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17 posts categorized "Random nostalgia"

July 07, 2016

Broadway Flashback - early 2013 Broadway at Center plan

Following Wednesday's announcement about the delay in the financing for the now-$145 million Broadway at Center project, I decided to look at back an earlier version of that project rolled out by Titan Development and Investments in 2013.

Here's an article I filed on May 31, 2013 with an assist from Managing Editor Jay Furst. The rendering is of the version of Broadway at Center introduced at Titan's press conference:

Just a week after Mayo's Destination Medical Center plan was approved by the state, a Rochester developer announced plans today for a 25-story tower at the corner of South Broadway and East Center Street.

6a00d83451cc8269e2019102c4aed3970c-800wiThe Broadway at Center mixed-use project, proposed by Andy Chafoulias' Titan Development and Investments, would have about 30,000 square feet of Class A office space, a 150-room four-star hotel, 150 market-rent apartments, a "high-end grocery" and a Minnesota-branded steakhouse, among other attractions.

The announcement was made at a news conference this morning at Titan's offices in the Minnesota Biobusiness Center. Chafoulias didn't attend; the announcement was made by John Beltz, vice president of brand revenue development.

Titan is "poised for some very significant growth and contributions to Rochester," Beltz said, citing the company's planned restaurant and entertainment complex three blocks south at the C.O. Brown building site and a seniors apartment project further north on Broadway.

No cost estimate was provided for the Broadway at Center tower, and Beltz said the tower could go higher as planning proceeds -- possibly topping the Broadway Residences and Suites tower next door, which is the tallest building in Rochester and southern Minnesota. As planned, the building would have about 300,000 square feet of space and would be connected to the skyway system and a planned city parking ramp on the block.

The new building would be on the northwest corner of the block bounded by South Broadway, East Center Street, First Street Southeast and First Avenue Southeast. The Broadway Residence and Suites tower is on the southwest corner, and the new project would be on the current site of CJ's Midtown Lounge, Jakobson Management Co. and Ginny's Fine Fabrics.

The goal is to have a "hole in the ground" and construction underway next year, Beltz said. He declined to identify the hotel, restaurant and retail tenants who are in discussions with Titan but said in a news release that they're "finalizing negotiations with several recognizable Minnesota brands."

Rochester's lack of a top-tier hotel brand was often cited during the DMC legislative process as something the city needs to attract national and international medical visitors.

The announcement signals Andy Chafoulias taking the wheel of a project envisioned by his father, Rochester developer Gus Chafoulias, in 2007. That proposal was for a two-tower mixed-use project with retail, apartments and office space as well as possible space for University of Minnesota Rochester.

As with the previous version, Rochester architect Hal Henderson of HGA Architects and Engineers would direct the project design. Darren Schlapkohl, Titan vice president of development and construction management, said the project has "been in design for some time and continues to evolve."

Mayo's DMC initiative, which was announced in January and won legislative approval less than two weeks ago, is "an excellent addition to the vision" for Rochester, Beltz said, but Henderson said the Broadway at Center project has been at an advanced stage for at least six months.

July 28, 2015

Mayo Clinic-linked NeoChord on 'Hot Devices We Can't Get in US' list

NeoChord, a medical device firm I first wrote about in 2007, made a top 10 list this week on the Medical Device and Diagnostic Industry news site.

They posted a "10 Hot Devices We can't Get in the US" list on their Device Talk blog with this set-up text block:

Patients in the United States enjoy some of the best medical care in the world, but many observers worry that the country's regulatory environment is pushing medical innovation to other shores. Whether you believe FDA oversight is too stringent, too lax, or strikes the right balance, there are numerous medical devices that have achieved CE Marking, but aren't yet FDA approved.

NeoChord's DS1000 made the list. It earned a CE Marking in December 2012 but does not have FDA approval.


The Eden Prairie-based NeoChord surfaced locally in 2007, when it licensed technology designed byMayo Clinic cardiac surgeons Dr. Richard Daly and Dr. Giovanni Speziali. Speziali was named as the company's chief medical officer in 2013. 

NeoChord-DS1000Beside licensing its technology, Mayo Clinic has also previously invested in NeoChord. 

The NeoChord DS1000 device is used to treat a heart condition called mitral regurgitation. Mitral regurgitation means the valve or leaflet that controls the flow of blood from the left atrium to the left ventricle is not working properly.

Treatment typically consists of “cracking the chest,” stopping the heart and doing surgery. NeoChord's approach is much less invasive and can be done on a beating heart.

