Owners of 18 of the 30 buildings seen as contributing to a proposed downtown commercial historic district are asking the Rochester City Council to reject the designation.

"None of these properties were on any of the supposed ‘historic’ lists that circulated during the years the (heritage preservation) ordinance was being updated," states a letter signed by the property owners. "The (Heritage Preservation Commission) and others should take this as clear, simple evidence the buildings are not, in fact, historic."

On May 28, the Heritage Preservation Commission voted 6-2 to recommend creation of the proposed district.

The City Council is slated to take up the recommendation during its meeting at 7 p.m. Monday in City Council chambers of the city-county Government Center.

As drawn, the district would include the equivalent of three city blocks, largely sandwiched between Broadway Avenue and First Avenue Southwest. The northern border would include buildings just north of Second Street Southwest, and the southern line would primarily run along Fourth Street Southwest.

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Several of the owners and part owners of the 18 buildings also sent the City Council individual letters citing concerns, frequently addressing potential limitations, increased taxes and loss of property values.

While the proposed designation doesn’t limit what can be done with a property, it does provide an added layer of oversight for exterior changes and potential demolition, which worries some owners.

"I want the right to market my property free of encumbrance, to be able to tell a potential buyer they do not have to worry about jumping through the same historic preservation red tape and intervention others have recently had to deal with," wrote Matt Murphy, part-owner of 307 S. Broadway, which houses Kathy’s Pub and was historically known as the Clausen and Adler Hardware building.

During the May 28 public hearing on the proposed district, some commission members cited what they viewed as confusion about the proposed district, pointing the potential to use it to define buildings that would be eligible for incentives, which could include tax breaks or help for funding restoration projects.

"Once this district is established, we want to work with (property owners) to get incentives and benefits," commission member Barry Skolnick said.

Some owners indicated they would like to see potential benefits, but noted the designation seems premature without incentives. Others indicated they didn’t expect help from the city.

"We haven’t needed the HPC’s opinion over the past 12 years we’ve owned the building; we certainly don’t need it now," wrote Shawn Fagan, owner of 324 S. Broadway that houses Fagan Studios and was once known as C.J. Morrill and Son, Wholesale Grocer. "HPC has never proposed to help us in the past, we don’t need their help now."

Of the property owners that did not sign the letter sent to the City Council, at least one welcomes the creation of the district.

John Kruesel, who owns the former Union National Bank building that now houses his Third Street store and the Half Barrel Bar and Kitchen, spoke during the commission’s May 28 public hearing and said the district is needed to preserve a portion of Rochester’s commercial history, dating back to 1870 as defined by the proposed district.

He said past development has already reduced much of the downtown historic footprint.

"Where we are today hasn’t happened by accident," he said. "It’s been filled with speed bumps after speed bumps after speed bumps, driven by not only (Mayo) Clinic but by the developers here in Rochester because of the incentives that they are given to transform the changing face of downtown Rochester."

In addition to seeing the district as a way to protect buildings, Kruesel also said it’s needed to spur discussion of potential incentives for owners.

On Monday, the City Council will consider whether to designate the commission’s proposed district.

If the council decides not to accept the proposal, it will have options beyond simply rejecting it. Among those options, city staff has cited the possibility of holding another public hearing on the issue or looking at redefining the district boundaries.

The properties considered contributing to the proposed downtown commercial historic district, along with their historic names, are:

• 195 S. Broadway Ave., Dayton’s Department Store

• 307 S. Broadway Ave., Clausen and Adler Hardware

• 309 S. Broadway Ave., F.J. Paine Co.

• 311-313 S. Broadway Ave., F.J. Paine Co./Palace Block

• 315-317 S. Broadway Ave., Bach Music Company

• 318 S. Broadway Ave., A.J. Bjerring Barbershop/Bjerring Hotel

• 319-321 S. Broadway Ave., Baker and Hanson/The Council Saloon

• 320-322 S. Broadway Ave., Rochester Egg and Poultry Co.

• 323 S. Broadway Ave., Black’s Lunch

• 324 S. Broadway Ave., C.J. Morrill and Son, Wholesale Grocer

• 325 S. Broadway Ave., F.A. Poole Building

• 326-328 S. Broadway Ave., Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co.

• 330 S. Broadway Ave., Columbia Hotel

• 400 S. Broadway Ave., Riverside Building

• 202 First Ave. SW, C.F. Massey Co.

• 210 First Ave. SW, Blakeley Building

• 212 First Ave. SW, Rochester Commercial Club Building

• 216 First Ave. SW, Holland’s Food Shop

• 220 First Ave. SW, Stebbins Building

• 224 First Ave. SW, City Hall

• 304 First Ave. SW, William’s Block

• 7 Second St. SW, Olmsted County Bank and Trust Company

• 15-21 Second St. SW, Northwestern National Bank of Rochester

• 23 Second St. SW, I.O.O.F. Lodge #13

• 4 Third St. SW, Union National Bank Building

• 10 Third St. SW, Kennedy Building

• 17 Fourth St. SW, Hotel Francis

Three properties within the district boundaries are listed as non-contributing: 318 First Ave. SW, 324 First Ave. SW and 14 Third St. SW.

Meetings during the week of June 17 include:


• City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the city-county Government Center, 151 Fourth St. SE.

• City Council meeting, 7 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the government center.

• Fire Civil Service Commission, 3:15 p.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall, 201 Fourth St. SE..

• Heritage Preservation Commission, 5 p.m. Tuesday in room 104 of City Hall.

• Library Board, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday in meeting room C of the Rochester Public Library, 101 Second St. SE.

• Committee on Urban Design and Environment, 11:30 a.m. Thursday in room 104 of City Hall.

Olmsted County

• Health, Housing and Human Services Committee, 11 a.m. Tuesday in conference room 4 of the government center.

• Housing and Redevelopment Authority, 1 p.m. Tuesday in conference room 1 of the government center.

• Administrative Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in conference room 4 of the government center.

• Board of County Commissioners, 3 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center.

• Parks Commission, 5 p.m. Tuesday at Chester Woods Park, 8378 Highway 14 East, Eyota

• Environmental Commission, 7:15 p.m. Wednesday in conference room A at 2122 Campus Drive SE.

• Human Rights Commission, 7 p.m. Thursday in conference room 4 of the government center.

• Planning Advisory Commission, 7 p.m. Thursday in the board chambers of the government center.