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334 posts categorized "Downtown Roch. buzz"

May 25, 2016

Hold the applause - New Buckeye name is not set yet

I was a bit premature Tuesday when I wrote that South Dakota developer Stencil Homes had re-named its Buckeye Apartments project in downtown Rochester.

F89c28e7467b81cdb720c0c067eca5d3_f252I spotted the project on Stencil's website labeled as Ovation on Monday. I wasn't able to reach CEO Nate Stencil for confirmation, so I reported that it appeared that the new name for the project will be Ovation.

On Tuesday, Stencil sent me a note that said I was partially right.

"On 'The Buckeye' name change, we are still not 100 percent set on the new name but I can tell you we will be changing it. We are currently polling different names and will soon have one nailed down," he wrote.

The name of a 92-unit apartment complex being built on the corner of Fourth Street and Third Avenue Southeast in downtown Rochester has been a sensitive issue for some of the neighbors. Stencil originally tagged it as Buckeye as a nod to the Buckeye Liquor store landmark that was demolished to make way for the project. Some in the neighborhood didn't think that was an appropriate name.

 

May 24, 2016

Bye Buckeye, hello Ovation?

The name of a 92-unit apartment complex being built on the corner of Fourth Street and Third Avenue Southeast in downtown Rochester has been a sensitive issue for some of the neighbors. 
F89c28e7467b81cdb720c0c067eca5d3_f252
South Dakota developer Stencil Homes labeled it Buckeye Apartments as a nod to the Buckeye Liquor store that was demolished to make way for the project. Some in the neighborhood didn't think that was an appropriate name. Now it looks like the developer has decided to try something different.

Stencil Homes' website shows a 92-unit apartment building as a Rochester project, but it's not called Buckeye anymore. The new name under the old rendering of the complex is Ovation.

This must have been a recent change. The Answer Man wrote about this on April 27 and Buckeye still was the moniker at that point. CEO Nate Stencil was not available Monday to answer questions about the Ovation name, but it looks like concerned neighbors should give themselves a round applause for the spurring a name change.

 

May 18, 2016

Chefs to upgrade Kahler's Lord Essex into a prime steak house

Here's some from my column on the culinary changes at the Kahler hotels. 

Local food fans in the know may recognize the names Tommie Tran and Duc Le. Tran used to own and operate The Lunch Box in the old downtown food court, previously on the third floor of the Galleria Mall, now University Square. Le comes from the Canadian Honker and Powers Ventures.

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Rochester's Kahler Hospitality Group is cooking again, with a new pair of executive chefs, who are turning the classic Lord Essex restaurant into a prime steak house.

Chefs Tommie Tran and Duc Le recently were promoted to take over the duties of Chef Stewart "Shefzilla" Woodman, who recently left after a short run at the Kahler hotels to return to the Twin Cities.

Image001"Both are banquet savvy and restaurant savvy," said Tyler Kase, area director of food and beverage for Kahler Hospitality Group, of the two Rochester chefs.

Tran and Le now are in charge of the culinary operations of the Kahler Grand Hotel and its sister hotels, which includes Lord Essex, The Grand Grill, Salute, Martini's, CB3, Freshens and Dunkin Donuts.

The hotels and restaurants are controlled and owned, in part, by local health-care executive and real estate developer Javon Bea and his family.

Kase, area director of food and beverage for Kahler Hospitality Group, says the first project for the culinary duo is upgrading the fabled Lord Essex in the Kahler Grand Hotel into a steak house serving only USDA prime cuts of beef.

With the closure of Rochester's beloved Michaels restaurant, he said it was decided there was a need for a classic steak house.

The change is underway and the plan is to officially re-launch Lord Essex this summer. It will serve eight prime cuts of steak in different portions, according to Kase.

Diners should expect an opportunity to "meet the meat" before getting their menus. Servers will roll a cart up to the table to display the prime cuts as well as lobsters and examples of Lord Essex's jumbo, one-pound baked potatoes.

"We're going for the 'wow factor,'" he said.

While the Lord Essex will feature many new menu items, it also will be serving long-time local favorites. That means the Duchess potato soup plus the French onion soup, which is being brought back by popular demand.

