• 14Dec

    Check out this 1 pager to learn the latest.

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  • 19Feb

    Edit: I noticed website traffic is through the roof today. Just a friendly reminder that if you a appreciate a strong protector of public money please consider a campaign contribution. 2016 campaign limit is $600 per person, most people donate between $25 and $100, $100 or less is anonymous: donate here

    Upon some reflection this evening here are my thoughts on this doomed project.

    Bottom line: I am disappointed, but integrity and fiscal responsibility will always be more important to me than any on project. I think the public will be excited to see some of the other projects being proposed in this area.

    I suspect the site will not be quiet long with the clock ticking on the alley vacation.

    So the Holiday Inn is now dead and I am left shaking my head over what could have been. A series of issues that could have been addressed early on, seemed to keep coming back and plaguing the project. I haven’t been able to say much about the project previously because we were in a quasi-judicial capacity. Now that I am no longer in that capacity I will say that I suspect the project would have passed the council with minor changes at most and a 7-0 vote. In the latest iteration the project was probably the nicest large non-Mayo project the city would have had in that area. The real death of this project came by way of the heavy public subsidies that they were asking for. The first time I saw the project, I thought the biggest potential objections had already been addressed.

    There were a number of things that conspired to cause problems and for once I have to say that the city council was not one of them. In fact, Randy Staver, who I have certainly had some issues with this week, accepted my invitation and sat with the developer and neighbors in an attempt to work out some issues. Multiple times… And we did for the most part…

    Here are some of the issues the project ran into:

    • A lack of planning (zoning) – The incentive development process, poor underlying zoning, and the continued inability to produce a 21st century zoning code that actually works in urban areas. No excuses for this. I have been asking for a zoning code refresh for 8 years, and continue to. We have a good 2nd street plan with no way to implement it. While we are updating the comprehensive plan, staff has talked the council out of acting on zoning until the plan is done. I feel that current zoning is so bad for both neighbors and developers that I wanted to override staff’s recommendation and do it any way, but I was on the losing end of that vote.
    • A lack of planning (infrastructure) – We don’t have a good plan for 2nd street Phase IV yet. Further staff still can’t answer the question of what the most efficient and cost effective tunnel system would look like in that area. It is really hard to design around infrastructure when you don’t know what it will be. It is also hard to justify public subsidies without a plan for public benefit.
    • Poor Communication – Staff really did little to engage vested parties, I personally felt left out of their loop and actually had to point out numerous errors in interpreting the 2nd street plan. It appeared to me that there was more of an attempt to contort to the development than make the development fit a vision. In fact, I was surprised to learn that the city administrator was willing to double TIF, because he never told the council.
    • High land acquisition costs – I think that the price the developer was paying for the land made it uneconomical, as such they were looking for a ton of public assistance which was hard to justify.
    • Lack of public benefit to justify high subsidies – There would be some benefit from having true public parking, perhaps some from ROW setbacks and streetscape, maybe some from a tunnel, but not enough to justify what they needed to make the project viable. I saw this and DMC also saw this. While the neighborhood had delivered a letter of support, they pulled it after seeing the size of the requested subsidies, with those types of public subsidies they felt like the public should get more.
    • The Holiday Inn brand – I don’t think it is fair to judge the quality of the hotel by the brand name, but the public was not excited about that brand, I suspect neither was Mayo. This might have been the nicest Holiday Inn in the country. The public certainly didn’t want any tax dollars to go into a “Holiday Inn.” I personally think you need to separate a brand reputation and the hotel, but I think that was out there.
    • Larry Brutger – I like Larry, but frankly many neighbors did not. In talking with Larry, I thought he was congenial and pragmatic. However much of his experience was in more suburban developments, this was a very urban development. To his credit he hired a tremendous architect out of the cities which was very capable. I think the issue was he got some terrible advice, rather than working through some issues, he was told to submit plans ASAP. This made many in the neighborhood furious, which was too bad since some issues were minor. The neighborhood fought for many things that were important to them like a neighborhood friendly 1st street and raised numerous issues at the planning level. Further because of the submittal, Larry was limited on changes he could do from that point on.
    • City staff perception by the neighborhood – With all the issues many neighbors came together to have a visioning event at Forager Brewing. Not only to talk about this project, but really the greater area. Perhaps a couple hundred people showed up, including a majority of the council and most DMC staff. However not a single person from city administration, county planning, or public works showed up at this well attended event.

    From the start this project was asking for a ton from the community by way of incentive, variances, and subsidies. In the end it just didn’t look like they were going to get the subsidy then needed.

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  • 10Sep

    Uptown photo IMG_9278_zps2j96ce0p.jpeg

    The changing nature of the Uptown area has created tremendous interest in the area. In addition to the project we approved last night, there is another large project in the works. The Grandville apartments that were valued at $25 million just sold for $56 million. Commercial valuations on that stretch are up more than 30% since the project started.  While we have seen this happening downtown its great to see the prosperity spread to a formerly blighted area.

    My hope is that we will continue to make these investments in key areas. I would love to transform North and South Broadway in much the same way.

    The total investment in public art in this area was just under 500k.

    Most importantly this area used to be unsafe for cars, transit, bikes and pedestrians. In not accommodates users of all modes, ages, and ability levels. Seniors at Shorewood can now walk to a restaurant. Daycares can now take kids to the park.

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  • 30May

    From 2012:

    Good morning Councilman Wojcik,

    The general contractor and the stone work contractor are as follows:

    General contractor

    Jeff Lamont  [(605)225-1712 or jlamont@lamontcompanies.com ]

    Lamont Companies, Inc.

    205 6th Avenue SE

    Suite 300

    Aberdeen, SD  57401

    Stone Work contractor

    Marco Valenzuela [(970) 302-6025]

    Bella Vista Stucco, Inc.

    115 18th Street

    Greeley, CO  80631

    I talked to Gary Dutton, Manager of Building Inspections and Ed Schnell, Chief Building Inspector and they indicated that they will investigate this issue first thing this morning.

    Please let me know if you have any further questions or concerns.

    Thank you

    Randy

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  • 30May

    Needless to say this did not get handled well enough.

    A concerned citizen delivered me a piece of exterior stone that fell from the Holiday Inn Express on 2nd Street. Police have been notified. I have also notified the public.

    This is at least the 3rd time that stone has fallen off that building. After the first time I expressed my concern, I was told by building safety that the risk had been addressed.

    I suggest that the sidewalk be shut down until temporary structures can be built to protect pedestrians can be erected at building owner expense.

    At our 3:30 meeting Monday I would like an update on what staff is doing to address the issue. I would like to see an investigation launched to find out how such shoddy construction can be done in the city of Rochester, how it passed inspection, and why so many architectural and landscaping standards that were required as part of the project were never done. This last part would include the significant changes to the landscaping, roof line and features on 2nd street.

    Also Randy,

    Do you know who the general contractor was on this project? Who did the stone work?

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