A tool is inserted between the ribs and into the heart. Then it is used to attach a chord to the faulty valve leaflet, which is tethered to the heart.

The market for less invasive techniques for mitral valve repair has been estimated at more than $2 billion. 

July 22, 2015

Dirt is moving for NW Rochester development

Dirt is moving in northwest Rochester for a new commercial development area. 

Edina-based New Era Development is starting to prepare its Creekside Development on the southwest corner of the intersection of 19th Street Northwest and West Circle Drive. 

XAerial_-Creekside-2011.8.3-005-e1432657863387-750x410.jpg.pagespeed.ic.F6OkG5ifGbNo businesses have yet been announced for the build-to-suit development. Plans show an entrance from 19th Street Northwest and streets within the Creekside area.

The marketing brochure for Creekside lists the build-to-suit opportunities as including retail, office and flex office space. Available lot sizes range from 1.13 acre to 4.22 acres.

New Era first proposed Creekside in the fall of 2007, just before the economic recession. Earlier this year, the firm updated its plans and began marketing the project.

Plans show a development that could grow into something very similar to the 100-acre commercial area anchored by Costco, Associated Bank, Aldi and Kwik Trip on the northeast corner of the same intersection.

The Radichel family, of Mankato, which is behind Venstar LLC and its affiliate, New Era, has owned the land for about 30 years.

In 2007, former Venstar President Nino Pedrelli told the Rochester City Planning and Zoning Commission that, “We are long-term holders, and right now the project is a go for us."

Venstar and New Era also own the Valley High Business Center buildings, Phase I and Phase II, at 3535 40th Ave. NW, and the Cascade Park commercial center on Ninth Street Northwest, behind Kwik Trip. — Jeff Kiger

January 23, 2015

WSN buying empty Home Design Studio on W. Circle Drive

After being empty for years, new life is on the way for a former home construction showroom in northwest Rochester. 

Widseth Smith Nolting, a Crookston-based engineering and architecture firm, announced this week it has signed a purchase agreement to buy the former Home Design Studio from Rochester's Event Studio LLC. The 32,000-square-foot complex is located at 3777 40th Ave. NW, along West Circle Drive.

HomeDesignDusk2-10x8_editedThe sale is expected to close in March with a build-out beginning in April, according to WSN. The plan is for WSN to move its increasingly crowded Rochester office into 11,000 square feet of the building by August.

"We are absolutely shoe-horned in here," said Brian Carlson, WSN's director of business development, of their current 4,500-square-foot office at 6301 Bandel Road NW. "We need to provide the space and resources for our team members to do what they do best."

WSN opened its Med City office in 2009, when it merged with QED Engineering. In 2014, it merged with Rochester's Kane and Johnson Architects. WSN now has 20 employees based here. WSN has a total of seven offices and 200 employees in Minnesota and North Dakota

The firm plans to lease the rest of the building to other tenants, probably to other professional offices. This is a very different fate than was expected for the Home Design Studio building. It opened for the first time in 2006 at the height of the construction boom, which imploded soon after.

It was designed by Kane and Johnson Architects as a home builders' showroom with model kitchens, bathrooms and other room layouts. Lead by local contractor Jerome Bigelow, a group of 13 owners optimistically launched the operation with a grand party attended by hundreds of Rochester business leaders. It had 59 people on staff working for a variety of construction-related businesses. The last occupants moved out in April 2012.

Event Studio LLC, of Rochester, then bought the unique complex from Partnership 10, of Byron, in 2013 for $1.3 million. Event Studio lists Rochester developer Dan Penz as manager on its incorporation documents.

Then in 2014, WSN began the search for a larger space in Rochester.

"We looked at lot of different buildings all around the city. We really like this building," Carlson said. "We liked the exposure. We liked the location and the ability to have our whole team in one spot."

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."

November 22, 2013

Don't dunk your donuts before they're glazed

Two words have been floating around downtown Rochester for weeks like crumbs in a cup of coffee.
Dunkin' Donuts.

Locals, including one self-described "humongous" Rochester fan (Yes, I'm looking at you Courtney. Heh) who will only use highway  exits in Wisconsin that lead to a DD, have been wondering if all of this Dunkin' talk is just a cream-filled fantasy or could a shop be on its way to the Med City.

The short answer is … it's possible.

The slightly longer answer is that it doesn't seem very likely in the near future, but it could happen.

