News Business Sports Entertainment Life Obituaries Opinion
Jobs Homes Cars Classifieds Shopping
Local Bloggers Cheap Tech Eco-Confessions Faceoff Furst Draft Heard on the Street Med City Movie Guy Pulse on Health Political Party

Search PB Blogs

Loading

Categories

5656 posts categorized "Local business action"

July 06, 2015

Clients defend Rochester ADA lawsuits

The clients behind recent costly disability lawsuits against Rochester businesses say the money they collect will create programs to help disabled people.

"We all suffer with access issues," said Melanie Davis, a student from Jackson, Minn. "The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) has been effect for many years. We've gotten tired of not having the same level of access everybody else has,"

Davis, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair, is one of four board members of the Minnesota-based Disability Support Alliance. She, a Parking_lot_sign_largelong with other alliance members, filed at least eight lawsuits in the last two months against Rochester businesses over ADA violations. The non-profit Disability Support Alliance was formed on July 3, 2014.

Davis and her companions recently stayed in Rochester for about week. When asked why they were here, she replied, "We travel. There were various reasons for being in Rochester, like medical things. We like touring and stuff like that."

Surprised by lawsuits

Many of the local businesses, such as Bilotti's Pizzeria and Hillcrest Shopping Center, were surprised by the lawsuits. Neither Davis nor any of her companions made complaints directly to the businesses during their visit to Rochester.

The DSA's Minneapolis attorney, Paul Hansmeier, approaches businesses about settling the lawsuits for amounts, like $5,000. That has led some of the businesses to wonder if the suits are more about making money than resolving accessibility issues.

"These people (from the DSA) had no intention of supporting my business when they drove in here. They came in here with every intention of getting rich quick," said Bilotti's owner Karla Sperry, who is addressing the problem with signage for her handicapped parking spots.

Davis disputes that claim. She said none of the board members receive salaries or part of the settlements. However, they did receive travel expenses to attend their board meetings, which occur every three months. She said DSA board members are mostly supported by payments from Social Security.

"We're getting paid for damages, and we donate the money back into the DSA. That's basically how it works," she explained.

The money from the settlements goes into a fund to be used by the DSA to develop programs to help disabled people in Minnesota, Davis said. 

"All of those (programs) are in the works. Nothing is working yet at the moment," she said when asked about the support programs.

Hansmeier, who works for law firm Class Justice, handles all of DSA's lawsuits and does collect a portion of the settlements, she said.

"It's not a salary, but he gets a portion from each case," Davis said. "Paul receives his own salary from his law firm, which is a contract which we developed between our organizations."

When asked what percentage of each settlement that Hansmeier collects, she declined to answer.

Litigious past

Hansmeier has filed a large number of this type of lawsuit throughout the state, including in Marshall and Mankato. Before pursuing ADA cases, he was well known for suits against Internet users, charging they had illegally downloaded copyrighted pornography. A federal judge ordered Hansmeier and others to pay sanctions related to that practice. Prenda Law, the firm Hansmeier worked with on the porn cases, has been dissolved.

He has been quoted in the media saying, "We consider ourselves to be an advocacy association more than we consider ourselves a law firm. With the porn reputation, I wanted to shift my focus and focus on something more positive."

In 2013, Hansmeier began filing a number of ADA-related cases for a disabled Minneapolis client named Eric A Wong. In a deposition for one of the cases, Wong testified that Hansmeier's brother, Peter Hansmeier, and others working with Hansmeier would take him to businesses to see if he could access them.

Hennepin County District Court Chief Judge Peter Cahill flagged six of the cases at the end of 2013 and ordered them all assigned to one judge to make sure they were all managed the same way.


The judge wrote that the manner in which the lawsuits were filed "… raises the specter of litigation abuse, and Mr. Hansmeier’s history reinforces this concern."

Davis said Wong is chairman of the DSA board. He recruited her to the board after she appeared in a documentary called "Independence to Inclusion" by Twin Cities Public Television in April 2014.

"He (Eric) had a vision for a better life," she said.

As far as Hansmeier's controversial past as an attorney, Davis said that doesn't concern her or any of the other board members.

"For us right now, it comes down to this, everybody has a past. What he did then is very different than what he's doing now," she said. "We're thankful for someone who's willing to help us exercise our civil rights."

In an email to the Post-Bulletin, Hansmeier reiterated the reason for the lawsuits is to make businesses more accessible, not to make money.

"Regardless of whether everyone agrees with my clients' efforts there can be no question that more attention to these issues will encourage more business owners to obey the law without the need for a lawsuit," he wrote.

Hansmeier also clarified in his email that a lawsuit he filed for DSA against Rochester's Kahler Grand Hotel in March plus a counter-suit filed in response by Kahler were settled in April.

