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17 posts from March 2014

March 31, 2014

Lots of construction cooking at Big Blue

Lots of construction is in the works on IBM's sprawling Rochester campus.

IBM buildinglogoSome final work still is underway in buildings 333 and 002 for Charter Communications. The cable-television provider is leasing those buildings to house an estimated $3.5 million expansion of Charter Business, its business-to-business division.

Charter says the expansion will add more than 140 jobs to its Rochester operations. The company is planning a ribbon-cutting ceremony for April 15 in Building 002 on the IBM campus.

While neither Charter nor IBM are discussing it yet, a permit also has been submitted to the city planning department for interior demolition of IBM's Building 005. Charter-business-logo

The permit describes the demolition as preparing the building for "Future Charter Business."  The value of this project is listed as $3.25 million.

Without information from Charter or IBM, it's unclear what this permit signifies. However, Building 005 is connected to Building 002, so it's possible Charter needs more space for its expansion and it possibly is leasing a third building from IBM.

HgstLook for more details about this project in the near future.

Meanwhile, HGST has construction of its own cooking in one of the buildings it leases from IBM. Western Digital's HGST, formerly owned by Hitachi, is working on a Crossfit workout center and locker room. That project is valued at $325,900.

Big Blue also has some construction in the works on its Rochester campus.

A permit has been filed for an "acoustic chamber upgrade" valued at $195,000 in IBM's Building 020.

March 27, 2014

New 24 floor downtown tower takes first step

A proposed 24-story mixed-used complex that would be the second tallest building in Rochester took its first official step forward on Wednesday night.

Broadwayatcenter2The City Planning and Zoning Commission voted to support Titan Development's preliminary plan for the Broadway at Center project. It's slated to be built on South Broadway and East Center Street, just north of Broadway Residence and Suites by BridgeStreet.

"This is a unique project," said designer Hal Henderson of HGA, Inc. to the commission members. "It will be one of the top-quality buildings in downtown."

The 411,000-square-foot Broadway at Center will include retail and restaurants, a 184-unit Embassy Suites Hotel on 11 floors, 84 apartments on six floors and underground parking. It also will feature a landscaped terrace on the third floor.

Broadwayatcenter3"It adds a significant amount of needed retail to the downtown," said Henderson.

Titan anticipates the project will fit with the goals of the Destination Medical Center initiative and will be able to "leverage" city funds to help finance it, Henderson said.

The preliminary plan for the "incentive development" will move on to the Rochester City Council for its approval. Titan, which is spearheaded by Rochester developers Andy and Gus Chafoulias, then will be cleared to fine-tune the project and bring a final version of the plan back to the zoning commission and City Council for the official green light to move ahead.

While some planning commission members, such as Lindsey Meek and Wade Goodenberger, had suggestions for minor improvements, the group overall was supportive of the preliminary plan.

Broadwayatcenter1"Redevelopment is long overdue on that corner," said commission member Nick Campion.

Some details still need to be finalized, including working out a plan with the city for a private-public parking ramp, vacating the alley that runs behind the current buildings and hammering out the details of the complex's connections to the skyway system.

Negotiations are underway with city staff about the proposed parking ramp, which will be connected to Broadway at Center by skyway, said Henderson.

"Plans for the parking structure are lagging behind," he acknowledged. "It's very complicated."

An application to vacate a portion of the alley was filed with the city recently. Commission member Michael Walters voiced mild concern about approving the preliminary plan before the alley issue was resolved. In the end, he was satisfied with Titan's explanations and backed the plan contingent on the eventual finalizing of the alley issue.

"Actually, we're only asking to vacate a portion of the alley. … We will leave an alley there. It will just be re-positioned," said Henderson.

The proposal calls for the alley to be "bridged" by the parking structure. It will remain open for use by the public.

Titan's working out a plan with Broadway Residence and Suites to establish a skyway link to the south between the two buildings. The project proposal states that Broadway at Center will have skyway connections in all four directions. Beside the south skyway, it also will be able to connect west across Broadway, east to the parking ramp and north "for future development."

Assuming everything goes according to plan, demolition of the buildings that house CJ's Midtown Lounge, Ginny's Fine Fabrics and Jakobson Management Co. could happen this summer, with construction beginning late summer or early fall, said Mark Steege, the chief financial officer of Titan Ventures, the parent company for Titan Development.

The tenants are expected to move out in the next couple of weeks, he said.

Steege attended the meeting with Gus Chafoulias, the chairman of the board for Titan. Royal Management President Imad A Baker of Washington, D.C., was also at the meeting, Royal Management developed the 26-story Broadway Residence and Suites in 2004.

