Downtown historic district proposal remains in limbo
Rochester council not ready to discuss 2019 proposal made by city's Heritage Preservation Commission
ROCHESTER — A decision on creating a proposed downtown historic district remains on hold.
The Rochester City Council opted to not revisit the Heritage Preservation Commission’s proposal during its last meeting, which makes it unclear when further discussion will occur.
“My individual perspective is that the historic district deserves discussion and a decision after years of consideration, but the timing was not right last night,” Council President Brooke Carlson said after the council decided to keep the issue on hold during its March 20 meeting.
She said she looks to Rochester Downtown Alliance discussions and further staff input to better understand what supports are desired by affected property owners and how that could impact the city’s taxpayers.
The proposed district would include approximately three city blocks, largely sandwiched between Broadway Avenue and First Avenue Southwest. The northern border would include buildings just north of Second Street Southwest, and the southern line would primarily run along Fourth Street Southwest.
A single property south of Fourth Street Southwest — the Riverside Building at 400. S Broadway Ave. — would be included in the district.
Buildings considered contributing to the district were identified based on their use during specific periods of downtown development, which ranged between 1870 and 1962. Most of the buildings were built in a 50-year period starting in the 1870s.
Like Carlson, other council members pointed to the need for more information and discussion on the topic before a decision can be made.
Council member Norman Wahl said he also wants more information regarding the financial impacts of designating a district
“It didn't appear to me that the council members felt ready to remove the item from the table,” he said of the council’s 2019 decision to put the issue on hold with staff directed to work on outlining existing incentives and gathering property owner input.
That information was provided to the council during a Feb. 13, 2023, study session .
Council member Kelly Rae Kirkpatrick, whose ward includes a portion of the proposed district, said council members appear to having differing opinions on the issue and more discussion is needed to define options
Molly Patterson-Lungren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator, said those discussions will require the council to formally take the issue “off the table.”
“They brought up some issues, and we have answers for them,” she said, adding that any additional staff work will likely require formal direction from the council once it reopens discussion of the district.
Taking the issue “off the table” doesn’t require a final decision and can be used to raise addition questions to staff or provide new instructions before a decision is made.
John Kruesel, an owner of one of the properties in the district, urged the council to take action during the March 20 council meeting, citing the need for “real and affordable” incentives for owners of historic properties that face higher property taxes due to increased downtown development in recent years.
The Heritage Preservation Commission, which has canceled its March meeting, has routinely discussed the proposed district since making its recommendation to the council in 2019, but does not have the ability to take further action at this point.
Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of March 27 include:
- Public Utility Board, 4 p.m. Tuesday in the Rochester Public Utilities community room, 4000 East River Road NE.
- New commissioner introduction to Environmental Resources, 4 p.m. Tuesday, 2100 Campus Drive SE.