• 27Oct

    Yes the largest paper in the state just quoted me saying that on the front page… sigh… That one will haunt me on Google forever…

    Actually that comment is reflective of my current take on DMC, I wish there was more private investment at this point. I just haven’t seen much, but I do remain optimistic and think some more significant private investments are coming. In reality basically all the projects that we have seen come forward were planned before DMC. The Bloom Capital project on the riverfront might be the first truly private DMC project (though the Connolly Camera rehab is also a related project). Downtown housing and hotel projects were already planned.

    Most DMC monies have been public dollars for public projects at this point. I am particularly concerned about the suggested use of public DMC funds to build a hockey rink. I think the project smells of backroom deals and conflicts of interest. I hate that as I am a hockey fan. I struggle to see how this venue is a better use of public dollars than Affordable Housing, Transit, Library, Broadband, or even a performing arts center.

    I am glad the Star Tribune hit on the awful Associated Bank plan that ALMOST actually passed. Very amateurish by the City Council to even consider that.

    Startribune.com article

    DRAFT summary of DMC Expenses

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  • 17Oct

    Here is a study of the broadway corridor:

    Broadway Study Detail

    The situation is that the city inherited about 6 miles of roadway from MnDot and is now planning for the future. My goal is to have vibrant multi-use corridor that spurs intense redevelopment along its entire length. Today Broadway is mediocre for cars and terrible for transit, bikes, and pedestrians. Downtown, Broadway serves to divide the city into a prosperous side and a lesser side. Read more…

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  • 28Feb

    City Administration is suggesting that we use a 0.25% sales tax increase to fund the bulk of the $128 million city obligation to DMC.

    https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BxMKqsc4J7x0eE9aOHBFQVRoNWowTmJ1WjhtODZWV0cwTV9N/view?usp=sharing

    Here are the options we have to come up with $128 million (really $100 million)

    1. expanded tax abatement authority
    2. expanded TIF authority
    3. credit for 2012 DMC sales tax funding
    4. authority to extend the current 0.5% sales tax for local matching costs or authority to impose a 0.25% sales tax rate increase
    5. lodging tax increase
    6. food and beverage tax
    7. admissions and entertainment tax

    To get to $128 million we first count the $20 million for Destination Medical Community (#3 in the list) in the 2012 Sales Tax. We also plan on using the $8 million for Downtown Masterplan Infrastructure. This leaves $100 million over the next 19 years.

    #1 and #2 will be used some. It is important to realize that these funds are replaced by local property tax funds and thus costs the city property owners 100%.

    #5 is not really practical we just raised it 3% for Mayo Civic Center and it is now at or near the highest in the state.

    #6 is a new tax and would not generate nearly the funds we need.

    #7  is a new tax and would not generate nearly the funds we need.

    Many communities do have #6 and #7, but my preference would to be not to use these since they do not generate any where near $100 million. Perhaps someday these will be employed for something the community values in the future.

    #4 has 2 options, but extending the 0.5% does not work. The current $139.5 million uses all these funds for most of the length of DMC. Both the timing and quantity do not do much for us. That leaves the 0.25%. Mathematically it is the only option that can raise the dollars. Not sure what other options there really are.

     

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  • 06Mar

    Remember when senior city staff and the parks department promised:

    1. A plan that showed an urban use of just the uses currently planned
    2. A second plan that showed what could be done in the future

    I sure do. Read more…

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  • 20Feb

    On Wednesday I met with Parks Department Staff to discuss my issues with the proposed design of the Senior Center / Recreation Center.  A series of bad assumptions led to the current proposal which I feel places our community center on a foundation of sand…

    Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.

    — Matthew 7:24–27, World English Bible Read more…

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  • 18Feb

    Here is a letter I prepared to communicate with my constituents explaining why I do not support this project as it currently stands.

    We have a facility in Rochester that has been built in a piecemeal fashion.  Each piece has some utility, but we ended up with an inefficient, unattractive facility, badly in need of updating.  For once I’m not talking about the Mayo Civic Center!  While we now have an attractive, efficient, and functional solution for our Civic Center we may be about to repeat the same mistakes, 2 miles to the North.

    Our current recreation center is a host for many children and adults in our community.  The mechanical and building shell are inefficient at best.  While the facility offers 2 ice sheets, a 50-meter pool, and a gym, all are showing their age.  From the street, the dated precast concrete forms create a pedestrian eyesore and underutilize what should be a prime urban site.

    Our current senior center is enjoyed by about 15% of our seniors.  While the location is good, the historic building in which it is housed is no longer sufficiently functional.  Merging the recreation and senior centers is a concept that has been successful in many communities and will be in Rochester as well.

    While I am excited for a new community center, the process and product that I have seen are not befitting of a first class community.  The current proposal combines failures to adhere to the budget, properly engage the community, address current energy shortcomings, utilize a prime site, apply basic urban design concepts, and design for future transit.  My greatest fear was that we would spend $20 million on an obsolete building and end up with a bigger obsolete building.  It turns out the actual request was to do this for $22.3 million.  My bad…

    Do we need to move fast because of building inflation?  No, we just saved $350k on a street project because we delayed it by one year and got smarter.  Doing it right the first time is always cheaper.

