Vision for renovation of city parking lots and ramp, along with former Legends site, set for review

Small-area plan proposes mix of public and private development on city-owned land east and west of the city-county Government Center, along the Zumbro River.

The former Legends Bar & Grill location along the Zumbro River in downtown Rochester. Photo taken Jan. 20, 2021. (Andrew Link /
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ROCHESTER — A vision for a combined 5.5 acres of city-owned land east and west of the city-county Government Center faces its final public comment Monday before a potential Rochester City Council decision.

“The vision sort of imagines a priceless opportunity to recast the image of your downtown,” David Gamble of Boston-based Gamble Associates told the Rochester Planning and Zoning Commission last month.

The commission recommended approval of the plan spearheaded by Gamble’s urban design consulting firm, with acknowledgment that the plan seeks to activate areas that are currently dominated by parking lots and the Second Street parking ramp.

The proposed riverfront small-area plan includes concepts for private development and the creation of public space west of the Zumbro River, between Second and Fourth streets, as well as potential development of the city-owned parking lot and space shared with Olmsted County on east of the Government Center.

Gamble said approximately 90% of the 5.5 acres is covered with impervious surfaces, including buildings and paved areas, but the plan points to the potential to create natural spaces that will help attract people.


The vision west of the Government Center calls for modifying the Zumbro River channel to create a terraced public space, as well as extending Third Street Southeast into the area to accommodate commercial uses.

The former Legends Bar and Grill site, which originally housed the Time Theatre and a Red Owl grocery store, could be repurposed for market space and lead into an outdoor theater and sunken garden where a city parking lot now exists..

On the site east of the Government Center, which sits across the river from the Mayo Civic Center, the proposed vision calls for public green space and a potential kayak launch along the river, as well as the potential for developing private housing and commercial spaces along Fourth Street Southeast.

The plan, which was created with input from a variety of community events, as well as meetings with a core group of community members tasked with reaching out to others, is not the final word on how the area will be developed.

Riverfront site plan.jpg
A portion of the small-area plan for city-owned property east and west of the city-county Government Center shows potential uses for space that is now dominated by parking lots and a city parking ramp.
City of Rochester

The small-area plan is intended to become part of the city’s comprehensive plan, with the goal of providing guidance on what could be done with the 5.5 acres. Added studies and official approvals would be required before most of the proposals could move forward.

Additionally, some of the work, such as the creation of housing and commercial spaces, would require involvement of private developers willing to invest in the city’s vision for the area.

If the small-area plan is approved Monday, the proposed next steps will include working with the Rochester Downtown Alliance to consider potential interim uses for the space west of the Government Center, working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on plans for potential changes to the flood wall, starting added study of the former Red Owl and Time Theatre site, working with county officials regarding potential uses and needs for shared property east of the Government Center.

The City Council’s review of the proposal, along with a public hearing, will be part of its regular meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the Government Center.


The Zumbro River winds through downtown Rochester on Thursday, Sept. 30, 2021. The proposed small area plan includes potential development on city-owned land near the river, across from Mayo Civic Center.
Post Bulletin file photo

Upcoming meetings

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of July 18 include:


  • City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday In council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE. The meeting will livestream at and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
  • City Council, 7 p.m. Monday in council chambers of the Government Center. The meeting will livestream at and be available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.
  • Library Board, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in meeting room C of the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.

Olmsted County

  • Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 11 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 for the city-county Government Center.
  • Physical Development Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 for the city-county Government Center.
  • Board of County Commissioners, 3 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the Government Center.

Rochester Public Schools

  • School Board study session, 5 p.m. Tuesday in the boardroom of the Edison Building, 615 Seventh St. SW.
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
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