Rochester gives final approval to Alatus plan

– Post Bulletin

In its final weighing at a Rochester City Council hearing Monday night, the benefits of the proposed 13-story residential and commercial development by Alatus on Sencond Street Southwest were found to outbalance the public objections to it.

The council approved Alatus’s conditional use permit and final incentive plan by a unanimous vote, and later in the evening approved a development agreement to provide $10.5 million in tax increment financing to the $115 million project.

The project proposes 347 residential units, 21,000 square feet of commercial and retail space and a 540-stall parking facility in the Folwell neighborhood, on Second Street Southwest and between 14th and 15th avenues.

The council also approved a Destination Medical Center development district boundary modification, an action that means the full scope of the project will be included in the DMC area. The DMC Corp. Board of Directors last week gave a conditional approval to Alatus to designate the development as a public infrastructure project. That approval is based on a condition for the developer to show an acceptable plan for financing the building.

Construction is to start no later than the spring of 2017 and be finished by Dec. 31, 2018, per the terms of the development agreement approved by the city.

Council members agreed their concerns related to the project had been met and there were many benefits to look forward to when the project was complete. Council member Michael Wojcik, who represents the ward where the project is located, said the public realm improvements were deserving of the $10.5 million in approved tax increment financing.

“It’s easy for me to point to this and say the TIF is going to the public realm and the public is achieving benefit. … This, to me, is strictly about closing the infrastructure gap to make this a great project for the community. That’s why I’m willing to support this one,” Wojcik said.

Alatus Development Director Chris Osmundson said the development team had worked diligently with willing neighbors to refine the project while maintaining the quality that will make it a 100-year building.

“We feel this project really does enhance the walkability and the vibrancy of this intersection that is just adjacent to the tremendous Saint Marys medical facility, which is renowned not just within Minnesota, but internationally as well,” Osmundson said.

Soon-to-be neighbors of the project raised many of the same issues that they have brought forward over the course of much of this year, dating back to the project’s public debut in May.

“It’s not next to our little oasis like the Miracle Mile project. It’s smack dab right on top,” Mark Bransford, a Folwell resident, said. “It steals from our neighborhood in a way that is damaging and unrecoverable and which absolutely need not happen if this development were at a sensible scale.”

The height of the building was a concern to council member Nick Campion and remained a concern Monday. The prospect of a dense residential development near a major employer tipped his feelings on the project.

“I still wish we could have done more on the height,” he said. “But I’m coming around to the idea that one of the most challenging things we face right now is figuring out where people are going to live and how we’re going to build accommodations for the people who are going to drive this community forward.”

“The height is again one of these things that you’re not going to find any level of comfort,” Campion added. “But that’s what you find about governance is a lot of the time there’s not a level of comfort. You’re on the edge of change and I think that’s where we’re at.”

By: Andrew Setterholm
Date: December 20, 2016
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