July 02, 2015

KTTC's Overlie signs up for 5 more years in Rochester

KTTC-TV's popular news anchor Tom Overlie will continue covering Rochester for at least another five years, after signing a new contract with the station.

Overlie, who has won six Emmy Awards for best newscast, has co-anchored KTTC's 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. weekday newscasts. He announced his new five-year contract on Facebook this week. When asked why he has chosen to remain in Rochester, he responded that he thinks it is "one of the finest communities" that he's seen.

"I've traveled the world, and each time I come home to Rochester, I know this is the place I want to be," Overlie wrote in a message. "I'm fortunate to work with great people who are not only colleagues, but family."

8006876_GPrior to joining KTTC, Overlie worked for KMOT-TV in North Dakota for five years and three years at KEYC-TV in Mankato.

KTTC, which is owned by Quincy Newspapers in Quincy, Ill., is "thrilled" about Overlie remaining with the station, said Jerry Watson, KTTC general manager and Quincy regional vice president.

"Tom's special. Clearly to us, he's more than an anchor. He's really superb journalist who really understands his audience," he said. "To us, he's more than an anchor. He's one of the best ambassadors KTTC has had in years."

Overlie is not the only KTTC on-air talent that is committed to Rochester. Co-anchor Robin Wolfram recently signed a three-year contract extension with the TV station through 2017. Watson pointed out that KTTC's Sports Director Pat Lund is celebrating his 25th anniversary with the station this week.

"It's really fun to talk to Pat about local sports, because he knows the generations of athletes," said Watson. 

Goodwill store proposed for northwest Rochester

A Minneapolis developer is proposing to build a 28,000-square-foot Goodwill thrift store near Costco in northwest Rochester.


The Driessen Group, led by Vince Driessen, has filed plans to build a store at the corner of 19th Street Northwest and Scott Road Northwest. That's the 19th Street entrance to the Costco commercial area. The store is slated to sit opposite the Kwik Trip station across Scott Road.

Goodwill plansThe plans describe the project as a Goodwill store. However, Goodwill Minnesota Retail Marketing Director Mary Beth Casement cautions that the nonprofit has not committed to any such store yet.

"We do not have a signed lease, so your best source is the developer rather than Goodwill-Easter Seals Minnesota," said Casement in an email.

Driessen has not yet responded to a request for comment about this project.

It's common for developers to build stores with a plan, and then lease or sell them to nonprofit organizations or corporations.

Driessen recently built a 33,000-square-foot Goodwill store in St. Paul, which opened in March.

The plans, drawn up by DJR Architecture Inc., of Minneapolis, show a building with 13,730 square feet of retail space and 8,787 square feet of office. It also includes 4,955 square feet of warehouse space.

In 2008, a Goodwill store with 15,000 square feet of retail space was built at 239 28th St. SE near the Broadway Commons commercial area. The nonprofit organization moved into it after leaving its old Rochester spot at 660 37th St. NW.

It's unclear if this proposed store would be a second location or if it would replace the 7-year-old southeast store. A second store seems the most likely possibility. Salvation Army opened a second northwest location in 2014.

June 26, 2015

A taste of the East Coast coming to Med City

The flavor of the East Coast is on its way to southwest Rochester.

Joe Phillips is cooking up a new eatery called Jersey Jo's to serve up "authentic Philly Cheesesteaks and more."

FireShot Capture - Order Online - http___jerseyjos.com_order-onlineHe hopes to be able to open Jersey Jo's by mid-July at 187 16th Ave. SW. Cousins Subs is moving out of that 1,600-square-foot spot in the Shoppes on Second commercial center at the end of June. That address will put him just a couple blocks away from Mayo Clinic's St. Marys Hospital and many hotels.

Phillips, a software programmer who will continue that profession remotely from the restaurant, said this new project started very simply.

"I couldn't get a cheesesteak anywhere around here that I liked," he said. So after years of looking, he finally decided to open a place of his own.

Phillips plans to "import" many of the ingredients for the Jersey Jo's signature cheesesteak sandwiches from the East Coast to create as authentic of a flavor as possible.

In addition to Philly cheesesteaks, Jersey Jo's also will serve cold hoagie sandwiches, chicken wings and a trio of specialty burgers. The meat will be sliced on-site, deli-style for each of the made-to-order sandwiches.

While he has long worked in the technology industry, Phillips knows his way around a kitchen from years in restaurants during college.

Phillips' vision for Jersey Jo's is to create a laid-back place like the small mom-and-pop corner shops he remembers from growing up in New Jersey.

"I want to offer a nondiscriminatory place for people to come and feel welcome while they have some good food," he said.

He expects to have about eight people on staff.

 

June 23, 2015

Couple give Rochester a double kick with 2nd gym

A Rochester gym is now giving the Med City a double kick with a new second location.

Daniel and Norma Flores opened their second 9Round Gym on June 10 in Suite 104 at 3270 19th St. NW. That's in the 19th Street Business Park.