After the relaunch of Lord Essex, Tran and Le will turn their attentions to Salute in the Marriott hotel to more finely "hone" the Italian cuisine there.

Kahler Hospitality Group has an estimated 50 to 70 employees staffing its food venues.

May 17, 2016

Mayo Clinic to take over Biobusiness Center floor as Celyad pulls out

Mayo Clinic is returning to the fifth floor of Rochester's Minnesota BioBusiness Center, after a Belgium-based biotech firm left it empty for more than a year. 

In March 2015, the Rochester City Council approved a five-year lease for Mayo Clinic-linked Celyad to take over the fifth floor to create a prototype manufacturing facility that would add 33 jobs to Rochester.

CelyadCelyad's lease meant displacing all the Mayo Clinic workers based on that floor. Mayo Clinic moved its employees out at the start of 2015.

However, the project didn't go as planned. Celyad, formerly known as Cardio3, was unhappy when development costs came in much higher than the estimate provided by the city. 

051509biobusinesscenteratnight"The budgets we got far exceeded initial assumptions on which the project was decided," said Celyad CEO Dr. Christian Homsy in an email from Belgium in November. "Including the city support, the fit-out cost now exceeds the cost to do the same work in other locations where there is no city or state support."

Celyad halted the project before any construction work was done, so the 14,963 square feet of space remained just as Mayo Clinic left it. However, the biotech company did uphold its end of the lease and has been paying rent of $22,444.50 per month, or $269,334 per year. City officials say the company has made all of the required payments.

Since the end of 2015, the city has been looking for a new tenant to take over the fifth floor. Now, the city has approved a new lease with an old tenant.

The new deal adds the fifth floor to Mayo Clinic's lease, which already includes four floors of the seven-year-old building. 

"The lease amendment would provide for a rental rate of $17 per square foot for the 'premises,' which consists of the entire fifth floor. That rate would be in effect for a term consistent with the present term for the other four floors through April 1, 2029," according to the agreement approved by the Rochester City Council on Monday. 

Mayo-clinic-logoThat's $1 less per square foot than the $18 per square foot Celyad has been paying.

Before approving the new Mayo Clinic lease, the city council OKed the termination of the Celyad agreement. It called for Celyad to continue paying its regular rent through Sept. 30, plus "a lease termination fee" of $111,549.18. 

That fee will cover costs for the space from October to Jan. 1. Mayo Clinic will be building out the space starting in October and it will began paying rent in January. Mayo Clinic plans on using the floor to help teams that need more room.

"Planned occupancy will include relocating certain research support teams in need of additional office type space," stated Kelley Luckstein, of Mayo Clinic Media Relation, in an email.

Celyad's relationship with Rochester began in 2007, when it licensed stem-cell research by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar. It was called Cardio3 Biosciences back then. They have collaborated for years on the cardiopoiesis technology the company uses to repair patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue. Mayo Clinic owned 2.69 percent of Celyad as of March 3, 2015.

Beyond the fifth floor prototype manufacturing facility, the Celyad deal was designed to clear the way for the biobusiness to possibly build a 100,000-square-foot manufacturing facility with 350 employees in Rochester. That's what the company anticipates it will need if the Federal Drug Administration gives it a green light to take its stem-cell treatment to market.

Celyad's Homsy says Rochester now is out of the running for that.

"Celyad has assessed that a manufacturing plant in Rochester at this point of time cannot be justified.  We have opened an office in Boston from where our U.S. management is based, but we have delayed the decision on a manufacturing plant in the U.S. as we are able to manufacture all clinical lots out of our Belgian facility. As we approach commercial launch in the U.S., this situation may be revisited," he responded from Belgium by email.

Though the relationship between Rochester and Celyad has diminished dramatically in recent months, Homsy said it is not completely over.

"We continue to collaborate with Mayo Clinic, as well as with Andre Terzic, in the context of the evaluation of our CHART-1 data that should be disclosed by end of June 2016. If the data is positive, further development in the U.S. in the form of CHART-2, and, potentially, commercialization would follow," he stated.

May 16, 2016

Hot dogs of spring migrate back to Peace Plaza

Getting hungry waiting for food trucks to finally get the green light to be in downtown Rochester?

Largeb75124341eAs of Tuesday you can enjoy a hot dog on the Peace Plaza while you wait. 

