Zumbro River

The Zumbro River through downtown Rochester on Friday, March 10, 2017.

The next steps following a failed proposal to build a pair of towers along the Zumbro River could be taken Monday.

The Rochester City Council is expected to start the process of asking developers and others for potential uses and partnerships for 2.5 acres of city-owned land that sits along the west side of the Zumbro River opposite the city-county Government Center, between Second and Fourth streets.

The bulk of the land was slated to be developed by Bloom International Realty until the company backed out of approved plans late last year.

“At that time, we took it as an opportunity to maybe utilize that space for what the community and city deem as priorities,” said Josh Johnsen, the city’s project manager for the Riverfront Re-Imagined effort.

Bloom had held City Council-approved exclusive negotiating rights for most of the property since 2015.

The city plans to start actively soliciting submissions detailing concepts, partnerships and development options for the site Tuesday, if the City Council supports the plan during its 3:30 p.m. work session Monday.

Ideas will be gathered through Jan. 30, with plans to use the information to develop a proposal early next year. A final plan for the project could be in place by the end of 2020.

Where the Bloom project called for a mix of senior housing, hotel rooms and condos, amid parking and retail space, Johnson and Assistant City Administrator Aaron Parrish recently told the Rochester Public Library Board that nothing is ruled out at this point.

That could mean relocating the library, which has been a target for potential expansion in recent years.

In the city’s document seeking development concepts, the library is seen as a potential asset for a future business partner, noting approximately 500,000 community members and visitors visit the site, and its bookmobile, each year.

It also notes the current site could become part of a bigger package.

“The City Council and Library Board would consider leveraging the existing library site to facilitate a (public-private partnership) development framework, or using the site as equity for potential integration within the Riverfront Re-Imagined development,” it states.

Johnsen estimates the land currently occupied by the library would be valued at approximately $4.4 million.

“It’s just another asset we could potentially bring to the table,” he said.

Other benefits developers could potentially tap into by working with the city as partners for developing the riverfront site include eligibility for tax-increment financing and cost sharing with the city or other entities.

The city also indicates potential partnerships with University of Minnesota Rochester and the Rochester YMCA could be part of a plan.

While the city is outlining its potential priorities for developers, Johnsen said a key part of the process calls for giving developers enough room to produce creative proposals without needing to pander to specific city requests.

“We want to actually get their feedback on how they see the development,” he said, noting the goal is to develop a project that meets public needs of the city, as well as private interests of a potential developer.

Parrish said a potential development agreement could unfold in various ways, which might include selling a portion or all of the city land.

“We’re open to all different options for partnership,” he said.

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