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No plans yet for old Lourdes school

Rochester council told no specific plans are in place, but discussions of potential reuse of original building continue.

Lourdes High School (copy)
The former Lourdes High School on West Center Street was built in 1941. It was added onto in 1958 and 1987. Lourdes moved into a new building on 19th Street Northwest in 2013. The old building is now owned by Mayo Clinic.
Post Bulletin file photo

ROCHESTER — The fate of the former Lourdes High School became a repeated topic Wednesday night as the Rochester City Council moved toward unanimous approval of Mayo Clinic’s latest five-year plan.

“Mayo Clinic purchased this property in 2013 with the intention of redeveloping the two-block site to accommodate Mayo‘s growth,” Randy Schubring, Mayo Clinic’s director of regional government engagement, told the council of the building at 621 W. Center St. “No decisions have been made regarding the future of this site.”

Mayo Clinic’s five-year plan lists “development of former Lourdes High School site for support activities” among 82 other potential projects.

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Tim Siegfried, Mayo Clinic’s division chairman of facilities, has repeatedly pointed out the projects in the report are in varying degrees of preparation and many could be delayed at least another five years.

The Mayo Clinic plan, which the city requires be updated every five years, offers a glimpse of what could be developed on the Mayo campuses.

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Questions regarding the Lourdes site were initially raised by Rochester business owner John Kruesel during the council’s open-comment period, but council members also returned to the topic.

Sections of the former high school were deemed potentially historic by the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission in early 2019. The original 1941 building, as well as a 1958 addition, are listed by the city as potential landmarks .

At the time, Mayo Clinic officials argued the 1958 addition, along with an addition from the 1980s, didn’t warrant the designation.

On Wednesday, Schubring said Mayo Clinic discussions regarding the property include finding potential reuse of existing elements of the original school building.

Council member Shaun Palmer raised questions regarding the condition of the empty building, citing rumors that it is no longer heated.

“I don’t know if it’s completely off,” Siegfried said of the heat. “I know it has been turned down. … There are utilities still servicing the building, and I know security does its rounds, as well.”

He said damage from a broken water main at the site was addressed, but the gymnasium floors that were damaged had to be removed.

“It was a pretty extensive effort,” he said of work to deter mold from developing.

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While specific plans for the site were not stated, Mayo Clinic’s presentation Wednesday did highlight projects that are underway with expected completion in sight.

Melanie Baumhover, a principal with BWBR, the St. Paul-based architectural firm that helped prepare the report, said a tunnel to connect the planned Jacobson Building proton-beam expansion to a new loading dock near Methodist Hospital should be completed in November.

The Kellen Building, the 11-story research facility being constructed at the intersection of Third Street Southwest and Fourth Avenue Southwest, is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.

03 Discovery Square Parking Ramp
Construction continues on the Discovery Square parking ramp in downtown Rochester on Wednesday, Dec. 29, 2021.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Also already under construction is a 10-story parking ramp west of Discovery Square. With 1,188 parking stalls and retail space on the ground floor, it is expected to be done this year.

In other business the council:

  • Approved a preliminary plat for Preserve at West Circle, which will include 118 single-family rental homes in Northwest Rochester, near the intersection of Jordyn Road and 19th Street Northwest.
  • Approved changes to the city’s Residential Development Fee Reimbursement Pilot Program to shift the program from a fee waiver to a fee reimbursement program, cap the maximum reimbursement at $20,000 per unit, remove income qualifying requirements and add newly constructed owner-occupied homes valued at $350,000 or less to the eligible properties list.
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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