The spring winds have spurred Rick "Murph" Murphy and his hot dog cart to migrate back to Rochester. Weather permitting, he's planning on putting up his umbrella in front of the Wells Fargo building and open for business on Tuesday.

While he has mixed up his menu some over the years, he plans to focus on the basics - hot dogs, chips and pop - this season.

"Whatever I tried in the past hasn't gone over big. Customers just want the same best all beef wiener that they have enjoyed for a decade," stated Murphy in an email.

This is the Pine Island's 11th season hawking dogs to the herds of hungry downtown workers looking for a quick lunch and some fresh air.

That means he has been around downtown longer than the University of Minnesota-Rochester, Grand Rounds, Chester's, the Minnesota BioBusiness Center, 300 First, Social Ice, 318 Commons, Big Brad's, Hot Shots! and lots of other changes.

He was already selling dogs when people started saying "Rah-Rah" about Rochester. He was downtown long before it became "The Place To Be." He was here back when DMC was just part of the name of an '80s rap group.

Quite simply, downtown is Murph's turf.

May 13, 2016

Celebrity chef leaves Kahler hotels

Chef Stewart "Shefzilla" Woodman's short tenure in Rochester is over.

The award-winning chef and cookbook author came to the Med City in September to take the reins of the culinary operations of the Kahler Grand Hotel and its sister hotels. The Kahler Hospitalit5672b9df89d09.imagey Group'srestaurants include The Grand Grill, Salute, Martini's, Crossings Bistro, Lord Essex, Freshens and Dunkin Donuts.


The hotels and restaurants are controlled and owned, in part, by local health-care executive and real estate developer Javon Bea and his family.


While it seemed last fall that the high-profile chef was planning for a long run in Rochester, Twin Cities media is reporting that Woodman started a new job this week as executive chef at Lela. Lela is a high-end Minneapolis eatery located on the northwest corner of Interstate 494 and Highway 100.

Mpls.St. Paul Magazine is reporting that Woodman is excited about the new role, because his gig in Rochester did not allow him much time to actually cook or manage a kitchen.

Michael Henry, Kahler's managing director of human resources, didn't return either a call or an email  today asking for details about the change and if Woodman has been replaced yet.

Kahler Hospitality has been tweaking its restaurants in recent years to keep up with the increasingly competitive Rochester food scene. Woodman's departure could set that process back a bit.

Prior to Woodman, Kahler Hospitality employed Chef Pasquale Presa from 2011 to 2015 to spice up its menus. Chef Pasquale is now the executive chef at Kalahari Resorts & Conventions in the Wisconsin Dells.

 

April 01, 2016

Bleu Duck Kitchen cooking in downtown Rochester

Two area chefs are creating a downtown Rochester restaurant to offer "an eclectic mix of adventurous and innovative comfort food" in a historic building.

Chefs Erik Kleven and Erik Paulsen are fulfilling their dreams of opening their own place, the Bleu Duck Kitchen, by taking over the entire first floor of the 115-year-old Conley-Maass building at 14 Fourth St. SW. That's the brick building being renovated by owners Traci and Hunter Downs

15.006_Final Model - Restaurant Image 1 (1)"This is a great chance to break out on our own," said Kleven, currently the executive chef at Four Daughters Vineyard in Spring Valley.

Creating a 60-seat "New American Bistro"-style restaurant with a separate special events space in the Conley-Maas building is a particularly good fit, said Paulsen. who also worked at Four Daughters as Riverside on the Root and Vintage in Lanesboro.

"The building is in tune with we're doing," he said. "We're going to serve classic dishes with new novel twists. We want to make interesting, but approachable food."

That translates into possible menu items, like chicken roulade with waffle bread pudding stuffing, maple syrup and collard greens or ratatouille with parmesan funnel cake and hollandaise whipped potatoes. They plan to use fresh, locally grown ingredients.

If everything goes according to plan, the duo hopes to have the Bleu Duck cooking by mid- to late August. Kleven plans to wrap up his transition from Four Daughters. They expect to have a staff of 25 to 30 working at the Bleu Duck.

Rochester architect Adam Ferrari of 9 Square is designing the restaurant with an emphasis on "letting the historic building talk." The plan is for exposed brick, mute tones with an emphasis on the kitchen.

