A recent conversation about the former Post Bulletin site stirred a call for added support of a potential partnership to build a new downtown library, but options aren’t limited to a single location.
“This is something we’ve been talking about conceptually for some period of time,” Rochester City Council member Michael Wojcik said of the potential for a partnership during Monday’s council meeting.
The council voted 6-1 to direct city staff to explore options for a potential public-private partnership to construct a library with at least 150,000 square feet of space.
The potential for development partnerships has been discussed in the past for city-owned land along the Zumbro River, west of the city-county Government Center, but Council President Randy Staver said recent interest in a partnership has been expressed by a representative for PB Rochester Investments LLC.
PB Rochester Investments purchased the site north of the existing library for $10.5 million last year and is in the process of clearing the existing structure. The property was sold by Illinois-based Small Newspaper Group, the Post Bulletin's former owner.
Following Monday’s meeting, Staver said Merl Groteboer, who represented PB Rochester Investments, said the ownership group was interested in exploring options to build a library that would double the size of the city’s existing facility. The site, which sits west of Mayo Civic Center, could also include a hotel or condos.
“All of it was very, very conceptual,” Staver said.
Monday afternoon’s direction to city staff, which includes a Dec. 15 deadline for a progress report, doesn’t limit site options.
“What we are really looking to do is give some authorization to our team,” Wojcik said, pointing out the discussion doesn’t obligate the city to a specific project but lets staff discuss opportunities as they become available.
Staver agreed to the flexibility, adding that no options are considered to be off the table.
Council member Patrick Keane said the flexibility includes several options for creating a potential partnership, from renting the new library space to finding ways to help finance and build the facility.
“It’s quite a range of things that could be in there,” he said.
Council member Shaun Palmer voiced the only opposition to authorizing city staff to explore options.
“We have a building we could put two more floors on,” he said, adding the city doesn’t need new land downtown.
“I think we are just wasting our staff’s time by looking at this,” he said, before casting the sole opposing vote.
Library Director Audrey Betcher said the Rochester Library Board and staff support the effort to look at options.
“We are supportive of finding a solution to the library's space needs,” she said, adding that Monday’s action was an initial step in the process to look at options. “The library board is also supportive of exploring options at this time, as space has been an issue for years.”
Post Bulletin reporter Jeff Kiger contributed to this article.