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Potential landmark status for Unitarian Universalist Church building challenged

Rochester church wants flexibility as it considers options to meet future church needs.

Unitarian Universalist church.JPG
The First Unitarian Universalist Church is located at at 1727 Walden Lane SW in Rochester.
Contributed / City of Rochester
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ROCHESTER — A request to remove the First Unitarian Universalist Church from a list of potential city landmarks will be the subject of a public hearing Tuesday.

The city’s Heritage Preservation Commission will hear reasons for the requested change in status for the building at 1727 Walden Lane SW during its regular meeting at 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers of the city-county Government Center.

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The 1966 building was designed by nationally known architect Victor Christ-Janer, who contributed to the modernist movement.

His participation in the construction, as well as the unique use of masonry tiles on the exterior walls, are cited as potential reasons for listing the building as a landmark, which comes with added city oversight of potential changes to the exterior of a building.

However, Church President Ann Hutton stated in a letter to the commission that a $1 million renovation in 1999 has already modified the exterior of the building. She also pointed out that some of the design intended by Christ-Janer was modified during the original construction due to rock in the subsoil at the site.

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She said the congregation would like to have some flexibility as it considers a potential move or additional renovations to meet church needs.

“Our congregation has not yet chosen whether to remain on this property, but a rigorous process of discernment has been underway since 2018 in collaboration with the Unitarian Universalist Association and local architects,” she wrote, adding that a congregational vote is expected this year.

Molly Patterson-Lungren, the city’s heritage preservation and urban design coordinator, is recommending the church remain on the city’s list of potential landmarks to allow more study into the building’s potential historic significance.

The commission will be asked to make a decision regarding the status after Tuesday’s public hearing, with the option of deciding the building does not warrant landmark designation.



Upcoming meetings

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of May 23 include:

Rochester 

  • City Council special learning session, 3:30 p.m. Monday in suite 102 of the Mayo Civic Center, 30 Civic Center Drive SE.
  • Heritage Preservation Commission, 5 p.m. Tuesday in council chambers of the Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.
  • Outside Agency Oversight Committee, 2 p.m. Wednesday in room 104 of City Hall.
  • Police Civil Service Commission, 3 p.m. Thursday in room 164B of the Development Services and Infrastructure Center.

Olmsted County

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  • Olmsted-Wabasha Lake Zumbro Joint Powers Board, 2 p.m. Monday in board chambers of the Government Center.
  • Rochester-Olmsted Council of Governments, noon Wednesday in conference room A at 2122 Campus Drive SE in Rochester.
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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