"We'll have the focus on a bright, clean, white kitchen at the center," said Paulsen.

A small "Chef's Counter" will located by kitchen. Customers sitting there will be served special, chef-chosen dishes.

The front portion of the main floor of the building will house the dining room, bar and kitchen. The back area will be used for special private events with room to seat up to 100 people.

The pair chose the name to represent an adventurous approach to cuisine. While they were both at Four Daughters, they would have "Blue Duck" days for the staff to experiment and try out new dishes and techniques. The name cames from the Adam Sandler move, "Billy Madison." As an adult in a first grade classroom, Sandler's character drew a blue duck, "because I've never seen a blue duck." 

"We try to not take ourselves too seriously," said Paulsen.

The Conley-Maass renovation project has been lauded as an example of the kind of development that many hope Rochester's Destination Medical Center initiative attracts. The Downs see this new restaurant as being of the same spirit as their transformation of the older building into an innovative technology office center.

"We've been in discussions and talks with several interested parties about the space and it wasn't until we met the duo that we knew had the right match for the building," said Traci Downs.

 

March 29, 2016

Downtown #rochmn liquor store to move to new home

After about a year in the Shops at University Square shopping center, City Wines and Spirits is moving to a new downtown Rochester home as well as taking on a new name.

City-wines-and-spiritsCity Wines and Spirits is tucked away on the mall's first floor between Lenscrafters and the former Michaels Restaurant. Now the shop that bills itself as "Rochester's Only Downtown Wine, Beer and Liquor Store" is planning to move across Broadway to the lobby of the DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, according to Sheila Thoma.

The liquor store is slated to move into the retail space at the corner of Broadway and Second Street Southeast. It was last occupied by Deb Frederick's Tableside Manor gift shop, which has moved to another downtown spot.

"We are looking forward to this new location with it being right on the street and in the hotel. We are waiting to solidify a couple last steps. If all does go as intended, we plan to open early April," Thoma said via email on Monday.

Thomas is the marketing director for Titan Development & Investments, which owns University Square, the Doubletree Hotel as well as City Wines. Titan also owns Andy's Liquor, which has four Rochester locations.

As part of the move, Thoma says the store is "rebranding as Andy’s Liquor Downtown."

That will bring the number of Andy's stores in Rochester up to five.

 

March 09, 2016

Customers celebrate return of Indian cuisine downtown

The return of Indian cuisine to downtown Rochester has some fans celebrating.

"Some customers were so happy to see Indian food again that they were just dancing around in circles," said Anuradha Dhumne of the opening of Blue Diamond Indian Cuisine in the First Avenue Food Court in Rochester's downtown skyway.

Anuradha and her husband, Anil Dhumne, launched Blue Diamond on Monday in a food-court spot last occupied by Azteca Mexican restaurant. 

08032016bluediamond"We serve authentic Indian food, sometimes with a twist," said Anuradha Dhumne.

In addition to traditional Indian meat entrees, they have a wide variety of vegetarian dishes for people looking for that option. The menu includes favorites of Indian cuisine such as tandoori chicken, curries, kabobs, samosas and fresh naan bread.

Blue Diamond has three on staff, including Anuradha Dhumne.

"There's a lot of interest. There's a gap here that we are filling," said Anil Dhumne. "People are finding our food is a festival of taste and flavor on your tongue."

Blue Diamond is settling in this week. The Dhumnes plan to ramp things up soon by offering a morning breakfast next week, an afternoon "snack" of tea and samosas and catering services.

They have been looking for a spot to open for about a year. Some people might remember the Blue Diamond booth at area farmer's markets and festivals.

"This has long been her dream," Anil said. "Location is key. I think we got a good spot." 

March 03, 2016

Indian cuisine on way to downtown food court

IMG_0362It looks like a new Indian cuisine place will soon start cooking in the First Avenue Food Court in Rochester's downtown skyway.

The sign recently went up for Blue Diamond Indian Cuisine in front of the vendor spot last occupied by Mexican eatery.

I haven't talked to them yet, but I pretty sure Blue Diamond is vendor some people might remember from summer events at the Squash Blossom Farm in Douglas.

I should have more on this soon.