Rochester ready for riverfront proposals.


Byline: William Morris

Rochester leaders want to do their homework before taking a second stab at developing a central waterfront property in the city's downtown.

City officials and the Destination Medical Center Corp. worked for several years with United Arab Emirates-basedBloom International Realty to redevelop 2.2 acres on the west bank of the Zumbro River. Bloom's proposal, initially envisioned as one of the crown jewels in the $5.5 billion Destination Medical Center redevelopment of the downtown area, would have come with 180 hotel rooms, 215 senior apartments and 130 condominiums as well as 43,500 square feet of retail space and a 498-unit parking garage.

After Bloom withdrew from the project in February, the two entities decided to take a more active role in managing what comes next, said Josh Johnsen, project manager for the city. Rochester owns the property, which includes an aging municipal parking ramp.

"Since this is truly a community asset, there's a long wish list of ideas for the site," Johnsen said in an interview.

In a "statement of interest," which DMC director of economic development and placemaking Patrick Seeb described as equivalent to a request for qualifications, Rochester hopes to put the site on the radar for other developers. The document, released Friday, lays out the city's priorities: an activated riverfront, economic and environmental sustainability, and universally accessible design. Beyond that, the hope is to see what the market can bring, Seeb said.

"What we're hoping to do is generate a lot of response from which we can evaluate the teams and the skill level and then ask a smaller group to respond to a more detailed RFP," he said.

Although the Bloom project didn't happen, Seeb said those years of work weren't wasted. Having an international developer seriously proposing a $230 million development on the site has led observers both in Rochester and beyond to recognize the potential it could offer. The statement of interest seeks responses by the end of January.

"The idea behind getting this out there now and having a long lead time is that we have time and opportunity to really promote and market this opportunity," Seeb said, noting similarities between Rochester's site and recent revitalization efforts in cities like Fargo...

To continue reading