Dunkin' Donuts rolled out of Minnesota a while back. The final shop in the state, which was surprisingly based in Austin, frosted its last long john in 2005.

Since then, the Dunkin' Donuts tally in the Land of 10,000 Lakes has been zero. In 2008 and 2009, the popular chain talked about a big return to Minnesota, but that all turned out to be false alarms.

However, the Canton, Mass.-based chain currently is recruiting franchisees in Minnesota. And the recruiting is reaching beyond the Twin Cities.

The coffee and baked good chain has about 10,000 stores worldwide, including about 7,000 franchised restaurants in 36 states.

When asked directly if the orange-and-pink logo might be on the way to Rochester, company officials stated that no plans are in the works. They declined to say if they're negotiating for a possible franchise here.

Olmsted County is only one of 85 Minnesota counties with an available Dunkin' franchise. Winona and Houston counties are already reserved for franchises. St. Louis County is only one marked as the site of a "future" Dunkin' Donuts location, according to the company's website.

Franchise information lists that the "preferred" building is 1,200 to 2,600 square feet, has a drive-through window and can be open 24-hours a day. Potential franchisees need to have a minimum of $250,000 in "liquid capital" and $50,000 net worth per location. The company prefers each franchisee be responsible for multiple locations.

The bottom line is that it doesn't look hopeful for Dunkin' Donuts opening soon in Rochester, but it could eventually happen.

April 26, 2013

With weather warming, hot dog man to return to downtown

It feels as if the weather finally has taken a turn for the better and maybe, just maybe, the dogs of winter are leashed again for at least a few months.

That means it's time to start relishing the spring days in the Med City again.

6a00d83451cc8269e2017c328b3ea7970b-250wiAnd what better way to do that than with downtown Rochester's gem, Murph's Diamond Dogs. On Monday, Rick Murphy plans to roll out his cart and start serving hot dogs for the hungry packs hunting for a quick and tasty lunch.

Look for the genial Murphy with his ball cap and stainless steel cart at his usual spot in the Peace Plaza by O & B Shoes.

The Pine Island man and his cart have added flavor to downtown for eight years.

That means he has been around downtown longer than the University of Minnesota-Rochester, Sontes, 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 when DMC was just part of the name of an '80s rap group.

Quite simply, downtown is Murph's turf.

With sun shining and people buzzing around the plaza, it'll be good to have him back where he belongs.

October 05, 2012

Glimpse of the past as Broadway biz gets facelift

Downtown Broadway caught a brief glimpse of Rochester's past as a long-time business started working on a new, updated look this week. Construction crews started working on the facade of Kathy’s Pub at 307 S. Broadway Thursday. As the green Kathy's awning was taken down, they uncovered the old Hollywood Bar neon sign.

The Hollywood was one of Rochester's most venerable nightspots going back at least to the 1940s. It was known for its 90-foot-long bar that was staffed by an "all-girl" crew. Offering live music six nights a week, it was the home venue for the local music legends, the Parrish Brothers band.

It later became Kathy's Pub with Kathy and Gus Chafos as the owners. Matt Murphy and Matt Teal bought it in 2003, but kept the Kathy's name.

10042012kathyspubhollywoodbarjkMurphy says the classic Hollywood sign that dates back to Rochester's "Mad Men" days has been put into storage for the winter, while it is decided what to ultimately do with it.

Meanwhile, the entire front facade of Kathy's is getting a face-lift from the sidewalk all the way up to parapets by the rooftop patio.

"We're going to restore it back to the old look," says Murphy. "The bricks will get cleaned. It'll get fresh paint. They are restoring the parapets. And a new, updated awning is coming."

The hope is to finish the renovation work within about a month. A facade improvement grant from the Rochester Downtown Alliance is paying for half of the $30,000 project.

A new neon glow is in the works to light up Kathy's sometime next year. Murphy says Schad Tracy Signs is working on a new design that will look similar one at The Griffin Cocktail Lounge in Las Vegas. Look for that project to come to light in the spring.

August 28, 2012

Mercedes shifting into high gear to build Med City dealership

I popped out to the groundbreaking at the new Mercedes-Benz car dealership Monday morning. They have done an amazing amount of work in less than a week out there. The dirt is really flying.

GregorWhile out there, I had a flashback to September, 2006 when I went to another groundbreaking for a car dealership out there at the Shoppes on Maine area. That was before Target, before Lowe's, before Wherenberg and before my mustace went gray.

That groundbreaking was for the Rochester Toyota dealership owned by Rob Gregory.