    I understand that we were dealt a poor hand.  This was to be a $26 million dollar project until Rep. Greg Davids saw fit to overrule Rochester citizens.  Now at $20 million, perhaps the full project is not feasible.  At least fans of responsible government can sleep well at night knowing that Davids’ changes are currently allowing Rochester sales tax dollars to be used to subsidize luxury home sprawl in other communities.

    Without consulting the council, a decision was made to try to create maximum space at a lower quality standard.  Improving or modernizing the existing inefficient utilities has been all but ignored. This decision could punish taxpayers for decades to come.

    From the beginning, I asked that a site master plan and transit access be considered for the site.  This request was frequently repeated and came without objection from the council or community.  This step was never taken and when I asked why, the staff answer was that “You were the only person that wanted it.”  This is disappointing…

    We are ignoring the incredible potential of a major node along what is to be one of our future transit spines.   The site at Elton Hills and Broadway might one day support hotel, affordable housing, senior housing, restaurants, a transit hub, or even retail.  Instead we want it to exclusively support surface parking.  While the riverfront has environmental issues from a previous dump, the Broadway side of the site is outstanding for mixed-use redevelopment.  Future tax generation along the corridor would help to sustain operations at the combined center.  The current proposal will likely preclude redevelopment at a future date.  When I asked the director of the senior center if they had searched out senior housing or restaurant partners before asking us for an extra $2.3 million the answer was no.

    The actions taken on this project to date run counter to our goals of engaging seniors and the community.  A request was made for the city council to endorse a project ($2.3 million over budget) after only a series of private last minute meetings.  $2.3 million moved in the dark of night is not what I stand for. Even Senior Center patrons and board members were in the dark. When I asked if our Committee on Urban Design and Environment (CUDE), our Energy Commission, or even our Parks Board had reviewed the plan, the answer was no.

    We have $20 million for recreation and senior center projects, but no requirements on how those dollars are shared.  We can come up with a better design than one that places the backside of a new building and a service access on a major street, while permanently crippling the efficiency of transit operations in the area.  Reducing the scope of the project to ensure quality is a better choice than building more space without regards to sustainability.

    It is only when we have a smart vetted plan that I would consider seeking additional funds.  Perhaps we need to go back to the state and ask them to undo Davids’ cuts to do this right.  Regardless, I remain committed to doing this project right, the first time, even if it means we do less.

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  • 29Jan

    Do it right the first time, or not…

    I was pretty strongly opposed to throwing another $2.3 million at a mediocre plan, maybe time will show this it the best we can do.  Right now the design fails basic urban design and transit orientation principles.  We have not done enough in terms of quality site planning and transit planning.  We certainly have not engaged the public.  We need to look if we can do more as part with public private partnerships.  Public discussion will take place on March 17.

    As an absolute minimum, I want a great site plan that can be implemented over time and a well thought out transit node.

    More later, including my recording.

    I have a few issues with the REC center side.  Senior Center Issues – Don’t confuse support for project vs. Senior Center.  Hurry up and do it wrong.  Can’t show current plans.

    Failed to engage community.  Send a message that you don’t matter.

    • Comp Planning – Transit portion
    • Community Engagement
    • CUDE
    • Energy Commission
    • Park Board?
    • Seniors?

    Very concerned about the Senior Center proposal. It is a costly investment in a mediocre facility that ignores potential partners, responsible transit, good urban design, responsible land use, and the existing budget. As a community we can do better.

    Greatest concern: spend $20 million on an obsolete building and ending up with a bigger obsolete building.  Actually spending $22.3 million for obsolete.

    We don’t need to do this now.  Rate of construction inflation is not that different than interest on bonded dollars.

    Urban Design 101 –

    • Fail to analyze site plan.
    • Fail to engage transit corridors.
    • Fail to embrace the river.
    • Fail to create positive pedestrian environment. Service drive / parking
    • Fail to find highest and best use of plan.
    • Elton Hills Dr. and Broadway, huge potential as a transit node.

    Failed to engage partners –

    • No discussion of restaurant partners.
    • No discussion with senior / TOD / Affordable housing partners.
    • No discussion with hoteliers.

    Failed to make needed energy improvements.  Failed energy design.

    Rec Center cut:

    • Cooling tower replacement
    • Aquatic center
    • Pool air handling

     

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  • 06Dec

    Thanks to RAEDI ED (and fellow elected official) Gary Smith for putting together a summary of how the Envirolastech loan works.  We approved this loan at our last meeting and will use sales tax funds that were approved for economic development. Read more…

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  • 06Dec

    City taxpayer are made whole in the transaction as promised. This marks another step forward in the creation of the permanent UMR campus near Soldiers Field.

    For the past several months I have been working with the University of Minnesota real estate department on the sale of 601 1st Avenue SW, 609 1st Avenue SW and 114 6th Street SW to the U of M for the future UMR campus and on the settlement of special assessments related to the reconstruction of 6th Street SW.    We have wrapped all of the costs into a purchase agreement.  Proceeds to the city will be paid through a deduction from the $14.0 million in sales tax funds allocated to UMR.  A portion of the proceeds will reimburse the downtown abatement fund for the land acquisition and related costs.  The remainder will be applied against the special assessments for the 6th Street reconstruction project.  Read more…

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  • 20Nov

    Here is the possible public are being considered for completion of the Uptown Street Project.  This has local businesses and neighbors pretty excited.

    Uptown Art Presentation 

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