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April 24, 2014

River Bend facility shaping up

04222014riverbend1Rochester's River Bend Assisted Living facility seems to be shaping up pretty well on the shores of the Zumbro River.

Titan Development and Investments and Good Neighbor Care Centers of Eugene, Ore. broke ground on $15 million, 81,000-square-foot complex project in September.

Since then, they've made pretty good headway on the construction. It's expected to open in the fall.

04222014riverbend2River Bend will feature 70 assisted living units and 18 memory-care units on overlooking the river. The goal is to complete the facility by fall of 2014.

Good Neighbor Care, which is owned by Yakima, Wash.,-based Wilkinson Corp, will manage the community.

 When it opens, River Bend is expected to employ nearly 50 full- and part-time staff members.

River Bend Assisted Living is being designed by Rochester-based CRW Architects, built by Weis Builders and financed by West Bank.

April 23, 2014

Pizza Hut to reopen after renovation, adds delivery

Rochester's Pizza Hut restaurant along U.S. 52 North is expected to start cooking again today, following its renovation.


The 28-year-old brick restaurant at 2001 U.S. 52 North Frontage Road has been closed for about five weeks for a major overhaul that cost at least $168,000, according to building records.
PRN10-PIZZA-HUT-LOGO-1y-4-1-1-1High
When the doors re-open today, customers will find more than just the look is different. The pizza restaurant now offers delivery and table service. It previously was a dine-in/pick-up only place.

"We wanted to update the current restaurant and add delivery to its dine-in service," said Doug Prickett.

Prickett is the director of Minnesota operations for the owner, San Antonio, Texas-based Muy Brands. The employees remained on the payroll and worked at the two other Rochester Pizza Hut locations while it was closed for construction.

Pizza Hut's delivery-only location at 1105 Seventh St. N.W. is closing with U.S. 52 spot's addition of delivery.

Muy Brands, one of the largest Pizza Hut franchisees in the U.S., acquired the three Rochester Pizza Huts as part of the purchase deal with Sky Ventures of Golden Valley. Sky Ventures sold 54 Pizza Huts to Muy at the end of last year.

The sale of Rochester's U.S. 52 restaurant closed in January for $986,733.

Pizza Hut is not the only eatery on that stretch of frontage road that has changes on the menu.

The Rochester City Council OKed fire hydrant connections to serve a to-be-constructed new McDonald's this week. The new restaurant, which is being built along West Circle Drive by Costco, will replace the current one on the frontage road by Pizza Hut.

Once the new restaurant is complete, the old store will close. Until then, it will remain open.

April 18, 2014

Downtown building sells for $771,000

Yet another building in Rochester's downtown core sold recently.

20140418_141438The 129-year-old building at 325 South Broadway was  purchased for $771,500 on May 26 by RGA of Rochester. RGA is a group of local investors that includes Paul Armon of Armon Architecture, Inc. and Peter and Paul Gerrard of La Crosse, Wis.-based Gerrard Co. 

Gerrard Co. developed the nearby multi-million dollar Metropolitan Market Place complex that houses the popular People's Food Cooperative as well as 62 apartments at First Avenue and Sixth Street Southwest in September.

20140418_141616The company is also working on a new Rochester apartment complex along 8 1/2 Avenue Northwest.

Unlike other recent downtown purchases, Armon and the Gerrards don't seem to have immediate development plans for that site. Their local offices are based in the building. Armon Architecture and Gerrard Cos. have been tenants there since May, 2012.

John Hasseler, a jewelry, goldsmith and artist, opened Broadway Jewelry and Visual Arts in the storefront retail space there in 2012. Prior to that, Cheri's Boutique was based there and Carson's Framing before that.

RGA bought the building, which was constructed in 1885, from the estate of Harold Perry. Perry purchased in 1999 for $185,000.

This is just one many downtown real estate purchases in recently months.

Bloom International Realty, based in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, bought the seven-story Associated Bank Building at 206 S. Broadway for $7 million in September.

