City Centre parking ramp suffers setback

By Jeffrey Pieters

Post-Bulletin, Rochester MN

Rochester developer Joe Weis’ request for a city-built, 240-space parking ramp to join his City Centre office project has been dealt a blow.

A memo to the city council, from City Administrator Steve Kvenvold, recommends against authorizing the ramp construction. City Centre is being built at South Broadway and Fourth Street.

The memo cites a handful of reasons to deny the ramp. Among them:


  • The Weis ramp would be "inherently inefficient and costly" because of the relatively small size of the building site.
  • A location three blocks to the north, on First Avenue Northeast near the Post-Bulletin, is larger and better-located to serve Mayo Civic Center and the new University of Minnesota. It’s the recommended location for the next municipal parking ramp.
  • City leaders believe City Centre’s parking needs can be served by reallocating nearby existing ramp and lot spaces. The office will be connected to the city skyway system, giving it indoor access to the nearby Second Street ramp.

The recommendation comes after months of study by a six-member city work group headed by Kvenvold. Others in the group included Assistant City Administrator Gary Neumann and city Development Director Doug Knott.
What’s next

The recommendation goes to the Rochester Downtown Alliance next for review and a recommendation. It would return for a city council discussion sometime after that.

Weis said the city staff’s recommendation won’t dissuade him from continuing to seek city council approval for the ramp.

"I don’t think it’s totally a dead issue," he said. "The problems they’ve raised can be dealt with."

Impact on City Centre

City Centre is a viable project with or without a parking ramp, Weis said. The accounting firm RSM McGladrey is signed up as a tenant for the new office building.

"I’m certainly committed to finding them adequate parking one way or another," Weis said.

The office building is Phase 1 of an overall plan that would include housing atop the city parking ramp.


In addition to the ramp itself, Weis was seeking air rights to build the apartments on the ramp. The ramp would have to be built with a stronger foundation to support the extra weight of the building.

Kvenvold’s report also challenges the notion that Weis should receive air rights for free.

The city has hired an appraiser to calculate the value of the air rights. The calculation is due later this month.

Kvenvold’s report does not touch on comments he made earlier — his belief that the site proposed for the Weis parking ramp could be put to a better use, such as a gateway to the city trail system or a rail depot.

"I said that before, and I still think that," Kvenvold said. "In the future, it could be a very valuable spot, and should not be built on unless something very significant comes along."

"It could be a very unique and vital open space," Kvenvold said.

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