The pair of Depression-era buildings that most recently housed Legends Bar and Grill have been recommended as landmarks.
“I think we have the basic building blocks for a building that deserves to be preserved,” Heritage Preservation Commission member Nancy Bergner said Wednesday during a nearly two-hour discussion that led to a 6-1 vote to recommend the Rochester City Council deem the Fourth Street Southeast location along the west side of the Zumbro River as historic properties worthy of special protections.
The decision stems from a Feb. 5 landmark nomination made by Rochester resident Kevin Lund, who cited the building’s construction in the 1930s as a Red Owl grocery store and Time Theatre.
Lund’s nomination followed a Rochester City Council vote to support potential demolition of the buildings to make way for future development.
Here are a few things to know about the site and decision:
1. The historical significance of the site predates the Red Owl and Time Theatre
The two buildings were developed with the help of Mayo Properties Association on the site of a former mill, which has its roots in the settlement that would become Rochester along the Zumbro River. The mill was purchased by Mayo Properties from Rochester Milling Co. in 1930.
Molly Patterson-Lungren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator, said the site and history of the mill could be marked as the city-owned property is developed.
2. The commission’s decision is merely a recommendation
The Heritage Preservation Commission is a volunteer advisory body, with members appointed to represent the community and make recommendations to the Rochester City Council.
The council will consider the recommendation, but is not bound to it.
As an example, in 2018, the commission voted 6 to 4 to recommend naming the former Hotel Carlton a landmark, but the council rejected the recommendation, making way for demolition of the building on the northeast corner of West Center Street and First Avenue.
3. Few Rochester sites are protected with landmark status
The city has named 13 official landmarks, which are all properties also on the National Register of Historic Places.
The are Balfour House, 427 Sixth Ave SW; Chateau Theatre, 15 First St. NW; Hamilton Music Co./Avalon Hotel, 301 N. Broadway Ave.; Plummer Building, 110-15 Second Ave SW; Plummer House, 1091 Plummer Lane; Rochester Armory 121 N. Broadway Ave.; Mitchell Student Center-Mayo Medical School, 226 Second St. SW; Timothy A. Whiting House, 225 First Ave. NW; Toogood Barns, 615 16th St. SW; William J. Mayo House. 701 Fourth St. SW; Stoppel Farmstead, 1195 West Circle Drive SW; Conley Camera Factory/Bleu Duck, 14 Fourth St. SW; and Plummer Caretaker's Cottage, 933 11th St SW.
The commission has also proposed landmark status for the former Olmsted Olmsted Bank and Trust building, 7 Second St. SW, and a proposed downtown historic commercial district, but the city council has not made final decisions on those recommendations.
4. City is creating plans for the site along the Zumbro River
The former Legends building sits on a portion of nearly 2.5 acres of city-owned land that is being considered for redevelopment.
City officials consider the site as part of a larger cultural triangle, which includes the Rochester Public Library, Mayo Civic Center, the city-county Government Center, and the historic shops at Third Street Southeast and Broadway Avenue.
To determine the potential use for the property, which includes the parking lot and public parking ramp north of Legends, the city council will be asked Monday to approve a $195,000 contract with Gamble Associates to conduct community engagement and create a small-area plan showing concepts for possible development.
5. The Rochester City Council has several related decisions ahead
The council is expected to consider the commission’s recommendation for landmark status on Oct. 18.
Even if the site isn’t deemed a landmark, Patterson-Lungren has said city staff is looking at options for short-term preservation, which would make way for the buildings to be considered as part of the small-area plan. The commission voiced support for that as a back-up option Wednesday.
The proposed small-area plan is expected to be presented to the council in June, if the contract is approved Monday.