Long time developer Bill Gerrard passed away last weekend. I had the pleasure of meeting “Big G” at the Good Food Store many years ago. At the time the City of Rochester was going to take requests for proposals for the former Minnesota Energy site in Downtown Rochester. He chatted with me a little because I was newly on the council as well as being on the Co-op board. I remember him suggesting that his family was hesitant to do a proposal because of Rochester’s reputation of not giving outside developers a fair shot. While I could make any promises, I did say that I wanted to make sure that the process was fair to all. I wanted Rochester to reward the best ideas, not the best connected.
His sons Peter & Paul did end up putting in a proposal and it was fantastic. That proposal became Metropolitan Marketplace and the People’s Food Coop downtown. I actually recused myself from the vote because of my relationship with the co-op. That project only went forward after Mac Hamilton was paid a $50k profit after acquiring a nearby property and demanding that the council give the Minnesota Energy site to him (his proposal did not contain commercial because he said it couldn’t work there, it also finished in a distant last place). The council stood its ground, and we proved downtown development works in Rochester. To his credit; Dennis Hanson himself told the local folks “Hell No.” Bill was there when we cut the ribbon.
Bill really liked to flirt with my wife. He offered to take my wife away to Paris, she replied that she preferred Italy. My wife still jokes about that to this day. Bill had an undying love for the Mayo Clinic and wanted to make sure everyone knew it. He was kind to everyone, and I will miss him. I visited him while he was a patient at St. Marys and even then he was incredibly charming. His greatest legacy remains his wonderful children.