A path for adding two floors to the former Olmsted County Bank and Trust building was narrowly approved Monday.
“I’m not wholly thrilled with the way this is playing out, but ultimately my main objective is to see this property as preserved as it possibly can be, and the failure of this to move forward does not accomplish that,” Rochester City Council member Nick Campion said after changing his vote following a 3-3 tie that would have stalled the effort.
The council was asked by the building’s owners and developers to overturn a Rochester Heritage Preservation Commission decision which added conditions to allowing changes to the building that is considered a potential historic landmark.
The conditions would have required the developer to reduce the square footage of the added floors and change plans for new windows and covering existing stonework.
“The conditions imposed by the HPC may have killed this project,” building owner A.J. Hawkins wrote in an email following the commission’s decision.
What happened: The Rochester City Council approved a path to allow a two-story addition to the former Olmsted County Bank and Trust building, along with a delay of the consideration of landmark status for the building
Why does this matter: A potential buyer of the building hopes to add two floors to the building so it can be used as a restaurant, retail space and boutique hotel.
What's next: Community Development staff will work with the developer to find a way to make renovations and maintain the building’s historic status.
Molly Patterson-Lundgren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator, has noted the plans proposed don’t meet federal guidelines for rehabilitation of historic buildings.
The council’s decision to allow added work on the renovation plans doesn’t necessarily remove conditions from the proposed project, but it will put final decisions in the hands of city staff, with Patterson-Lundgren taking the lead.
“I think the city is trying to work with the property, which I believe most people would agree is probably historic,” council member Patrick Keane said.
Deputy City Administrator Cindy Steinhauser said the council action will allow city staff to work with the developer to find a way to add two stories to the buildings, make the project financially viable and meet expected standards for potential designation as a city landmark.
The city council also agreed Monday to delay a final decision on the landmark status until as late as Dec. 20, the final council meeting of the year.
Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick questioned why the developer couldn’t be held to the standards suggested by the Heritage Preservation Commission and was joined by council member Molly Dennis is objecting to the change from the commission’s ruling.
“I don’t understand why creative reuse can’t be done,” Kirkpatrick said, adding that taking more time could lead to new ideas to make it feasible.
Steinhauser said she expects discussions to continue with developers, but no timeline has been established.
“They will need to submit it, and then we will sit down with them,” she said of plans to meet with developers to discuss the proposed renovation plans.