Review of plans to convert the former Kmart parking lot into a park-and-ride for Saint Marys Hospital employees has been delayed a month.
While a proposal was submitted by the Oct. 16 deadline for a Nov. 13 review by the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission, it didn't include a completed traffic study.
Rochester Community Development Director Cindy Steinhauser said the study is needed before staff can prepare a recommendation for the commission.
“(The developers) need to submit by Nov. 13, which they are on track to do,” she said, noting that would put the issue on the commission’s Dec. 11 agenda.
If the commission makes a recommendation during the Dec. 11 meeting, the Rochester City Council could hold a public hearing on the proposal in January.
Plans submitted by WSB & Associates on behalf of the property owner, Camegaran LLC of Hastings, request a permit to use the site as a private park-and-ride facility for more than 1,400 interim parking spaces, which would be developed in two phases. A permit is required because the proposed use does not conform with existing zoning standards.
According to the project overview submitted to the Rochester Community Development Department, the city would become the leasing agent for the property and lease it to Mayo Clinic. As the property owner, Camegaran would remain responsible for funding improvements.
Asked about the proposed lease arrangement, Steinhauser indicated it is related to the site being within a newly created transit-oriented development zone, also known as TOD, which restricts the creation of park-and-ride facilities and requires them to have a public purpose.
“The TOD district indicates that a publicly designated parking facility be established,” she said. “We are working through how best to meet that requirement.”
As the traffic study is being completed, the project overview provides some details about how the added parking could initially affect local traffic patterns.
“As currently proposed, Mayo employees will begin parking anywhere from 5:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.,” the report states. “It is estimated that the Phase 1 lot will be full by 11 a.m.”
Mayo Clinic buses will take employees from the lot to Saint Marys Hospital in the morning, and the shuttles will be used to return them to the lot starting at 3 p.m, with the highest number of buses expected at approximately 7 p.m., when 12-hour shifts end at the hospital.
The Phase 1 lot is the existing Kmart parking lot, which Camegaran has already paid to repave and stripe for planned use by Mayo Clinic employees. The shuttle buses will use existing access points, entering from Third Avenue Southeast and leaving on Ninth Street Southeast.
The proposed second phase of creating the lot, which would expand it from approximately 750 spaces to 1,454, is expected to start in the spring, after asbestos is removed from the existing building and the structure is demolished.
During an Oct. 15 meeting with neighbors, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton asked whether the parking was required for employee growth at the hospital or because existing parking is being displaced. She requested numbers to show employment changes at Saint Marys and was told they could be provided.
Earlier this week, she said she had not heard from Mayo Clinic regarding employment numbers. A similar Post Bulletin request for the numbers was returned last week with a response that stated: “The employee numbers specific to Saint Marys are not available.”
The closest the project overview comes to providing employee-related numbers is that an estimated 300 to 400 employees end their shifts at approximately 7 p.m.
Additionally, the overview points to recent expansion efforts at the hospital for displacing employee parking to make room for more patients.
“Mayo has experienced a significant increase in patient load and patient visitors parking at the Saint Marys campus,” it states, noting recent construction activity in the area has also displaced on-street parking options for employees.
The project overview also points to the temporary nature of the parking plan, noting a future master plan will be developed for a mixed-use project after the Mayo Clinic lease ends.
“The parking lot layout and landscaping areas are planned for the interim use and not for the final plan of development,” the overview states.
During the Oct. 15 meeting with neighbors, Tim Siegfried, division chairman of facilities for Mayo Clinic, said lease details were in the works, but indicated discussions revolved around a 10-year lease commitment.
While Mayo Clinic declined to make someone available for an interview related to the parking plan, it did offer a statement in reply to written questions regarding the approval process and potential future use of the site.
“The owner of the site is currently working through the city’s regulatory process,” stated the written response sent by Ginger Plumbo of the clinic’s Department of Public Affairs. “We agree that longer term there is likely a higher and better use for this site, but in the short term, parking on this site helps Mayo Clinic meet an immediate parking need for our employees and serves as a bridge to future development.”