Coming back to the present, here's some on the Merecedes groundbreaking:


Construction of a new Mercedes-Benz car dealership is shifting into high gear in south Rochester as it drives toward a goal of opening sometime in March.

The Ballweg Family of Dealerships is moving its Mercedes dealership from Wausau, Wis., to a spot at Shoppes on Maine near Target South and Rochester Toyota.

08272012mercedesgroundbreaking1Officials from Ballweg and Mercedes were at the site Monday for a ceremonial groundbreaking as big machinery roared by moving dirt in the background.

Ballweg CEO Jason Brickl says the project is moving forward quickly because of interest in Mercedes in Rochester.

"They did a market study and Rochester looked incredibly appealing," he says.

Jack Holt, Mercedes' franchise manager for the central region, said the company's research found that this location looks very promising.

"We think Rochester is the right place to be and we think we have the right partner in Ballweg," he says. "We think this will be great."
08272012mercedessiteAlready, area customers have been calling to inquire when the dealership will open.

"We've never had that kind of interest this early in a project before," he says.

Rochester has been without a new Mercedes dealership since about 1998.

Brickl expects to hire between 20 to 25 employees to staff the 21,000-square-foot dealership. It will have nine service bays. He has already brought in a general manager to run the Rochester operation.

Beyond Mercedes' well known line of vehicles, this dealership will also offer its smart brand of mini and micro cars and its line of Sprinter commercial vans.

Once open, Ballweg's Rochester dealership will keep between 100 to 150 new and used vehicles on display.

August 23, 2012

Family's news stand wrapping up 57 years at Mayo Clinic

Here's some from my piece on the Subway News Stand and its 57 years at Mayo Clinic. There are so many good stories from these guys that it was a struggle to know when to stop writing.

One memory that didn't get in was Ben Kaplan picking up the daily horse racing newspaper from the Rochester 400 train every morning. Local legend said it took 400 minutes to get from Chicago to Rochester.

During the winter, sometimes the bundles of publications would get frozen to the train car and an ax would be needed to get them out.

There were five guys always waiting in the Kahler Hotel to buy those racing sheets, he said, but he declined to name them.


It used to be common to see almost everyone in Mayo Clinic's many waiting areas, patient rooms and staff cafeterias reading a handy magazine, newspaper or paperback book.

For the past 57 years, much of that printed paper flowed from the Kaplan family's Subway News Stand in downtown Rochester. However, times and reading choices change.

"Today you don't see that. Now they all have an iPad, Blackberry or Blueberry or whatever. You know, all of that electronic stuff," says 84-year-old Ben Kaplan, who started the news stand with his brothers.

Get_photoOn Aug. 31, the long story of the close partnership between the Kaplans and Mayo Clinic will reach its end. The fifth and final version of the family's news stand will ring up its last sale.

Declining sales, changes in the industry and rising prices convinced Steve Kaplan and his uncle Ben that it was time to close up shop at the end of their 10-year lease.

The Subway News Stand is tucked inside the Mayo Clinic Gift Shop at the heart of the Gonda Building on the downtown campus. There's no word yet what Mayo Clinic has planned for the space.

"We've enjoyed serving patients and employees. We've made a lot of friends over the years," says Steve Kaplan, as he sits surrounded by postcards, newspapers and magazines. "The people are what we'll miss the most."

While talking about the past, a shopper with a magazine under his arm paused on his way out to tell Steve that he had spent a lot of time in shop during the past four years. "I'm really sorry to see you go."

Kaplan, who started helping his father and uncles when he was just seven, has been a familiar face in the Gonda Building since it opened 10 years ago.

It all started back in 1947. That's when three Kaplan brothers — Milton, Hyman and Ben — purchased a wholesale distribution business called the Rochester News Agency. It sold papers, magazines, books and more to city news stands.

The business quickly grew, and they bought a sibling firm in Wisco800px-Gonda_building,_closer_upnsin, the La Crosse News Agency. When the Mayo Building was constructed, Milt Kaplan met with Mayo official Bill Harwick about opening a news stand in the new building.

"He said, 'We'd been thinking about it. … Send me a letter, and I'll put it in my file," remembers Milt Kaplan, who now lives in Milwaukee. "They hadn't started the building yet. About nine months later, he called me to meet with the architect."

Just like the Gonda did 47 years later, the new Mayo Building opened in 1955 with a Kaplan news stand leasing space in its subway. Most magazines, like Readers Digest, cost just a quarter. Cigarettes were two packs for 25 cents.