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1338 posts categorized "Speculation"

August 13, 2015

Local elves bringing Rochester's "real" Santa Claus back to town

Even during the dog days of August, a Christmas miracle could be on the horizon for Rochester.

For the past 13 years, families have been visiting the "real" Santa Claus at Rochester's Apache Mall. This incarnation of St. Nicholas has developed a close relationship with the Med City during his popular annual visits.

549992e082afc.image"He's the real deal" is how Rochester's Kristine Caballero describes the jolly bearded fellow. "The magic truly is in him."

The depth of his connection to Rochester became apparent last year. His corporate employer, Worldwide Photography, was pushing to have him work 12 hours a day. When he said he could only manage 10 hours a day, the company moved to cut his hours and bring in a part-time Santa.

Parents immediately banned together to "save" Santa by creating a Facebook page to pressure Worldwide and the Apache Mall. The page quickly collected more than 7,000 "likes" and Santa finished the season bolstered by the support of his many fans.

However, when his contract to return to Rochester recently wasn't renewed by Worldwide, it looked like this Christmas carol might end on a sour note. The Texas-based company did not share the reason behind not bringing him back, though some have speculated that it could be a backlash reaction to the Save Santa campaign.

"It was a hard, emotional hit," said Santa, also known as Jerry Julian, of not being hired to return to Rochester. "Does this mean I just disappear for the families expecting to see me? In my heart, I didn't think it was right to abandon children and families."

Kim Bradley, Apache Mall manager, had no direct comment about this situation other than to say that the mall have a Santa Claus available starting on Nov. 19.

"We're looking forward to a great holiday season," she said.

When the rejected long-time Santa shared the situation with some of his friends in Rochester, Caballero, Melissa Eggler and others leaped into action to find an alternative way to bring him back for the holidays.

"His desire to come back is so great. I told him that 'You don't need corporate to bring you in here. This community loves you,'" said Caballero.

On Monday, the owners of the Miracle Mile Shopping Center agreed to provide a storefront for Santa by the ABC Toy Zone shop. He will appear there from the third week of November through Christmas Eve. While he might end up working with a photographer, the current plan is to allow families to take their own photos and accept donations.

"I'm really humbled by this," said Santa. "It's a gamble and there are still a lot of loose ends, but I know this is the job that the good Lord wants me to do."

Now Santa's helpers are working to raise money to cover Santa's basic travel and living expenses. They launched a GoFundMe campaign this week that has already brought in $260 in pledges. The money they raise is targeted just for basic expenses. Santa says anything raised by the GoFundMe campaign beyond his expenses will be donated to Rochester's Ronald McDonald House.

Caballero added that even her young son feels it's important to bring this Santa back to Rochester.

"He had heard us talking and asked about it. He said, 'But Mom, just think about all of children whose lives will be affected, if he doesn't come,'" she said.

August 05, 2015

Insurer expands relationship with Mayo Clinic to bring more patients here

Two Minnesota health-care giants, Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealth Group, are joining forces to bring thousands of new patients to Rochester and other Mayo sites for treatment.

The Eden Prairie-based insurance provider UnitedHealth announced today it will recommend that patients with certain conditions travel to Mayo Clinic for care, through UnitedHealth's Optum Centers of Excellence Program.

800px-Gonda_building,_closer_upCompanies can sign up for coverage under the Centers of Excellence through UnitedHealth or directly through Optum. That means referring patients to designated sites, such as Mayo Clinic's campuses in Rochester, Florida and Arizona, for treatment. Participating in the program may include some coverage of travel and lodging costs.

Mayo Clinic has been listed by Optum as a Center for Excellence for organ transplants for 11 years. Optum says it makes more than 14,000 transplant referrals a year. Neither group said how many Optum organ transplant referrals come to Mayo Clinic each year.

Today's announcement adds the three Mayo Clinic locations to the list of preferred sites for treatment of cancer, heart failure, congenital heart disease, infertility and bariatric surgery.

“This expanded relationship with Mayo Clinic provides patients in participating health plans from around the country with greater access to clinically superior, cost-effective health care,” stated Mike Weissel of Optum Consumer Solutions in today's announcement.

Neither Mayo Clinic nor UnitedHealth released any estimates on how many more patients this might bring to Mayo Clinic or how much money it might bring in for Mayo Clinic. However, it clearly could be a great boon for the medical center and communities such as Rochester.

All of the new conditions added to list are major medical treatments. A look at just bariatric surgery shows the potential for growth. 

Mayo Clinic reports it performs more than 300 bariatric surgeries a year in Rochester. The American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery estimated a total of 179,000 bariatric surgeries were performed in the U.S. in 2013.

Both Mayo and Optum stressed how this new relationship will benefit patients by providing "access to high-quality, cost-effective care."

“Health plans and employers know the value of sending patients with complex and or rare conditions to high-quality centers such as Mayo Clinic,” said Dr. Charles Rosen, Mayo Clinic's medical director of contracting and payer relations.

Today's announcement marks the latest collaboration between Mayo Clinic and UnitedHealth/ Optum. Earlier this year, Mayo Clinic announced its partnership with Optum360 for revenue management services.

