• 24Jul

    Section 2 (of 3) of the comprehensive plan is now available. I spent a good portion of the weekend reading it. It appears outstanding. Section 3 is still a little rough. This is the first full update to the plan the guides community development since the mid to late 1970s. This plan appears to significantly improve the City of Rochester’s focus on the responsible use of financial resources.

    Comprehensive Plan Section 2

    I hope that section 3 will be coming shortly. It is imperative that the council adopt a strong plan, and stick to it.

    Expect that I will organize many community listening sections to discuss this topic.



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  • 20Jan

    Here is a memo that I asked administration to distribute to community leaders including DMC. I am very concerned about the trajectory of TIF on the Heart of the City North project. As such I seek to inform my colleagues and the community.

    In the spirit of collaboration I am happy to meet with any community to discuss these findings and conclusions. I see this as part of being a fiscal steward in the community.

    Memo to community leaders

    Edit: corrected formatting error.

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  • 18Dec

    I am committed to a fair & equitable process for all parties on this building. Here is how I believe we can achieve this.

    The Carlton Hotel was found by our Heritage Preservation Commission to be a Historic Site. As such the city should proceed with respect for the property and a fair determination as to whether the building should be demolished. It is no secret that there are rifts between Rochester’s preservation community, building owners, elected officials and city staff. So how can we make a decision that is both fair and equitable? I would suggest we hire an independant group, give them a through mission, and live by the professional recommendation they make. Here is one such group Collaborative Design Group. I would recommend using this group as they have credibility with staff, council, and the preservation community.

    On Monday I plan to introduce a resolution hiring Collaborative Design Group, preventing staff / developer interference, and executing the following scope of work to inform the demolition process:

    • Site observation, description and building document research for the existing structural system.  Determine columns spacing, floor to floor height, construction type, and condition.
    • Site observation, description and building document research for the existing mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection systems.  Determine existing systems, capacity, and useful life.
    • Hazardous materials assessment and handling report
    • Site observation, field measurement and building document research for existing life safety and accessibility systems (stairs, ramps, elevators, etc.).  Document deficiencies per 2015 Minnesota Building Code requirements.
    • Building code and life safety evaluation along with potential floor plan layouts.
    • Eligibility and feasibility of renovation/rehabilitation for Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credit

    Thank you to community design professional(s) that helped me put this list together. My guess is that this contract would be in the range of $15k-$25k and would potentially inform tens of millions in development.

    Once I introduce the resolution under other business it will require a “second.” Assuming that happens; we will then vote on the resolution. Not sure of the chances of this passing. Even if it fails to garner 4 votes it should help apply sunshine to the level of commitment to preservation on the council. It will also give the community a full month to contact elected officials in advance of a hearing on January 18.

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  • 14Dec

    Check out this 1 pager to learn the latest.

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  • 17Nov

    Bloom Capital Rendering photo Screen Shot 2016-11-17 at 11.51.57 AM_zpsg9phsimg.png

    Here is an updated presentation on the Bloom Capital Project. I hope that we have an inclusionary zoning ordinance in place to ensure that all projects at this scale have an affordable component.

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  • 09Oct

    I am 100% committed to protecting Mayo Park from further encroachment.

     photo Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.56.08 AM_zpsqfmkrpzr.png

    You might want to ask people running for office this question: Will you protect Mayo Park from development? There is a real threat that Rochester could be losing a substantial portion of our downtown riverfront park. There are some well connected people that wish to turn much of the green space into a hockey stadium.

    A portion of the remaining park space would be lost to the hockey stadium. The proposal would replace the Taylor Arena as well as spill out into the park.

     photo FullSizeRender_zpswrjof3ew.jpg

    So here is my thought. We just put $30 million into fixing up the Recreation Center. Lets invest in transit to that facility to meet any needs for hockey / multi-use space. Additionally if Taylor Arena is truly as obsolete as people claim, we can tear it down and return it to green space.

    To me its seems crazy to go down the road of another stadium. While we struggle to fund the core services of the city the RCVB continues to spend untold amounts of money developing plans for this stadium.

    Economic analysis is pretty clear that these types of stadiums never pay for themselves or elevate the local economy. To put it in the perspective the cost of building this stadium could fix every dangerous bicycle / pedestrian intersection in the city or spur on the development of 7000 affordable housing units. Here are the results of a couple of surveys on the issue. This one was in the Post Bulletin. Overwhelmingly people didn’t want the stadium or didn’t want it in Mayo Park

     photo Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.31.37 AM_zpslxdyd0dy.png photo Screen Shot 2016-07-12 at 11.28.53 AM_zpslkraf5lk.png

    Even people well connected to parks seem to see building yet another stadium as a boondoggle. 

    So I was asked what it would take me to support a stadium, here is my answer.

    No local money used, no increase in Mayo Civic Center subsidy, no loss of park space. In addition it is becoming clear that we do need public oversight of the RCVB funds. I believe RCVB folks are patiently waiting to see if they will have 4 or 5 votes needed to do this after the November elections. Right now they do not have the votes.

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  • 24Aug

    This report is jaw dropping. I agree with it nearly 100%, but wow…

    This is not an indictment on the staff at planning, I continue to believe that most of them are outstanding. This is an issue with leadership, principally at the board and administration levels. The county is at fault for failing to meet community needs, the city is at fault for not realizing how bad things have gotten.

