December when I last wrote about this particular big Mayo Clinic project, so here are some of the details.

It is a four story, 118,000-square-foot expansion of Mary Brigh East. The $33 million project fills a space behind Marian Hall and it is bordered by Mary Brigh on the east and south sides.

The project will provide more space for preoperative and postoperative patient care. Besides adding space for surgical patients, it will also "… Provide mechanical space for surgery infrastructure support and will accommodate for future growth," said Mayo Clinic spokesman Bryan Anderson. 05242012stmarysexpansion2

 It is expected to be completed in mid- to late-2012.

This follows last year's four-story, $4.5 million expansion to the Mary Brigh building. When it was complete, it was described as the first major addition to the footprint of Saint Marys Hospital in about 15 years.

May 22, 2012

Downtown Roch. grocery, apt. complex grinding ahead

05222012metromarketdemo1Now Friday's groundbreaking is in the past, so the downtown demolition is rolling in high gear at Rochester's First Avenue and Sixth Street S.W. this morning.

This is the Metropolitan Market Place project, a four-story apartment complex with the new People’s Food Co-op grocery store based on the main level.

The La Crosse, Wis.-based Gerrard Corp. is building the project.

The 62 apartments are expected to ready for tenants possibly by August 2013.

In today's paper, Edie Grossfield followed up with People's Food Co-op for more details on that piece of the project.

Co-op manager Liz Haywood said members of the Historic Southwest and Slatterly Park neighborhood associations expressed their excitement during the ground breaking.

"It's going to be amazing," Haywood said. "We've spent a lot of time during the past few weeks talking with people in the area and there's a lot of interest in natural, fresh and locally sourced food."

05222012metromarketdemo2However, the neighbors will have to wait, probably until August 2013, when the Metropolitan Market Place is expected to be completed. Being developed by Gerrard Corp., of La Crosse, Wis., the building will include four floors of apartments above the retail space.

The new store in Rochester will be about 26,000 square feet, compared to the existing store's 7,000 square feet. The largest expansion will be in the delicatessen area, Haywood said.

"We'll still have a hot bar and salad bar, but it will be greatly expanded," Haywood said. "We'll have rotisserie chickens, a cut-to-order meat department. Our meat sales have been growing … and we'll have full-service cheese, too."

The expansion of the co-op, especially the deli and meat department, will require an additional 50 employees beyond the current 35, she said.

May 17, 2012

Cancer test firm Exact Sciences, Mayo Clinic expand deal

A biotech firm developing cancer tests potentially worth billions is deepening its links to Mayo Clinic by expanding its collaborations and licensing deals.

LogoOn Thursday, the Madison, Wis.-based Exact Sciences Corp. announced the new milestone in its long relationship with Mayo Clinic. Exact is best known for Cologuard, a stool-based DNA test for colorectal cancer that it developed with Mayo Clinic.

The test is currently in clinical trials. Mayo Clinic and Exact originally signed a research and licensing agreement in 2009 for “the exclusive rights to intellectual property” developed by Mayo Clinic's Dr. David A. Ahlquist and his laboratory.

This is new Exact/Mayo announcement basically an extension of their original deal. It expands it to include all gastrointestinal cancers and diseases as well as new cancer screening applications of stool- and blood-based testing. Exact will continue to have exclusive rights to commercialize anything that comes from this collaboration.

Exact says it will make up-front, milestone and royalty payments to Mayo Clinic, as in the past. It will also continue to fund the collaborative work done in Dr. Ahlquist’s lab.

Exact-sciences-cancer-detection “Our collaboration with Mayo Clinic and Dr. Ahlquist has been extraordinarily productive, culminating in the Cologuard marker panel that will be used in our DeeP-C clinical trial and commercialized when it’s approved by the FDA,” said Exact's CEO Kevin T. Conroy.

At first Exact was based in Marlborough, Mass. It was decided to move the firm to the Midwest and Rochester was among the locations considered. In 2009, the Wisconsin Department of Commerce gave Exact a $1 million loan to re-locate to Madison, Wis.

The American Cancer Society says colorectal cancer remains the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in both men and women in the United States and accounts for almost 10 percent of all cancer deaths.

Exact estimates that reaching about 30 percent of the U.S. commercial market for colorectal cancer testing would add up to about $1.2 billion in business. Expand that worldwide and the market opportunity grows to $3 billion, according to the company's materials.

Rochester-built homes heading to Dakota oil boom

Here's an extended version of the oil boom housing story in today's paper. It is kind of an interesting project.


A new Rochester construction firm is gearing up to build six houses a week, don't expect to see many of them lining local streets.

The majority of the two- to six-bedroom modular homes will travel about 500 miles before anyone moves into them.
North Dakota is booming with oil flowing out of the fields at unprecedented levels that recently pushed the state past Alaska into the number two spot for U.S. oil production.

While 575,490 barrels of oil a day was pumping in March, a pipeline of thousands of people poured into the Williston Basin area to fill the growing need for workers.

That wave of humanity is looking for housing in the boom towns that are struggling to keep up with demand.

That's where Dale Jech and Creative Modular Concepts come in.

Jech, a local contractor for more than 20 years, is now certified as a manufacturer of modular housing. He plans to start working his crew of 60 workers two shifts a day to build houses that will be sent to North Dakota, Wyoming and other Western areas.

"I already have orders for 80 homes," says Jech, who has based his operation in a 14,000-square-foot warehouse behind the ProBuild lumber yard in northwest Rochester.

He hopes to build about 145 homes this year.
Why would anyone have a house built in Minnesota and then ship it to North Dakota? It might not look logical, but it is the logistics that make it add up economically.

"Labor there is simply too expensive. Most of the houses now are coming from Indiana. They're even buying some in Florida and shipping them to North Dakota," says Jech. "We're close to the need, just 500 miles away. We can give them the most bang for the buck."

Right now he is offering six different models for order. Some are stackable units. Some are on wheels. But all are built "tight" and up to Minnesota and North Dakota building codes, he says.

An average transport is expected to include a day of travel to deliver three modular houses. If the buyer requests the Turn-Key option, Jech's team will take a day to hook up all of the utilities on the homes.

The Hospitality Package takes that a step farther.

 "That includes everything like silverware, coasters… You walk in and there there will be a TV on the wall and couches in the living room," he explains.

The company also taking orders here in southeastern Minnesota. Eventually, he plans to have some model homes on display here.

While it is a great time to start building modular housing, this is not something that Jech just jumped into at the last minute. He has been jumping through the legal hoops to nail down the necessary certifications for the past two years. 

When the housing market went south with the economy, he decided it was time to look for new options and now he has Creative Modular Concepts ready to roll

"The best thing is seeing the guys in here building a truss or whatever in the sunshine. They are doing what they love to do," says Jech. "This is a big deal. It is really exciting."

May 15, 2012

Downtown demo rolling along

Demolition is rolling along today at Sixth Street Southwest and First Avenue in downtown Rochester.

05152012gerrarddemo1This is clearing the way for the Metropolitan Market Place development, a four-story apartment complex with the new People’s Food Coop grocery store based on the main level.

An official groundbreaking is scheduled for Friday, but plenty of dirt is flying today.

The La Crosse, Wis.-based Gerrard Corp. is building the project.

The 62 apartments are expected to ready for tenants possibly by August 2013, which also is the target opening date for the People’s Food Coop.