A local preservation advocate plans to nominate the building occupied by Legends Bar and Grill as a Rochester landmark.
“Obviously my goal here is to create some public discussion, not only at the HPC level, but at the community level and the city council level, to stop the demolition of these buildings,” Kevin Lund told members of the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission this week. “There seems to be some measure of urgency -- it’s beyond me what it is -- to take these buildings down.”
The Rochester City Council voted 4-3 a week earlier to move forward with ending Legends’ lease for the city-owned property and to seek bids for demolition, which is expected to make way for renovation along the riverfront.
Maintaining the building as currently operated is estimated to cost $200,000 in renovations in the next year. The city reports approximately $112,000 in annual rent revenue with a single occupant, and $60,000 to $70,000 in related operating expenses.
Council members opposing demolition cited a desire to look for other tenants to fill the building, which city staff said could add to renovation expenses.
The potential historic aspect of the building was raised by two of the three council members voting against ending the lease and moving toward demolition. The building housed the Time Theater and a Red Owl Store in the mid-20th century.
“Whether or not you consider it technically historic or not, it has a history here in Rochester that means something to people. It means a lot,” council member Mark Bransford said.
Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick said she carries memories of going to the Time Theater, which operated from the late 1930 to the early 1980s.
“The building does not need to be demolished to have something good and better for Rochester to come of it,” she said of the art deco building.
Other council members didn’t make the same connections.
Council member Nick Campion said the site is not considered historic under the terms defined by the city, which has an ordinance listing potentially historic buildings and a process to add other properties to the list.
In a 2014 report from The 106 Group, a cultural resource consultant, that helped create the list, the building at 11 Fourth St. SE was deemed “not recommended for evaluation.”
A later consultant, Preservation Design Works, also known as PVN and New History, included the site in a 2017 draft report for a proposed historic downtown commercial district, but the document doesn’t provide any background on the building or its history.
The site was removed from a later proposed district map, which sought to reduce the district footprint in order to get eventual state and local approval.
“My recollection is the HPC didn’t press for it because the city had already engaged in the Bloom agreement,” Commission Chairwoman Christine Schultze said. “I’m not saying it’s not a worthwhile building.”
“Indeed, it has not been defined, but it has not been carefully considered,” she added.
Lund’s potential nomination will likely lead to added review.
He said new information on the site is emerging, saying it appears the Time Theater was built by Mayo Clinic Properties Association, a predecessor of Mayo Foundation, as a way to invest in the city.
“As a result, I would state that it is connected with the Mayo family, the Mayo brothers, the Mayo Clinic, and obviously those individuals have significantly contributed to the culture and development of the city of Rochester,” he told the commission.
The eight commission members on hand Tuesday night to hear Lund’s presentation agreed more study is warranted.
“With or without the Mayo Clinic connection, I think it’s worth looking into,” Tom Meilander said, recalling his own experiences at the theater.
Historical connections to the site could go back further, which was argued by Rochester residents and preservation advocate Sean Kettelkamp when the council was reviewing early plans for a later-failed development project along the riverfront between Second and Fourth streets.
She said the site was where city founders George and Henrietta Head settled.
“In other parts of the world, this might be considered holy ground,” she said.
The next steps will likely depend on Lund's application for the site’s inclusion as a potential landmark, which would require some level of Heritage Preservation Commission review and approval by the city council to change status.
If deemed a potential landmark, the site would face added scrutiny if a demolition permit is requested.
At this point, the city is moving ahead with finding a contractor who could clear the site in the spring, based on the recent council approval.