Olive oil shop + fashion boutique

Sometimes oil does mix well.

Stillwater Olive Oil Co. is reviving its downtown Rochester presence by moving in with Exquisite Leather, Luggage and Furs on Historic Third Street.

03262014exquisite"It's kind of a good fit. Lots of women who shop at the boutique also buy from us," says co-owner Ginger Zehm. "There's a lot of overlap."

Lisa Irhke, who owns the three Exquisite Leather boutiques in Rochester, agrees that the two retailers have a lot in common. Irhke opened the 1,600-square-foot store at 20 Third St. S.W. last year. Since then she has found that the boutique doesn't need all of the available space. Stillwater Oil is crafting its own niche within the store that will be about the same size as its previous spot in Rochester.

StillwaterOliveOil440Zehmn hopes to re-open Stillwater Olive Oil by April 1 within Exquisite Leather. The olive oil shop and the fashion boutique will "share" staff with Exquisite Leather's employees being trained to sell the oil and vinegars.

She and co-owner Holly Arps started with their original shop in Stillwater in 2010. They followed their success there by opening a second location in Rochester within the Kahler Hotel in 2011. That earned them a number of Med City foodie fans who were attracted to the wide selection of high-end, flavored olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

"Then there were lots of changes at Kahler. We needed a change," she says. "But we wanted to stay in downtown."

Stillwater Oil's Kahler shop closed at the start of this month to prepare for the transition to Historic Third Street. Manager Tony Miller since has moved on to work at Cook's Pantry, a culinary specialty store in southwest Rochester.

March 26, 2014

Rec Lanes expansion rolling along

I swung by Recreation Lanes at 2810 N. Broadway on Tuesday to check out how the $4 million expansion project is going.

03252014reclanesexpansionIt looks like it's still rolling along at a good "bowlocity," but not sure how soon soon it be completed.

This project to transform the 50-year-old bowling into a modern entertainment center was launched back in October, when they tore out the putt-putt course and the batting cages.

"You can't just sell bowling anymore," said owner Gene Glorvigen in October. "We want to provide an environment that's fun and comfortable for everyone from 5-year-olds to 60-year-old executives. I think we're going to achieve that."

Index~~element333The bowling alley is doubling in size by adding 1,600-square-feet to the northwest side, where the mini-golf course and batting cages once stood. The addition will house an eight lane "V.I.B." (Very Important Bowler) area with its own bar, a banquet room, three party or meeting rooms, a large arcade and a two-story laser tag arena.

Recreation Lanes will remain open through most of the construction. They hope to have it completed by early spring. Part of the project includes expanding behind the center and adding a parking lot.

Area manufacturer to expand, add 14 jobs

A long-time southern Minnesota manufacturer says a $215,000 state tax credits based on adding more jobs helped convince it to expand here rather than on the West Coast.

M60stdHarmony Enterprises, which makes and services recycling and waste management equipment in the small town of Harmony, are one of five companies chosen for the new Minnesota Job Creation Fund program. The Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development announced the the first round of businesses on Tuesday.

If Harmony Enterprises does as it has pledged and adds 14 new jobs to its current staff of 60 plus builds a $1.1 million expansion within two years, it will receive the $215,000 in tax credits over four years. The manufacturer, which also has a location in France, has been based in Harmony since 1962.

Owner and President Steve Cremer says the company has been growing quickly in the past few years and more growth appears to be on the way, particularly in Africa and Asia. That prospect had Harmony Enterprises considering its options on how expand its production. With so many of the firms competitors and customers located on the West Coast, they start looking at the possibility of adding a facility in California or Arizona.Bcb2003-open


Then they found out about the $24 million Minnesota Job Creation Fund, which began in January.

"We wanted to stay here. The community is good to us," said Cremer. "Now we'll start construction of a 6,000-square-foot addition in the spring."

The plan is to create a new drive-through shipping department, which will improve efficiency for the company and open up the current shipping area to revamped into more production space.

In addition to the improved shipping and the expanding production area, Harmony Enterprises is also ramping up its new service offerings. About a year and half ago, it launched a new service business. It contracts directly with companies to maintain and repair all recycling and waste management machines.

"That's our really big growth area. Many of the new jobs will be service jobs," he says.

March 21, 2014

DMC origins stem from lunch chat six years ago

For the first part of two DMC sections, I chatted with Dr. Glenn Forbes, Bruce Fairchild, John Wade, Jeff Korsmo and Lisa Clarke about the evolution of the concept of the Destination Medical Center.