Photo_4_1382974688_1"This is area is really growing," said Norma Flores of the new gym. "We have a lot of members from Byron, Mantorville and Kasson. This is a good spot for people to stop before or after work."

The fitness franchise offers a 30-minute circuit workout based on boxing and kickboxing training. The workouts involve aerobic, anaerobic and strength training, tailored to each members' ability.

Members can come in at anytime and be guided through the nine workout stations or "rounds," including kettle bells, jump ropes and lots of punching and kicking.

"The workout changes every day and there's always a trainer to help and encourage," she said.

In 2013, the Flores opened their first 9Round Gym in the River Center Plaza. They later moved that original gym to Suite 101 in 2571 Clare Lane NE. That's in the Century Business Plaza.

They now have about 300 members. In addition to the two owners,  9Round has a staff of six trainers.

June 19, 2015

Bingo is coming back to Rochester

Get your scorecards and ink daubers ready.

Rochester's Elks Club is bringing Bingo back to the Med City.

"We want to open an old-fashioned Bingo hall," said Sue Foster, the current president (Exalted Ruler) of the Elks Club.

18_black_vector_fan-5-sm_1_1Fans of the popular game haven't had a regular place to play since the Rochester Senior Center closed its Flamingo Bingo in December. 

The plan is to open the club's doors at 1652 U.S. Highway 52 North in the Hillcrest Shopping Center on June 30 and start calling numbers. The Elks will host evening bingo games on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, plus on Sunday afternoons.

The club, which has 378 members, has worked its way through the state's complex charitable gambling process and is almost ready to go.

"We have a charitable gambling manager, an assistant gambling manager, callers and a concession stand," Foster said.

In the run up to the opening, the club will have trial runs for the staff with its members to work out the bugs before allowing the public in to play, he said.

Of course, the Elks already know the rules of the game. Flaming Bingo operated in the Elks Club for about eight months until it closed. It had been displaced from its former building at 2828 Highway 52 North, which was sold to a Twin Cities car dealership and eventually demolished.

With construction of the new Senior Center addition to the Rochester Recreation Center underway, Senior Center Executive Director Sally Gallagher said the center's board of directors decided to focus on that instead of the seven-year-old Flamingo Bingo. In addition, the center's charitable gambling manager resigned and the bingo venture saw declining revenue.

ElksThe Senior Center raised $100,000 in funds in 2013 with the Flamingo Bingo parlor, but the dollars started fading after moving in with the Elks.

"We did not have the visibility we'd hoped for. We had a significant attendance decline after the move. Though, it is a lovely space," Gallagher said last year. 

After investing in creating that "lovely space," the Elks Club saw an opportunity to raise more funds for their organization and other local nonprofits.

"We did this years ago at our old location (at 917 15th Ave. SE). So we thought, why not try something like this and give more back to the community," Foster said. 

June 16, 2015

Developer with Med City projects buys Pioneer Press building

A South Dakota developer who has three Rochester apartment complexes in the works is expanding into the less expensive market of St. Paul by buying the Pioneer Press building.

Stencil Homes, of Sioux Falls, S.D., bought the newspaper's eight-story headquarters at 345 Cedar Street on Friday. Developer and builder Nate Stencil says he plans to convert it into 150 to 168 market-rate apartments. Rochester Realtor Merl Groteboer, of Re/Max Results, handled the purchase for Stencil.

PioneerPressBuildingThe newspaper plans to announces its moving plans soon. Stencil hopes to begin construction in early 2016.

The purchase price was not released, though the building had been listed at $4.2 million. Whatever the price, it mostly likely was not close to the premium prices that downtown Rochester properties are selling for amid the Destination Medical Center boom.

"After hanging out in Rochester for a few years, things were looking pretty cheap up there (in St. Paul)," said Stencil on Monday. "After establishing a presence in Rochester, we couldn't help but look at more opportunities in the area. This is a good opportunity."

St. Paul real estate certainly looks to be more affordable than in downtown Rochester. Bloom International Realty paid $7.7 million for the seven-story Associated Bank Building at 206 S. Broadway in downtown Rochester in 2013. In 2014, the three-story Brackenridge Skyway Plaza at 21 Second St. S.W. was purchased by Baheya LLC for $10 million.

Stencil has two apartment complexes under construction in Rochester, Nue52 (formerly called Woodland Park) and Kascade Place, plus a third one in downtown that's still in the planning stages.

He expects the 83-unit Nue52 to be ready for tenants late this summer. It's at Rochester's 65th Street Northwest interchange across U.S. 52 from the North Menards store. Stencil describes Nue52 as it architecturally will be similar to the Metropolitan Marketplace complex in downtown Rochester.

Work on Kascade Place, which is near Nue52, is in the early stages. It will have 96 apartments. Stencil estimates it should be completed by the first quarter of 2016.