In 2013, they launched "a strategic research alliance"  to create a state-of-the-art facility in Cambridge, Mass under the umbrella of OptumLabs. OptumLabs is a for-profit unit of UnitedHealthcare's Optum division, which earned $1.3 billion in 2011. 

The research facility today has 22 major corporate partners and has more than 100 studies in process.

Boston Scientific buys major stake in local firm, Preventice

Preventice Solutions, a maker of wearable cardiac monitors with deep Rochester roots, is getting a major boost from a medical giant.

Boston Scientific Corp. announced Tuesday it now is "a significant shareholder" in Preventice as well as its "exclusive worldwide sales and marketing representative."

Preventice, which has a large development center in northwest Rochester, makes the wearable BodyGuardian Remote Monitoring System, developed from research licensed from Mayo.

144536The new deal clears the way for Preventice to reach the remote monitoring market estimated to total $19 billion to $21 billion by 2016. Experts anticipate almost five million patients will be using some type of wireless monitoring by then.

"As our health-care environment continues to evolve, health-care practitioners, administrators and payors are looking for solutions that identify relevant clinical insights from large volumes of patient data and integrate those insights to improve clinical decision-making," said Boston Science Executive Vice President Joe Fitzgerald in Tuesday's announcement.

Fitzgerald described Preventice as having "an infrastructure optimized to monitor hundreds of thousands of patients each year."

The privately owned firm has grown quickly since being launched in 2007 with only its founders on staff. Preventice evolved from Boost Information Services. It was founded by Jon Otterstatter, Greg Wobig, Dan Spors and Scott Burrichter.

Preventice started as a developer of medical information smartphone apps, in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and Merck. Then it shifted gears to begin developing wearable cardiac monitors. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved its wireless BodyGuardian monitor to be prescribed to track nonlethal arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeats, in 2012.

In 2013, Preventice began shipping out its BodyGuardian systems to feed what CEO Otterstatter described then as the health-care industry's growing "fever" for remote medical monitoring. That year, it expanded to about 100 employees, with about half in Preventice's Rochester offices. Based in Minneapolis, Preventice also has an office in Fargo, N.D.

Preventice Solutions merged with Houston, Texas-based eCardio Diagnostics in 2014, under the holding company of Preventice Inc.

July 29, 2015

More on Mayo Clinic + US Postal facility

 So the Post-Bulletin is not the only Minnesota media to take note of Mayo Clinic's recent $2.11 million purchase of the unused U.S. Postal Service center at 3939 Valleyhigh Drive.

PostalcenterOn July 17, Mayo closed the $29.13 a square foot deal on the northwest Rochester property, which the US Post Office closed in January. I wrote an article about it on July 21.

The Twin Cities business newspaper, Finance & Commerce, spotlighted the deal in it's "Minnesota Snapshot" real estate feature in its July 23 issue.

While Mayo Clinic still hasn't worked out what it will do the building that it purchased, the Finance & Commerce piece by Anne Bretts does provide some new insight into how the deal played out.

Chris Gliedman, of the Minneapolis-St. Paul office of CBRE Group, which has a national contract to represent the USPS.

Gleidman and colleague Mike Marinovich most recently marketed several properties that became available after the Postal Service consolidated many of its operations in Eagan, where the USPS expanded an existing facility to create a 950,000-square-foot regional processing center.

The move affected facilities throughout Minnesota and into Wisconsin.

------------

The Rochester property went on the market in January 2014.

“We had pretty good interest,” Gleidman said.

In fact, he was in discussions within months and had it under contract by fall. The buyer withdrew, however, leaving Gleidman and Marinovich to start over. Before they could put the building back on the market, Mayo made an offer. It was lower than the original offer, but the deal carried no risk, Gleidman said.

“We felt very comfortable that Mayo Clinic was going to deliver,” Gleidman said.

July 28, 2015

New pizza place cooking for NW Rochester

Pizza is returning to Rochester's Northgate Plaza neighborhood.


A new carryout franchise called $5 Pizza is gearing up to open in the former Pizza Hut space at 1105 Seventh St. NW, says co-owner Doug Howe. Construction is underway, and he hopes to have the new eatery open by late August.

They expect to have a team of five to 10 employees on staff.

Darci Fenske of Paramark Real Estate brokered the deal to bring $5 Pizza into that spot.

UnnamedHowe and his partner, Rod Bailey, believe the pizza chain, which has 13 Minnesota locations, is a good fit for Rochester and that neighborhood in particular.

"We tried it up in the Cities. We loved the product and we loved the concept. We bake it and you carry it out," he said. "With this economy, it's always not always easy to feed a family."

The $5 Pizza approach is to keep costs down by not offering restaurant seating or delivery. Customers pick up pizzas. All one-topping pizzas cost just $5.

It offers a full menu, which includes specialty pizzas such as Cheeseburger and Inferno Chicken. It also serves breadsticks and a variety of chicken wings.

That spot puts $5 Pizza in the heart of a busy northwest Rochester neighborhood.

"We liked the fact it's a block away from John Marshall High School. And there's a lot of housing right behind us," said Howe. "Geographically, it's a great location for us."

