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Tim Hornseth: A win, win, win ... win

Does this dream for the library check out?

Tim Hornseth
We are part of The Trust Project.

I like the library.

As a person who is careful with his money — I believe frugal is the word — I like getting books to read from the library knowing that many of the books I read I probably will never read again. Therefore, spending lots of money on a book isn’t in my DNA.

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I have enjoyed going to the library since we moved here in the late 1990s, which I gather was soon after the library moved to its new home on Second Street.

So when the announcement about the Double Tree hotel being turned into student dorms was announced, my thought after I heard it was … hurray! This was the opportunity the library needed.

Let me explain.

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I go to a number of conventions and trade shows over the course of the year. Most of the shows are located in convention centers that have hotels either located within the convention center space, or are located literally just across the street from the convention center. This is to facilitate vendors or businesses that set up tables or booths for the conventions or trade shows.

At times it can take lots of equipment or supplies to set up these spaces, and having to schlep equipment, product or supplies from a hotel located more than a block away just isn’t going to happen. Convention organizers know this, and are very reluctant to schedule in places that a hotel is not conveniently located within the convention center or next door.

Currently in Rochester the closest hotel to the Rochester Civic Center is the Double Tree, and the distance is often a determining factor why a show or convention may not come to the Med City. Not necessarily the only reason, but it is a factor.

So why should the library care?

Within the last few years there has been a push by the library board to get an expansion of the building (a new floor or two added to the top?) plus a general restructuring and improvement of the facility, which I believe has not been approved or funded. Questions about the present location of the library are an on-going concern, plus the footprint of the building cannot be expanded except for in the direction of up.

Added to this is the ever present awkwardness of parking and other accessibility issues with the present location. While I am not privy to the behind-the-scenes machinations, I have concluded that everything is on hold partly because no decisions have been made.

This is where the opportunity for the city of Rochester comes into play with the changing of direction for the use of the Double Tree hotel. By changing from a hotel to a dorm, the city of Rochester will see less revenue coming into the coffers from a decrease in taxes associated with the hotels room rentals that visitors pay as part of their stay. Additionally, a significant number of hotel rooms in the downtown area will now be removed. As Mayo continues to draw in visitors from around the United States and the globe, perhaps in increasing numbers, there has to be enough rooms available for these out of town guests.

But what about the library?

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The most logical solution is that the library and city sell the current library property to a hotel chain for building a multi-story hotel that has direct (read: skyway) access to the Civic Center, and to relocate the library to another site, one that has plenty of room to build a large enough building and that has plenty of free parking. The sale of the current library property should off-set the cost of the new library building, or at least a significant chunk of it. But by moving the library outside of the downtown area, land costs should be less.

I can think of two different properties that could be potential sites for a new library. One is the northwest corner of 37th Street and Broadway, on the site of the former Mazda dealership, and the other site could be on the location of the old Libby’s/Seneca canning plant. I believe that this site might actually already be owned by the city of Rochester, and thus the cost of land would be negligible. Both sites have plenty of room for free parking, and for either site, transportation concerns should be alleviated as both are on major intersections in the city for public transportation routes. Indeed, the Libby’s site is being discussed as a transportation hub already.

The library can be constructed with most of the bells and whistles in a new first-rate facility, the city gets another hotel to keeps the number of hotel rooms available, the city gets continued revenue from the visitor hotel taxes, the Civic Center can continue to attract and increase the number of conventions and trade shows, which brings in more revenue, and the citizens get a library without having to pay for parking if they plan on staying more than one hour.

See, I told you at the beginning I was frugal.

Sounds like a win, win, win and win all around.

Tim Hornseth taught at the Minnesota School of Business in Rochester where he served as the Business Department Chair for several years. Currently does some freelance writing and is a musician with the Winona Symphony Orchestra and the Rochester Pops Orchestra.

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