• Local investors paid $3 million for the Riverside Building at 400 S Broadway and two other buildings along a two-block stretch of South Broadway from Fourth Street to Sixth Street last summer.

• The 63-year-old youth theater building at 12 Fourth St. S.W. was bought for $400,000 in August by AC Acquisitions LLC of Rochester, a Titan Development & Investments company.

April 17, 2014

Ex-bar will soon house memorial services

The former Mickey's Irish Saloon building is getting a very different tenant soon.

Rochester Cremation Services is re-working the former bar building at 1605 Civic Center Drive N.W.

04162014mickeysMike Johnson, who owns Rochester Cremation, hopes to be in his new site by end of the month. It's located in a high profile spot on Civic Center Drive, just west of the Hy-Vee grocery store in the Barlow Plaza.

"It's a big project," he said of transforming the saloon into a funeral home.

Funeral Director Johnson explained that his cremation business simply has outgrown its current location at 14 Sixth St. N.W. After a long search, he picked the Civic Center building as the best choice. Johnson is leasing the building, which is owned by Gary Mattison.

"We simply need to have a bigger building for memorial services. A lot of people today don't have their own church any more, so they turn to us," he said.

While there will be memorial services there, the cremation process will not take place in the Civic Center building — it will be done elsewhere.

Mickey Clark opened Mickey's Irish Saloon there in 2004. The bar, which was known for its large St. Patrick's Day party and for hosting boxing/mixed martial arts bouts, closed its doors in May 2013.

April 15, 2014

Doubletree's Rochester Club to stop serving lunch

RochclubletterTitan Development's Doubletree by Hilton hotel sent out a letter to the members of its exclusive Rochester Club to notify them that the club will soon stop serving lunch.

These club members have access to the Doubletree's Executive Lounge, which it accessible only from the two executive level floors. It serves a hot breakfast buffet, a light hot dinner and cocktails with the Doubletree cookies and milk later in the evening.

Rochester clubNot sure how many people are members of the Rochester Club, but I believe a lot of local business leaders use this service.

The letter, which was forwarded to me from multiple members, mentions how much Titan has on its plate right now with its two downtown developments. It didn't explain how those projects connect to the Rochester Club and exactly why the lunch is going away.

I have a call in to the hotel to try to get more details.

April 14, 2014

Bowling alley upgrade picking up and a new name

A rolling renovation of a long-time Rochester sports venue is picking up speed as well as a new name.
Bowlocity Logo Final-1
Construction has been underway for months to double the size of the bowling alley at 2810 N. Broadway. That expansion is adding much more than just more lanes. A new two-story laser tag arena, a large arcade, three party rooms are all coming soon along with a special eight-lane area with its own bar for private groups.

Gene Glorvigen and his son, Erin, say the more than 50-year-old business is shifting gears so the soon-to-be-completed entertainment center upgrade can keep up with today's fast-paced world.

All of these changes mean the old name, Recreation Lanes, doesn't fit with the updated center. That means commuters will see signs for Bowlocity (sounds like velocity) going up at the end of this month.

"Recreation Lanes has been a great name for us, but we wanted to have something that encompasses everything we are now," explains524fa3b840ece.image Erin Glorvigen. "I think it fits well."

And for the classic neon fans out there, don't worry about the big red sign featuring a bowling pin and the word "Bowl." That retro landmark will remain, though it's moving to the north side of the building.

While they are rolling out the new name now, it will be a little longer until all of the new features are online. Construction is on track for everything to launch by the end of May, according to Glorvigen.

Work on the colorful eight-lane party area is underway now. Specialists are coming soon to create the atmosphere for the laser tag tower. The 45 arcade games are expected to start arriving this week.

While the arcade will allow players to trade in points for prizes, it won't have two things most such arcades have.

"It's a token-less and ticket-less system. You just buy a card and use it to play the games. The card keeps track of your points and you use it to redeem them for prizes," says Glorvigen. 

April 10, 2014

Associated Bank working on new spots for Rochester branches

Associated Bank is planning to close its branch in the Hy-Vee North grocery  and then re-open it in a future northwest Rochester location.

