Tom Torgeson on the Holiday Inn

Tom is well respected by both the neighborhood and I, in part because he worked closely with the neighborhood on his projects before submitting them to the city. All 3 of his projects have been successful with out any public assistance. See Tom’s note below.

You may recall that previously had some questions on using public financing for a Holiday Inn, as it turn out I am not the only one. Previous Post on TIF. It was very nice to see the leadership of DMCC, excluding Ed Hruska, not willing to throw public dollars at this project until they were sure that there was public benefit and plan compliance.

What you may not know is that staff put together a series of secret small group meetings (how we get around open meeting laws) with council members in what appeared to me, to be an attempt to move the public financing along. There was absolutely nothing discussed in those meetings regarding the Holiday Inn that could not have been discussed in public. My commitment in that meeting was that I could support public funds it there was public benefit. I questioned if there was any. My preference would be to not allow these types of secret meetings.

Staff is suggesting TIF for parking which would be owned by the developer and revenues would go to the developer. I am concerned by that precedent. I was in that meeting with Ed Hruska and Mark Hickey, both seemed willing to give away public funds for the project even is staff was unwilling or unable to quantify the public benefit.

What I think sums up the current mentality of staff and some council members is this. I simply asked, “If we should decide that we wish to put a tunnel system in this area, have we looked at what is the smartest and most efficient way to do so? The answer was and remains “no.” We are reacting because we continue to fail to plan.

Here is a note from Tom Torgerson who has developed 3 hotels in the area without public assistance. It is important to remember that this project and the tunnel can be built without public assistance. The decisions to approve

Mayor and City Council
January 10, 2016

I am sorry to be sending you this broadcast e-mail, which is a first for me in my 37 year career. However, I feel it is of value to the community to share our thoughts related to the St. Mary’s 2nd Street Corridor. We are the developers, and still owners and operators of the Marriott SpringHill Suites that opened in June of 1998 across from St. Mary’s Hospital. Since then we developed, own and operate two more hotels in this corridor to include the Courtyard by Marriott with its parking ramp and award winning Saint’s On Second restaurant. And most recently our Homewood Suites by Hilton and its parking ramp and retail space. To date we still own and operate all three of these properties and are very proud of our continued reinvestment to keep them exemplary facilities in this neighborhood.

We have been told many times that our willingness to work with the Kutzky Park Neighborhood Association and the Economic Development Association to design facilities that meet their vision for the corridor has been MUCH appreciated. We have also been told that our designs have set very high standards for others to follow.

We have no issue with continued redevelopment of the 2nd Street Corridor and welcome it! We do have issue with a few items related to the proposed Holiday Inn development:

1. Back in 1997, at the suggestion of City Planning, we incorporated a tunnel access into our SpringHill Suites by Marriott’s design. It is 19 years later and no tunnel was ever constructed.

2. After that, when we developed the Courtyard by Marriott, and then again when we developed the Homewood Suites by Hilton, there existed no suggestion of such a tunnel access and thus none exists. However, we are willing to do so, at our expense, even though we do not have basements.

3. Not one of our three developments ever received any public financial support. Our three developments combined significantly exceeds the investment level of the proposed Holiday Inn hotel and have spurred revitalization of this corridor. All three of our projects bridged public alleyways and utilities and never requested or received any public assistance.

I said we have no issue with the continued development of the 2nd Street Corridor, that is true. We do have issue with public monies being used in a private development which provides for any type of competitive advantage single purpose tunnel connection to St. Mary’s. We have continued to express to Richard Freese, and others in the City, that we will adapt our buildings to make a connection if a tunnel or skyway every becomes viable. We do not have basements but can engineer connections to a tunnel concept. And, in doing so, we are not suggesting the use of public monies/tax increment financing for our sole benefit. I believe the success of our three hotels is a strong testament to the point that public monies are not needed to spur private development along this corridor. On the other hand, if the City looks to direct public monies towards a neighborhood public use tunnel system that promotes a greater cause than one private business, we would then be in full support of that.

We do not feel that it is appropriate for Rochester to 1) provide public monies to fund an unfair competitive advantage, especially in light of, 2) our history of paying our fair way with no public assistance but also setting a very high standard of quality for others that follow us.

I am trying to adjust my schedule to be present at the next Council Meeting on the Holiday Inn project, I am told February 1st. If I am not able to make such arrangements, I hope my message will be justly considered. Additionally, I did reach out to Larry Brutger, speaking with him before Christmas. It was his advice for us to communicate our interests and position to the City directly. I also spoke with Jesse Welsh of KPNA yesterday and she too suggested I reach out to you on this matter. Richard Freese, to his credit, has kept us in mind for future planning purposes as it relates to a possible broader use neighborhood tunnel. I owe a return phone call to Brent Svenby from last week and will reach out to him Monday. However, I sense that this matter is raising to the Council level and decisions will be made about it in the not too distant future, thus I am reaching out to you now.

Respectfully submitted,

Tom Torgerson
CEO/Chairman of the Board
TPI Hospitality, a Minnesota Company
100% Employee Owned and voted numerous times a Top Place To Work In Minnesota

2 comments

  1. “If we should we decide that we with to put a tunnel system in this area, have we looked at what is the smartest and most efficient way to do so is?”

    Uhm. I’m pretty sure there’s a coherent sentence in there somewhere, but I’m having trouble finding it…. Maybe an edit needed?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.