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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 23, 2016

Auto Techs to close at end of June

After 24 years in the fast lane, Roger Gansen is ready to slow down a bit.

Gansen has owned and run Auto Techs, a repair and sales shop, in Rochester since 1992. He has operated at his current location at 650 S. Broadway for about 12 years.

11146464_358227187720296_512149979420663139_oNow he has a "Closing soon" sign out front as he prepares to sell his property to the Lamont Cos. He plans to close the doors of his two-man shop at the end of June.

"It's kind of tough," said Gansen of the closure.

However, part of him is looking forward it.

"I'm ready for a change," he said. "I think this is kind of an opportune time for it."

The big question is will he re-open the popular Auto Techs somewhere else. That's a question he really doesn't have answer for.

"As of right now, everything is up in the air," Gansen said on Friday. "But right now, I'm looking forward to slowing down a bit."

While he is slowing down, the activity on that block of South Broadway is quickly ramping up this summer.

Lamont Cos. are the developers who recently purchased the adjacent Clarion Inn for $5 million with plans to build a newCandlewood Suites hotel and retail center. A liquidation sale of all of the hotel's furnishings and fixtures is underway.

Based in South Dakota, Lamont Cos. are the same developers who built Rochester's Holiday Inn by the Miracle Mile shopping center on Second Street in 2012.

May 20, 2016

Mayo Clinic Ventures looks to Israel for collaborations

Looking to help boost a variety of medical start-up businesses, Mayo Clinic Ventures is targeting collaborations and investments in Israel with a new program.

The goal of the Mayo Clinic Israeli Startup Initiative is to work with companies either through sponsored research grants or co-development.  

Flags"Co-development can include licensing of Mayo Clinic know-how or an investment," explained Timmeko Love, of Mayo Clinic Ventures. "It's about matching the right opportunities with Mayo Clinic know-how for collaboration. It's all about finding the right strategic fit."

Candidates for the Israeli Startup Initiative can include very early stage companies to ones that are much further along in development. They can work in any area of health care. 

"We're not limiting our options," Love said.

The project announced this week actually is a new phase of an existing Mayo Clinic initiative.

It has been active in Israel for about a year, partnering with the philanthropic Merage Institute. The California-based Merage Institute awards up to $150,000 in annual research grants for Israeli companies working with Mayo Clinic. The most recent recipient was EyeYon Medical, which makes a noninvasive medical device to treat corneal edema.

Mayo Clinic Ventures recently took on the Israel initiative and that has put co-development on the table. That new approach is being launched next week in Tel Aviv at IATI-Biomed, Israel’s largest life sciences and technology conference. Mayo teams will meet start-ups to study their technology, and then consider making investments or collaborations.

This is first time Mayo Clinic Ventures has focused on one whole country for business opportunities, despite its long history of international projects. Many might not be aware of it, but Israel is a logical candidate for a such a relationship.

"It's a natural next step for us," Love said.

Israel is considered to be the worldwide leader in innovation in medical devices, biopharma, software and other types of health-care businesses. The U.S imported $600 million of Israeli medical devices in 2011. In 2015, Israel housed 725 medical-devices businesses with an overall total of 1,380 life-sciences companies.

While California's Silicon Valley is known as the hottest spot in the world for business start-ups, Israel is recognized as a close second. A 2009 book, "Start-up Nation," documents how Israel, with a population of 7.1 million, generates more tech businesses than many much larger countries.

"It's kind of a national sport in Israel," said Guy David, a professor of health-care management at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. He was born and raised in Israel and tracks its medical businesses closely.

David said Israel's required military service coupled with an environment that encourages questioning and taking risks is a big factor.

"Israel is hugely innovative. The innovative spirit starts at a very young age," he said.

While launching technology companies is a big focus in the country, the entrepreneurs all know the market for their products or services is elsewhere.

"There is no market in Israel. Israel is tiny," said David. "If they invent something, they know it has to be a global product."

Does that mean businesses partnering with Mayo Clinic could open offices or build facilities in Rochester?

"That certainly could be a possibility. We do look at an economic development when considering companies," said Love. "But it has to make sense for that company. There would need to be a business reason for it."

 

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 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.

April 12, 2016

Mayo Clinic sells 4 lots for $720,000

Everyone knows lots of properties are selling in Rochester, though, in many cases, only the buyers know what is coming next.

Saint-marys-8colMayo Clinic sold three open lots plus one with a 97-year-old house in southwest Rochester for $720,000 on the final day of March.