Associateddrawing1The Green Bay, Wis. bank announced this week that it will close the grocery store branch at 500 37th St. N.W. at the end of July. Hy-Vee customers will then be served by Associated Bank's Rochester locations on South Broadway, First Avenue Southwest and 16th Street Southwest.

The five branch employees based at the Hy-Vee branch will work at Associated's three other Rochester branches until a new northwest facility "in the West Circle Drive corridor" is completed.

While bank officials wouldn't confirm the location of the to-be-constructed bank yet, Associated has submitted very early plans to the city to build a 3,683-square-foot branch in the 19th Street/West Circle Drive commercial development anchored by Costco.

Re-locating the northwest branch is not the only Rochester move coming up for the bank.

New owners have acquired Associated Bank's downtown building at 206 South Broadway and the bank needs to move out by spring 2015. There was speculation when the site development permit was filed for the West Circle Drive branch that it might serve as the new home for the downtown branch.

Not so, says the bank's spokesman. It's actively looking for a new location that will allow it to maintain its presence downtown.

“We are finalizing plans for an exciting new Associated Bank location in the West Circle Drive Corridor and continue to review opportunities for a new downtown bank location," stated Executive Vice President David Stein in this week's announcement.

Stein also commented that, "The greater Rochester area represents an important market for Associated Bank, and we are committed to serving our customers there with expanded operations and services."

Associated Bank entered the Rochester area in 2004, when it acquired First Federal Capital Bank. First Federal was short-lived here. It picked up the holdings of the long-time Marquette Bank in 2002.

April 09, 2014

Allegiant Air pulling out of Rochester… again

Allegiant Air announced Tuesday that it's pulling out of the Rochester International Airport and will end its weekly nonstop flights to Arizona on May 14.

Allegiant"We are always disappointed to end service in a market," said Eric Fletcher, Allegiant's manager of airports. "We thank the Rochester International Airport for their partnership and apologize to any travelers who are inconvenienced by this decision."

Allegiant began offering offering two weekly nonstop flights to Mesa, Ariz., in November 2012, with an eye to serving as a connection between Rochester and Mayo Clinic's Phoenix campus. The 166 seats flights travel on Thursday and Sunday.

A recent study of the airport activity from July 2012 to June 2013 found that Phoenix/Mesa was the top destination from the airport. Allegiant in Rochester had 15,580 passengers during those 12 months. That accounts for 7.4 percent of the passengers in this market. For the same period, Delta accounted 44.7 percent of the airport's passengers, and American had 41.6 percent.

That same study found that Allegiant tallied about $1.4 million revenue during those 12 months.

This marks the Las Vegas-based airline's second failed attempt to serve the Rochester market. From 2008 to 2010, it offered bargain nonstop flights to Las Vegas. During 2008, 27,854 passengers flew out of Rochester to Las Vegas on Allegiant. Those flights ended in 2010 because of lack of demand.

When Allegiant returned to Rochester with a focus on Arizona, there was no concern about demand with the built-in Mayo Clinic traffic plus vacation trips.

“We’ve had good luck returning to markets that we’ve previously pulled out of. We feel good about coming back to Rochester,” said Allegiant's Fletcher in 2008.

Rochester's airport has long worked at attracting and keeping airlines, although it's hindered by lower cost flights from Minneapolis.

In August 2012, the Rochester International Airport was awarded a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department Transportation to help attract airlines to provide direct flight service to more destinations. The Rochester City Council approved a local match of $225,000, for a total of $750,000.

The airport's application included a letter from Frontier Airlines, saying the Denver-based company would be interested in providing direct flights if Rochester could offer incentives. The airport has not added any new flights or airlines, since that grant was presented.

Mark Sixel, who did the recent study for the airport, concluded his report by saying Rochester has a large enough passenger market to support more flights. However, numbers alone may not be enough in this competitive environment.