July 24, 2015

A new burger chain plans to 'smash' into Rochester

Could the flames of Rochester's always simmering burger wars soon flare up from the heat of competition?

Possibly. Another national gourmet burger chain is planning to smash into the Rochester market.

Smashburger, a trendy burger juggernaut, is expanding rapidly its footprint across the U.S. and now Rochester is on its radar. The chain is known for "smashing" its fresh hamburger patties to sear in flavor.

Bigburger_situational_960x394_home_page-cactusSmashburger Marketing Manager Christine Ferris said they hope to be cooking in Rochester by late March 2016.

"To answer your question, we do have a site picked out according to our real estate sheet and it’s going to be a corporate restaurant, not franchise. It looks like the projected opening date is for late March of 2016," she wrote in answer to an inquiry about their plans.

This could bring a competitor into a city already dominated by hometown favorite and local burger champion Newt's.

In 2009, Five Guys Burgers arrived and threw down the burger battle gauntlet. Newt's has kept its title as the top burger power, but plenty of skirmishes continue between Five Guys, Culvers and the usual lineup of fast-food suspects.

SmashBurger_logoReaders have been clamoring for burger specialists White Castle, Red Robin and/or Sonic Drive-in for many years, but none of those players have ever gotten serious about cooking in the Med City.

The Denver, Colo.-based company already has 13 restaurants in Minnesota and is ready to start construction on a new one in Shakopee, according to an article in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal this week.

If Smashburger does open in Rochester in March, it will be the first new big national name to jump into the local fray, since Five Guys arrived six years ago. 

July 22, 2015

Holiday Inn: Roch.'s downtown hotel to close at end of August

Don't expect to book a room in Rochester's downtown Holiday Inn after Aug 31, according to the hotel chain's national reservation line.

Holiday-inn-rochester-3336465069-4x3An InterContinental Hotels representative on the reservation line said this week that Rochester employees said the 170-room hotel at 220 Broadway Ave. S will close at the end of August. They told the ICH representative the closing is because of the sale of the hotel.

For several months, word has been leaking out about a deal to sell the downtown hotel to an unnamed buyer who is planning to convert the 46-year-old hotel into a senior living facility.

If the buzz is correct, these talks have been going on for quite a while without reaching closure. Now the employees are saying a closure is on the way.

At least for the hotel, if not the real estate deal. 

July 17, 2015

Third Avenue real estate sale was largest in June

A large Rochester engineering and design office on Third Avenue Southeast was recently purchased by a local company for $6.27 million.

The SEH-Yaggy complex at 717 Third Ave. S.E. sold on June 30 to 717 Third LLC. The sale was made with two transactions.YCA Building Rochester LLC sold its portion for $3.76 million and RY Building LLC sold its part for $2.51 million, according to the sale records.

FireShot Capture - 293 6 1_2 St SE - Google Maps_ - https___www.google.com_maps_@44.0162The combined deal was the largest local real estate sale in June. The next largest transaction for the month took place on June 5, when Wisconsin-based developer Continental 326 Fund LLC purchased land in southeast Rochester for $2.6 million to build the city's first gated housing community.

No individual names were listed on the Olmsted County documents. However, 717 Third LLC receives its tax bills at 123 Carlton St. SW, which is also the headquarters of Elcor Construction. Elcor is owned by Rochester developer, business owner and real estate investor Dan Penz.

DLP LLC, which has the same address of 123 Carlton St. SW, also purchased a warehouse facility in the same area at 1945 Third Ave. SE for $695,000.00 on June 16.

SEH-Yaggy was formerly known as Yaggy Colby Associates until the long-time Rochester firm merged with St. Paul-based Short Elliott Hendrickson Inc. in June 2014. 

CRW Architecture-Design Group, formerly part of Yaggy Colby, moved out of the complex last fall to take up residence its new offices at 211 11th Ave NW.

When the merger occurred the 717 Third complex remained under the ownership of some of the Yaggy principals.

July 09, 2015

Development exploding in Rochester's Shoppes on Maine area

Downtown Rochester is not the only area being eyed by developers. 

It appears that Shoppes on Maine in south Rochester is exploding with development these days.

I wrote about a 211 apartment complex proposed for the area on Wednesday plus there's already a massive housing project called The Boulders already under construction, which will have 144 apartments and eight buildings with 10 townhouses in each.

FireShot Capture - Google Maps - https___www.google.com_maps_@43.9547185,-92.4647416,15zMeanwhile, yet another group of developers met with residents of the Maine Avenue neighborhood on Tuesday to discuss their plans for a 359 unit apartment complex slated the empty land across from Mills Fleet Farm store.

I don't know much about the Fleet Farm apartment complex yet, but should have more on it soon.

Beside more than 700 apartments, the buzz in the Shoppes on Maine is that a new car dealership could be revving up for the land around 48th Street and St. Bridget's Road. 

There is a lot of interest in real estate in that area right now, so it's possible that a new name might be on the road to join Rochester Toyota Scion and Mercedes Benz of Rochester in Shoppes on Maine.

July 02, 2015

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.