The four parcels are on 14th Avenue Southwest, which runs along the west side of Saint Marys Hospital. Olmsted County estimates the total value of the real estate at $140,000.

Here's what Mayo Clinic had to say about the deal.

"We did sell four parcels recently (313, 317, 323 and 327 14th Ave, SW) to '1406 Second Street Associates.' You will need to contact the buyer’s representatives for any additional info/comment on their plans for the parcels," wrote Ginger Plumbo, of Mayo Clinic Communications, in an email response to questions.

Rochester developer Nick Pompeian, who owns the Brentwood on 2nd and Ray-Mar hotels at the corner of 14th Avenue Southwest and Second Street, is a representative of the local investors behind 1406 Second Street Associates.

He confirmed the purchase Monday, but couldn't discuss any future plans for the new property.

However, the real estate does seem to support the longtime buzz that a major redevelopment is coming for that ever-so popular block. 

As Destination Medical Center very slowly ramps up, the prospect of sitting in the shadow of Mayo Clinic's busy hospital has a lot of people eagerly putting together potential deals.

April 08, 2016

New Rochester art gallery is thinking big

Wendy Westlake has a big vision for 535 Gallery, her new Rochester art gallery.

"The concept is for large-scale contemporary pieces as a service for designers and the general public looking for a distinctive statement piece to make an impact in a large space," explained Westlake, as she took a break from converting a former industrial space into an art gallery.

04072016535galleryWith the help of her gallery director, Nick Sinclair, Westlake is working on the new gallery at 535 Sixth Ave. N.W. in Rochester's artsy Cooke Park Design District. The more than 2,000-square-foot gallery will share the block with the funky Dwell Local art and antique shop as well as Fox & Fern Floral and A Beautiful Soul, a New Age Boutique and healing store.

They hope to open the doors some time this summer. Realtor Dylan Carty, of Rochester's Realty Growth Inc. (RGI), handled the deal to line up that spot for 535 Gallery.

Westlake's 535 Gallery is located between the imported car repair shop, Werkstatt 533, and Auto Refinishers Plus.

"We think this Cooke Park area is a good place for us to be. We like what it is becoming," she said. "Though it is kind of a strange place to be sandwiched between two auto places."

Westlake and Sinclair caution that people should not expect a gift shop or even a place like the recently closed SEMVA (Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists) gallery. It will specialize in paintings and mixed media pieces with interior designers in mind, though it also will be open to the public. They envision the large artworks in both local residences and commercial spaces.

They are adding a designer's room to the gallery for meetings with interior designers and their clients.

"It'll be a nice space where we can show them our catalog of art," said Sinclair.

The plan is to host 10 exhibitions featuring two local or regional artists every year. 

SEMVA, which was downtown near Mayo Clinic, was popular with visitors. Westlake expects 535 Gallery to serve a different group of customers, because of the size of its art and its location.

"We want to be an art gallery for Rochester," she said. 

 

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.

 

MEP engineering to move to new Rochester office

A growing engineering firm is planning to move soon to a new, larger northwest Rochester office.

The Rochester office of Eau Claire, Wis.-based MEP Associates plans to move into the former Venture Computer Systems/ Marco Inc. complex at 3416 Lakeridge Place NW.

Ex-venturecomplex"The building is empty and we've already started construction," said Luke Johnson, a mechanical engineer and project manager at MEP. "We're going more than double our office space."

MEP is moving from 2900 43rd St. NW. MEP opened its Rochester location there in 2009. MEP hired the entire engineering team from the former Holabird & Root office, when Holabird closed up its Med City location.

Since MEP began operating in Rochester, this location has flourished and grown. It opened in 2009 with the nine ex-Holabird engineers. MEP, which handles a lot of projects for Mayo Clinic, the University of Minnesota and Carleton College, now has 15 staffers in Rochester.

"With the new space, we'll have room to add 10 more people," said Johnson. "We're seeing a lot of construction of all kinds, mostly in the Rochester region. Two of our niches, building labs and campus utilities, are very active."

MEP is leasing the 9,794-square-foot Lakeridge complex from owner Jon Eckhoff.  Eckhoff originally built it 2005 for his company, Venture Computer Systems. Marco Inc. bought Venture in 2009 and leased the building from Eckhoff. 

Marco moved to a new Rochester office at 1014 Bel Air Lane NW in 2014.