"It is likely the Rochester International Airport will have to offer some some kind of risk mitigation program, including waivers, marketing and even ground handling to convince another airline to launch service," he wrote.

Most experts say the bottom line is that the airport likely will need to offer financial enticement of some sort to attract more service. After establishing the relationship, then the passenger numbers need to be there to keep the service.

April 08, 2014

Mayo Clinic's Nobel Prize work at heart of $5.6B drug deal

So Questcor Pharmaceuticals announced Monday that Ireland-based Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals is buying it for a whopping $5.6 BILLION.

A little research into Questcor shows that it has followed an interesting path starting with its $100,000 purchase of rights to H.P. Acthar Gel from Aventis in 2001. The FDA then approved labeling Acthar as "an orphan drug," which opened up the company's options for pricing Acthar.

The New York Times says the price per vial climbed from $40 to an incredible $28,000 within 10 years.

CortisoneA95D4FE2FBE5At the core of Questcor's story is one of Mayo Clinic's most famous research successes.

In 1948, Dr. Philip S. Hench and Dr. Edward C. Kendall were studying the effects of a hormone on inflammination related to rheumatoid arthritis. They had success with cortisone, but it was difficult to synthesize.

Hench then injected adrenocorticotropic hormone, or ACTH to cause the patient's body to produce their own cortisone and other steroid hormones. The ACTH came from pigs from Armour meatpacking.

In 1950, Hench and Kendall won the Nobel Pirze in medicine for their research. Unfortunately, they didn't patent it. The FDA approved H.P. Acthar Gel to treat a variety of diseases and conditions. It was then owned by the meatpacker Armour.

In recent years, Questcor has been criticized for its dramatic price hikes and for vauge allusions to "a secret sauce" in their drug that improves its effectiveness.

Some question if it is effective at all.

Mayo Clinic's Dr. Eric Matteson, the chairman of rheumatology, has been quoted about the use of Achtar in rheumatolgy.

• “Limited to no attractiveness in rheumatology”

• “Enthusiasm is low”

• "Very little if any role for an ACTH product in rheumotatic diseases, I don't see it."

April 07, 2014

New owner buys long-time Rochester plumbing supply firm

A Fargo, N.D. company is buying Woodruff Co., a 67-year-old Rochester plumbing and utilities wholesale supply firm.

WoodruffcoDakota Supply Group and the family-owned Woodruff have a purchase agreement and the sale is expected to close on April 30, according to Dakota CEO Todd Kumm. The deal includes Woodruff's Rochester complex at 1524 Third Ave. S.E. as well its Austin and Winona locations.

Dakota is a distributor of plumbing, electrical, HVAC, refrigeration, communications, filtration and metering systems. It has locations in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Montana

Co-owner John W. Woodruff said the main reason for the sale is that he's retiring, along with his brother and co-owner James W. Woodruff. They took over the company from their father, who co-founded it.

 "It's a good opportunity," he said.

The much-larger Dakota had previously approached the Woodruffs a few years ago, but the deal didn't come together back then.

"Now it's the right time to do it,"  said John Woodruff.

Dakota Supply Group Truck WrapOn the other side of the sale, Dakota agrees that the timing is right for this change.

"We believe a lot in the potential of Rochester and what's going to happen in the future," said Dakota's Kumm."This gives us a great physical location in a community that we feel is growing and expanding."

The company already has locations in La Crosse, Wis. and St. Paul, so this acquisition will fill in the area in between. Dakota, which has about 650 employees, is very familiar with Rochester, has previously sold metering systems to the city.

WoodlogocOne concern the brothers had was to make sure the deal would be good for their more than 20 employees. DSG's reputation as a good company  made it attractive. It's also owned by its employees through a stock ownership plan.

"We think that will be a benefit for the employees," he said.

Woodruff was founded by 1946 by James F. Woodruff, John D. Flowell and Frank C. Weber. The Woodruff family has long been very active in the community with involvement with Lourdes Catholic schools, Rotary Club and the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce.

It built and moved into its current facility on Third Avenue in April 1964.