Owners of the former Kmart site in Southeast Rochester are taking the first public steps toward seeking Rochester City Council approval for creating up to 1,400 parking spaces to lease to Mayo Clinic.
A development informational meeting planned for Tuesday comes weeks after Mayo Clinic informed employees it plans to have half the proposed spaces at 201 Ninth St. SE, just east of Broadway Avenue, ready later this month.
Since the plans require city approval, the property owner must hold a meeting to update neighbors of its intentions before being allowed to move forward.
“That’s what this meeting is about,” said Rochester commercial Realtor Merl Groteboer of Re/Max Results, who is representing the property owner, Camegaran LLC of Hastings, which purchased the property for $7 million earlier this year.
The meeting is slated for 6 p.m. Tuesday in the WSB Rochester office at 3701 40th Ave. NW, suite 100.
Rochester City Council Member Mark Bilderback, who represents the ward that includes the Slatterly Park neighborhood, said the meeting’s location is disappointing.
“They should have been able to find someplace in this area,” he said.
Additionally, Caitlin Doran, president of the Slatterly Park Neighborhood Association, said the timing means some neighbors won’t be able to attend due to work schedules.
The association, however, did broaden the reach of the meeting notification, which was only required to be sent to property owners within 350 feet of the Kmart property.
The city also requires notification of the neighborhood association, which then sent notices to other neighbors.
“We wanted to make sure our neighbors knew what was going on and had the ability to attend,” Doran said.
Bilderback and Doran said neighbors have voiced a variety of opinions on the proposed parking lot, but both said the added information expected Tuesday should address some of the rumors circulating around the plan.
Bilderback said he’s recently attended meetings with Groteboer and other property representatives that indicate an altered proposal is in the works.
“There’s been a lot of work on a compromise,” he said.
Details of the original proposal are unclear, since Camegaran and Mayo Clinic representatives did not answer specific questions related to the plan after it was initially revealed.
Mayo Clinic released a statement saying, “With growing employee numbers, Mayo Clinic is continuously looking for ways to accommodate employee parking needs. We believe the Kmart lot, as an existing lot near the downtown area, could be one option to help us meet those needs. We are working with the property owners and with the City of Rochester to hopefully address permitting and zoning issues in order to move forward."
Calls seeking comment from a Camegaran representative, Mike Mattingly, a vice president for Premier Bank, were not returned.
Groteboer confirmed during the weekend that the plan is to create a standard surface parking lot, with the eventual demolition of the Kmart building, which could double available parking.
He said the timeframe for demolition is uncertain.
Bilderback said he’s been told it is being delayed to address asbestos in the building, which could delay demolition to late November or early December.
As it stands, the original timing proposed by Mayo Clinic — having 700 spaces available for Saint Marys Hospital employees this month — appears unlikely without city authorization of a temporary use.
During a City Council meeting last month, Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said the option was being studied, but at least one council member, Patrick Keane, indicated he would oppose early use.
Bilderback said required planning review will include a Rochester Planning and Zoning public hearing, which could happen as early as next month. That could put the issue in front of the City Council in December.
Since council members will need to decide whether the proposal can move forward based on its merits and city policy, they have held back from voicing specific judgments, but some have cited concerns.
“I don’t know how you choke down 1,400 parking spots at Kmart,” Council Member Shaun Palmer said during a recent council meeting.
However, he said the greater concern is how the plan unfolded and was revealed without early discussion with the city.
“I’m big on partnerships, but partnership doesn’t mean I hear things from the back door,” he said during a discussion of parking related to a planned transit circulator to connect a pair of transit hubs.
At the time, Palmer said rumors reported a 15-year lease agreement was in the works, which would extend it beyond the timeframe the city is looking at for its transit hubs. If federal funding is approved with the first application, those parking facilities could open in early 2025.
Bilderback said the length of the proposed lease appears to be part of the ongoing compromise.
“It sounds like it will be 10 (years),” he said, referring to recent discussions with city staff and project representatives.
Doran, who is a Mayo Clinic employee, said she sees both sides of the issue but wants to make sure the neighbors are heard Tuesday and as the process moves forward.
“We want whatever happens to be something that ultimately benefits the neighborhood in some way,” she said, suggesting the need for landscaping if the parking is approved. She also indicated the potential for alternate weekend uses.
The Slatterly Park Neighborhood Association president also said she wants to see the city and property owner to show they are dedicated to a better long-range use for the property, noting a city-approved Imagine Slatterly plan calls for development that could include housing or other needed uses at the site.
“There are possibilities there,” she said.