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Citywalk Apartments proposes expanded footprint by using site of former mayor's boarding house

Planning and Zoning Commission recommend approval after preservation proposal fails to find footing

Citywalk rendering 1.jpg
A rendering of the updated plan for Citywalk Apartments shows a six-story building on the southwest corner of Second Street and Sixth Avenue Southwest.
Provided by city of Rochester
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ROCHESTER – A proposal to enlarge the footprint of a proposed Second Street Southwest apartment building is moving forward after questions about the historic significance of neighboring property failed to gain traction.

Plans for the proposed apartment building, known as Citywalk Apartments, at the corner of Second Street and Sixth Avenue Southwest were approved in January, with seven floors expected to hold a total of 131 apartments.

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The former boarding house built by Martin Heffron sits at 219 Sixth Ave. SW.
Randy Petersen/ Post Bulletin

Thursday, Rochester’s Planning and Zoning Commission provided unanimous support for allowing the plans to change to allow a six-story building with 142 apartments.

The proposed change is made possible by the anticipated sale of a house at 219 Sixth Ave. SW, which is currently owned and operated by Noser Holdings as a 10-unit apartment building.
Britt Noser of Noser Holdings said the building is under contract for sale to the developer, Wayzata-based 988 Rochester LLC, but he has felt conflicted about the sale.

Noser, who purchased the building in 2011 for $315,000, said he resisted the neighboring developer’s first offer and suggested a purchase price he considered beyond the property’s value. The counter proposal was rejected, and Noser said he thought the discussion was over as the seven-story plans moved forward on four lots north of his property.

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When the developer later returned with an offer close to his request, Noser, who has announced his plan to file a mayoral campaign next month, said he agonized over his decision, voicing concerns about recent apartment development squeezing out smaller landlords.

In the end, he said he decided to sign an agreement, based on what was best for his family.

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The proposed sale has not gone without notice.

On Wednesday, Rochester Heritage Preservation Commission Vice Chairman Barry Skolnick proposed placing restrictions on potential demolition of the house to provide time to study the building’s origins.

Former Rochester Mayor Martin Heffron built the house in 1917. Skolnick said he lived in the home and operated it as a boarding house for Mayo Clinic doctors and staff.

“It was one of the few remaining rooming houses for people who came here in the growth of Mayo Clinic,” he said, suggesting its historic use was as important as Heffron’s other roles related to the city’s development.

As a Rochestser contractor when the 19th century gave way to the 20th, Heffron was involved in construction of Saint Marys Hospital, including its chapel, and the Chateau Theater, among other local buildings.

Skolnick said the initial links to Rochester’s history were discovered during recent weeks of study and appeared to be enough to put a pause on potential demolition of the house while more research is conducted.

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While two other Heritage Preservation Commission members agreed, three did not, resulting in a 3-3 tie that ended the effort to add protections to the site.

“If we took everybody who was important and lived in a house, this list could be growing,” commission member Tom Meilander said, referring to the list of properties that require special review before demolition.

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A rendering of the proposed Citywalk Apartments.
Provided by city of Rochester

It is unclear when the site could be prepared for construction.

The developer is listed as owner of three of the four sites needed for the original development plan, but the property that includes the former Just Rite Foods has not been officially transferred, according to Olmsted Property Records.

The next step for the proposed plan change is a Rochester City Council review, which is slated for May 16. That review will include a public hearing for comment regarding the proposed plan changes.


What happened: The Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission voted unanimously to support a request that would allow the developer of the planned Citywalk Apartments to expand its footprint, changing plans for a seven-story building with 131 apartments to plans for a six-story building with 142 apartments.

Why does this matter: The enlarged footprint would be made possible with the purchase and anticipated demolition of a nearby former boarding house that was owned by former Rochester Mayor Martin Heffron, who had a hand in constructing portions of Saint Marys Hospital and the Chateau Theater, among other local buildings.

What's next: The proposed plan change is slated for a Rochester City Council review on May 16. The review will include a public hearing.


Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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