Bob Lux: Rochester tower will be ‘legacy project’

– Finance & Commerce

Developer Bob Lux on Thursday made a spirited sales pitch for his proposed 13-story mixed-use tower in Rochester, the day after the city’s planning commission deadlocked on the project.

Lux, founder of Minneapolis-based Alatus LLC, told the Destination Medical Center Corp. board Thursday that the $105 million tower with 347 apartments and 21,000 square feet of retail-office space would be a “legacy project” for the city. “We are trying to create a 100-year asset here that will be enjoyed for many years to come,” Lux said at the board meeting. Lux’s project, which includes a 560-space parking garage, would rise on a 2.77-acre site on the 1400 block of Second Street Southwest near the Mayo Clinic’s St. Marys Campus.

The building site is within the Destination Medical Center area, a Mayo Clinic-anchored, taxpayer-supported buildout that aims to position the city as a magnet for health care research and related development. The Destination Medical Center board didn’t take formal action on the Alatus proposal, which will go before Rochester’s City Council in September. But one board member commented that he liked what he saw. “I am excited,” board member Jim Bier said at the meeting. “I really like the project. It looks like a first-class project to me.”

At Wednesday night’s planning commission meeting, however, some residents disagreed. Some said it would bring traffic problems, and others said it’s too tall and a bad fit for the neighborhood. One specific concern: The building’s 13 stories are more than twice the height of design guidelines for the neighborhood, which limit buildings to six stories. In a letter to the planning commission, resident Kevin Lund wrote that the project “dwarfs our neighborhood,” is incompatible with the area’s Second Street Corridor plan, and that it detracts from the nearby St. Marys hospital. “The St. Marys tower should serve as the prominent gateway to our city, not a luxury apartment complex,” Lund wrote.

The planning commission split down the middle on the project, with three in favor and three opposed.

Alatus previously eliminated 275 parking slots from the original 883 proposed in response to the traffic concerns. The developer also nixed a 220-foot spire that Mayo Clinic officials feared would create hazards for helicopters serving the St. Marys Hospital campus.

At the DMC board meeting, Lux alluded to the neighborhood’s misgivings by playing up the quality of the building’s stone, metal and concrete materials. He added that the project is designed to “fit into the fabric of the neighborhood.” Lux said the building needed to be a certain height to be economically viable, adding that developers “can’t make the numbers work until you get over 10 or 12 stories.” In this case, 13 stories was “kind of the magic number,” he said. Alatus’ equity in the project is 35 percent to 40 percent, Lux said, adding that he’s “very confident” about obtaining the required lending to round out the development cost. Rochester is a “good market,” but lenders are cautious, he said. In general, lenders are “starting to contract” and are being “preemptive” on apartment projects before they become overbuilt, he said.

RSP is finalist for public space design

Also at Thursday’s meeting, the DMC board approved the selection of Minneapolis-based RSP Architects to design public spaces within the “Heart of the City,” one of six Destination Medical Center sub-districts. RSP is teaming with Minneapolis-based Coen + Partners, 9.Square of Rochester, HR&A Advisors of New York, and Raleigh, North Carolina-based Kimley-Horn on the design work. The selection is scheduled to go before the City Council on Sept. 7.

Eleven design teams responded to the request for qualifications, and six were named to a short list. The Heart of the City Community Advisory Committee interviewed three finalists: RSP, HGA Architects and Sasaki Associates. RSP’s cost proposal was $577,440. According to its proposal, RSP envisions “smart, flexible space to accommodate a wide variety of active programming and calming retreat,” and integration of “skyways, streets and subways together into a unified experience,” among other goals.

By: Brian Johnson
Date: August 25, 2016
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