DMCMy article tracks the journey of the idea from a casual lunch conversation in March 2008 to DMC's appearance in the 2012 sales tax vote and the unveiling of the full concept in 2013.

Obviously, the idea of the City of Rochester and Mayo Clinic working from the playbook is not a novel idea in the Med City. Some at Mayo dismissed my use of this luncheon chat as a startng point. However, they weren't about to offer any better dates as begin DMC's genesis other than the formation of Mayo Clinic 250 years ago.

Unfortunately, the DMC section wasn't quite large enough to accomodate an article that tracked each milestone since 1889, so I just went with the March 2008 conversation.

Here's a little bit of what turned into a very lengthy article. Check out the rest in this weekend's DMC section.

-------------------------------

Destination Medical Center is such a common topic in Rochester today that it's hard to keep in mind that the concept has only been known publicly for just over a year.

But the concept that grew into the $6 billion DMC initiative appears to have started with a chat at a Virginia conference center about six years ago.

Flag01-bdyjpgThat conversation was in March 2008 at Mayo Clinic's National Symposium on Health Care Reform at Lansdowne Resort in Leesburg, Va. The place was bustling with national leaders in the health care business. Representatives of the presidential candidates were there, promoting their health-care reform plans.

But not everyone at the conference worked directly in health care. Mayo Clinic flew out two local business leaders — John Wade, then-president of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, and Bruce Fairchild, then-regional director of Interstate Hotels in Rochester — as guests.

Since November 2007, Wade and Fairchild had been talking about developing a plan to bring the community and its largest employer into sync to serve more efficiently the thousands of people who stream into Rochester. While it wasn't a new idea, a move to formalize such a plan was gaining momentum. Amid the action at the symposium, the pair decided they should share their ideas with Mayo Clinic.

They asked to meet with Mayo Rochester CEO Dr. Glenn Forbes, without much expectation that he'd have time to meet.

"But true to form, Dr. Forbes took the time, and we had lunch together," Wade said in a recent interview. Forbes was Mayo Rochester CEO from 2006 to 2009, and "his very nature is to be collaborative," Wade said.

The three met in a restaurant at the Lansdowne conference center, and their lunch unexpectedly turned out to be a long one.

It started with the trio "blue sky, brainstorming ideas," said Fairchild, who now manages hotels in Texas. But the talk quickly picked up momentum.

"We were getting increasingly excited about the possibilities," said Forbes, who is now retired from Mayo Clinic. "The lunch went over several cups of coffee for about 2 1/2 hours."

Med City tech quiz - Do you remember… ?

Looking through some old pics the other day, I came across some pieces of Rochester's techno past.

These were all once hot topics in the Rochester area. Some were even snapped up by early adapters. And then things changed.

While some of these still exist on the market in some form, a couple never made it beyond prototypes or early generations.

A couple of these are easy, but I wonder if anyone out there can correctly identify all of them.

Post your answers in the comments section to claim the fame of being Rochester's top tech historian.

DSCN0694 1.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_1047

2.

 

 

 

 

DSCN0097

3.

 

 

 

 

 

IMG_2005

4.

March 19, 2014

FirstTech pulls the plug on its Roch. store

FirstTech, the Apple computer store that opened just six months ago in Rochester's Apache Mall, closed its doors for good on Wednesday.

FirstTechclosingsignEmployees say their bosses closed the doors and changed the locks at 11 a.m. and then told the staff about the closing. FirstTech employed 15 people, including the store manager, in Rochester.

A sign on the door of the 3,100-square-foot store said the Rochester location, as well as the main FirstTech store in Minneapolis, are both closing due to lack of profitability.

A FirstTech email said staff will remain at the Rochester store through the end of the week for customers to pick-up orders and/or equipment that had been left there for repairs or maintenance. A doorbell was installed on the store's door. The sign said to ring the bell to arrange pick-up. It also stated that the store will be staffed for pick-ups from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A sticker next to the sign showed that the store was closed, when FedEx came by to pick-up packages from the store.

While the Rochester store is mostly shut down, the Minneapolis FirstTech store will remain open until the end of the month.

The email included this explanation for the abrupt closing, "Over the last two years in particular, the market changes in our industry have been rapid and dramatic. Competition has increased and margins have decreased making it more and more difficult to run our business profitably and still provide the high level of service we are known for."

More details are expected to be posted on the FirstTech website on Thursday.

FirstTech, which described itself as Minnesota's "leading Apple specialist," has sold and serviced Apple equipment, since 1977. It claims to be the oldest reseller of Apple products in the world.

Prior to the Oct. 12 opening of the Apache Mall store, General Manager and Co-owner Pete Paulsen was very optimistic about the project.