    We now have outdated plans, a severely understaffed department, missing many key skill sets, and a $1.4 billion liability in street maintenance with no real plan to address it. I support smart growth, I despise dumb growth. We have principally been doing dumb growth. While our population doubled our footprint increased 5 fold. This is doing less with more infrastructure.

    Years of advocacy by myself and others has finally resulted in updating many of these plans, but great harm has been done and continues to be done. Staff can’t even answer the simple question I pose frequently: will this development pay for itself over time. Most the time the answer has be “no.” Destination Medical Center Staff have been a BIG help in assisting these shortcomings.

    Again, this is not an indictment on planning staff, but here is the brutal truth.


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  • 06Jun

    In case you don’t think elections matter for the future of Rochester, read how the Rochester city council almost destroyed the opportunity for a $200 million transformative waterfront project. Recently the council almost did the exact thing (in another location) by placing a suburban Associated Bank complete with surface parking on the riverfront.

    Here is the presentation (complete with many high quality renderings) of the proposed $180-$200 million dollar Bloom Capital project on the downtown Riverfront. The council will consider a preliminary development proposal this evening.

    Bloom Presentation to DMC

    While this is early; there is huge potential with this project. And it almost never happened due to Rochester cronyism and a lack of vision by some Rochester City Council members.

    Instead there was a proposal to place a 4 story parking structure on the river with a few levels of housing above it. Anybody with a shred of vision could see that there was so much more potential for a riverfront project in Rochester. However that proposal actually tied on an initial vote 3-3 and then failed at the next meeting by a 4-3 vote. That’s right, half of this enormous project was almost made into another parking ramp on the river.

    We almost lost the site a second time to Mac Hamilton, who in my capacity as a city councilman, I have come to learn is one of the dirtiest people I have ever met. You can read about some of the actions he has taken on this blog. Shortly after the city council held a design competition for what was to become Metropolitan Marketplace (People’s Food Co-op) Mac Hamilton executed a maneuver to try to sabotage that project for his own benefit. Mac submitted one of the 4 proposals for the site and came in a distant, distant last place with a really pathetic proposal. In fact, he refused to even put active uses on the ground floor since he believed commercial was not viable in that area. Every other project was substantially better.

    Rather than accepting he had an inferior product and moving on, he bought the adjacent building (by legal loophole according to the owner) and attempted to get the city council to instead choose his inferior project. Behind the scenes I met with Dennis Hanson and he agreed that the best project should win.

    What does this have to do with the Bloom Proposal? City administration informed us that Mac then offered to exchange his parcel for city property between 3rd & 4th along the river. The council stood its ground (unanimously this time) and Mac sold the property a week later (for a large profit).

    Elections matter…

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  • 20Jul

    Now that I have a couple of minutes I will better explain what the significance of Councilmember Hickey’s action would be to night.

    The city of Rochester passed a downtown masterplan and DMC plan that calls for activating the river and embracing the riverfront. Something we had not done for generations. However in most cases it is the zoning and not the plan that dictates what can be done. As such there are some loop holes that can remain open.

    Because a loophole where by uses in the downtown were not updated existed a developer found a piece of land where they could put a wrap around drive through. At every level staff explained that this clashed with our long rage plan, but the developer simple stated that they had a right to do this, which was true until we closed the loop hole.

    We closed the loop hole on June 15th by initiating a text amendment to downtown zones that made every downtown parcel more closely fit what our millions of dollars in planning and thousands of hours called for. This affects every property equally, and ensures that future development complies with the plan. State law is crystal clear that there are NO vested development rights prior to approval and when a developer attempts to skirt community leadership they do it at their own risk.

    This afternoon I received a notice from Councilmember Hickey via the city administrator that he was going to attempt to amend the June 15th action so as to exempt the pending development, thereby rewarding the developers for attempting to exploit a loophole.

    I strongly oppose this for 2 reasons. 1) it is being done essentially in secrecy as no one knows it is coming. 2) If after all that planning we decide that we want drive throughs (3 or 4 lanes in this case) on our waterfront that should be done after a public hearing given how hard we all worked on these plans.

    Ultimately this decision is about values, do we want to respect the work of so many that came up with a great plan OR just ignore it for the sake of convenience. Do we care about our riverfront downtown OR is no standard too low.

    I hope the council actually stands up for higher standards this time.

    Edit: The surface parking lot portion is similar, not the same. That approval for a conditional use permit was denied by planning and zoning.

    Edit 2: The developer knew of the community plan position for more than a year, this is an attempt to skirt it.

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  • 19Mar

    Jay said Facts-on-chateau-purchase-needed-quickly, I will try to oblige.

    1. $6 million? When has the city invested that type of money in an open-ended project of this kind?

    This is unique in my time on the council. This is being done because it is an irreplaceable building, beloved by the community, and in a key location. Community advocacy lead directly to this decision. I personally would not have announced this until we actually had a signed agreement. Seemed a bit premature. Don’t forget we are also going to lose tax capacity as a result of the purchase.

    2. $500,000? Is that really the best Mayo can do? Read more…

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