Details of the largest project, a $15 million, 110-unit apartment complex near downtown, still are being worked out at this point. Stencil and his partner, Sean A. Kaufhold, previously announced that they plan to build a six-story apartment complex with street-level retail space on Third Avenue Southeast and Fourth Street. That's across from the Olmsted County Government Center and Rochester City Hall.

To clear the way for that project, Stencil Homes purchased three buildings — Buckeye Liquor, the empty Flowers By Jerry shop and the former 3rd Avenue Pet Hospital — in 2014. The company previously had planned to have construction underway by now, but nothing has been done yet.

"We've met with the neighborhood. Now we're doing some re-tooling. We're trying to gauge what everyone would like to see," he said. "We're hoping to start by the first of the year."

Those apartments, along with the Kascade Place apartments, will be priced comparably to other market-rate units in Rochester, he said. That means rents ranging from $900 to $1,000 per month.

June 15, 2015

Former Cardio3 launching $99 million IPO in US and worldwide

Celyad, formerly Cardio3 Biosciences, announced the terms for its $99 million stock offering this morning.

The Belgium-based Celyad, which is building a manufacturing facility in downtown Rochester and has close ties with Mayo Clinic, hopes to raise $99 million by offering 1.4 million shares at $70.98 per share.

CelyadWhile Celyad has traded on the European stock markets of NYSE Euronext Brussels and NYSE Euronext Paris for some time, this stock offering would introduce the regenerative medicine firm directly to the U.S. market. It has applied to make the U.S. offering on the Nasdaq stock market under the symbol CYAD.

A registration statement relating to these securities has been filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission but has not yet become effective. It cannot sell or accept offers to buy until the SEC OKs the registration.

This move could benefit Mayo Clinic, which owned 2.69 percent of Celyad as of March 3. Mayo Clinic first acquired equity in Cardio3 in 2007, when it licensed stem-cell research by Mayo Clinic's Dr. Andre Terzic and Dr. Atta Behfar. Its cardiopoiesis technology repairs patients' hearts by re-programming their own stem cells to regenerate cardiac tissue.

Earlier this year, the Rochester City Council recently approved a lease for Celyad to take over the entire fifth floor of Rochester's Minnesota BioBusiness Center. Rochester Area Economic Development Inc. and the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development also are involved in the deal.

Celyad is building a prototype manufacturing facility in the 14,963-square-feet of space on the fifth floor of the downtown building. Mayo, which leases the fourth through eighth floors, moved its employees out of the fifth floor earlier this year. The five-year lease calls for it to pay a rent of $18 per square foot, or $22,444.50, per month. The city agreed in the lease to pay for $600,000 in equipment and improvements to the space.

DEED is offering Ceylad a $357,000 Minnesota Job Creation Fund award if it invests $1.5 million in Rochester within a year and hires 33 employees within two years. The average wages of the new jobs will be $21.52 per hour.

June 12, 2015

Checking in with Sonic

Hopeful rumors of a Sonic Drive-in opening in Rochester have been buzzing around… again.

I called Oklahoma City, Okla.-based burger and shake chain in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011 to see if car hops and cherry limeades might be on the way to the Med City.

Sonic-drive-inI've never received an answer that made local Sonic fans happy. And unfortunately, the 2015 call did not turn out any differently.

"We do not have any signed contracts or any under construction drive-ins there," said Sonic's Communication Manager Jason Acock. "I don't see any plans right now of opening up in Rochester."

However, there's always a possibility. Sonic has opened a number of drive-ins in the Twin Cities and in nearby Wisconsin in the past eight years.

"We're open to looking all over the county right now. We're looking to expand everywhere," said Acock. "Hopefully, somebody will step forward and a franchisee will want to open a location up there."

Rochester childcare center growing with new infant facility

A young child-care center is preparing to take the step to more than double capacity to better serve Rochester's growing demand for infant care.

First Steps Childcare Center is preparing to break ground on July 1 for a second facility on its campus at 3089 25th St. NW.

Founder and director Cassie Fenstra says the new building, which will be across the parking lot from her original one, will include seven classrooms, two offices and a basement conference room. The new building will be called Little Steps Campus.

1"It will be bigger than the one we have now. It'll be an infant specific building and our existing building will then handle toddlers and preschoolers," she said. "We have a wait list for infants that's like a mile long."

Fenstra opened First Steps in 2014. The center uses a tailored curriculum for each age group — infant, toddler, preschool and pre-kindergarten.

First Steps now cares for 72 children; 22 are infants and 50 are 16-months to 5-years-old. Building the new Little Steps Campus building will be bring Little Steps' capacity up to 150.

She has a staff now of 18 employees, but that will change with the new building.

"We'll need to at least double the staff by the time whole center is built," said Fenstra.