"We've done a lot of market research and Rochester is probably the most exciting market in the area. There are great things going on in Rochester and we think it's a great opportunity for us," he said.

Flamingos + Elks = Bingo

After months of waiting, a Rochester nonprofit finally has scored permission to move to a new home.

Flamingo Bingo, which raises money for the Rochester Senior Center, has been given the green light by the Minnesota Gambling Control Board to move into the Elks Lodge 1091 at 1652 U.S. 52 North in the Hillcrest Shopping Center.

FlamingobingoIt's moving out of its long-time leased home at 2828 U.S. 52 North, which was sold to Luther Automotive Group in January.

Deb Nusbaum, Flamingo Bingo's charitable gaming manager, says the bingo center will call its final game at its current site at 1 p.m. on March 30. Then, Nusbaum and her team of 16 employees will move the operation.

She plans to kick off the new round of games at the Elks Lodge on April 4. Work on the new Flamingo Bingo site is underway.

The Elks Lodge members are very positive about bringing Flamingo Bingo into its facility, according to the club president.

"It's multi-faceted for us," said Chris Holloway, when the plan first was announced in December. "We have an excess of space that we don't use on a daily basis. We're both charitable organizations. There's a lot of crossover in our clientele. Plus it brings in additional revenue."

ElkslodgeNow that the move is in motion, the question is what will happen to the 42-year-old building where Flamingo Bingo has been been based since it opened in 2007.

Twin Cities-based Luther Automotive bought the building for $950,000 on Jan. 17. Luther also owns the nearby Park Place Motors dealership on the same frontage road.

Luther's Linda McGinty said the company does not have a specific plan for the site yet.

McGinty, director of real estate and development at Luther Automotive Group, declined to discuss whether its possible plans could include an expansion of Park Place Motors or possibly bringing a new dealership into the market.

However, she did acknowledge that Luther will "probably eventually remove the building."

March 18, 2014

Mayo Clinic's new full court press

Mayo Clinic is going beyond the role of sports trainer on the bench and is stepping onto center court with its latest business play.532836c8a1ddb.image

The Mayo Clinic name is now prominently emblazoned across the front of the jerseys of the Minnesota Lynx professional women's basketball team, part of a huge sponsorship deal announced Monday.

Mayo's name will appear above the player's number in the spot where the team name used to be located. Boost Mobile, which sponsors the entire league, has its logo below the number, as it did in previous years. The Lynx logo now appears as a small patch near the collar of the jersey.

No financial terms of the multiyear deal were released.

The Womens National Basketball Association began allowing "branded" or "marquee" jerseys in 2009. The Lynx are the sixth team to lock down such a sponsorship. In 2010, Microsoft’s Bing search engine paid more than $1 million to place its name on the WNBA jerseys of the Seattle Storm. People familiar with WNBA sponsorships estimated the Mayo Clinic deal is at least "seven figures."

TimberwolveLynxMayoLogosThe sponsorship is part of "a strategic collaboration" with the Lynx and the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves that includes the development of a new training facility and sports medicine center to be called Mayo Clinic Square.

"This is another block in the relationship we're building," said  Dr. John Wald, Mayo Clinic's medical director for marketing and public affairs. "From our perspective, this is one of the key components in this relationship that allows us to move out into the Twin Cities, raise awareness and build more relationships."

The agreement also includes Mayo Clinic's name on the Lynx practice jerseys and signage at the basketball court. In 2015, Mayo Clinic will become the medical provider for the Lynx. TRIA Orthopaedic Center will continue to serve as the team's official medical team until then. TRIA also provides care for the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Wild and the Minnesota Twins.

Wald emphasized that the sponsorship displays Mayo Clinic's expertise in sports medicine and training, and the Lynx organization is a good fit with Mayo Clinic's values.

"We believe it was the right thing to do to put Mayo Clinic's name on those jerseys," Wald said.

Mayo Clinic is certainly not the first non-profit medical center to have such an arrangement with a professional sports team. However, none of the top four professional leagues — NFL, NBA, NHL and MLB — allow sponsors' names on game jerseys.

IEG, a leading sponsorship consulting firm, reported in 2013 that of all sponsorship deals made by hospitals, about 72 percent involved sports. About 12 percent were for arts/entertainment, and 8 percent were for "causes."

The Mayo Clinic-Lynx collaboration comes as the WNBA league hit its best game attendance and television ratings in team history at the end of the 2013 season.

The 2014 season begins in May and runs through August. The Lynx are scheduled to play six games to be televised by ESPN2.