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Fifth on Fifth development gets council OK

Fifth on Fifth
Fifth on Fifth apartment project

After a two-hour public hearing on Rochester developer Mac Hamilton's Fifth on Fifth apartment project, the city council voted 4-3 to approve it, but only if the city attorney concludes the proposal meets Rochester's criteria for a restricted development.

Hamilton is proposing to build a three-story, 39-unit apartment building with underground parking in the southwest corner of Fifth Street Southwest and Fifth Avenue. It's a scaled-back project compared to the developer's initial five-story, 52-unit proposal last year, which was strongly opposed by the neighborhood. Hamilton had requested a zoning change from low- to high-density residential, which was denied by both the City Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council.

This time, he is seeking a conditional-use permit for a "restricted development," which developers can pursue when they have creative or innovative land-use proposals that don't fit with the zoning for their sites.

Hamilton also is seeking approval for smaller setbacks than normally would be allowed by the zoning ordinance. The Planning and Zoning Commission recommended the City Council approve his conditional use permit, with 14 conditions, and setback modifications.

Public debate


Before the council's vote, many people spoke against the development. All said the apartment building would not be compatible with the neighborhood because it would sit adjacent to single-family homes. Several residents said they are not opposed to an apartment building on the site but just believe Hamilton's proposal is too big and out of character with the rest of the block.

"If he comes back to us and is willing to work on the density, we're willing to work with him," said Wayne Norrie of the Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association.

Hamilton's site, which used to hold a single-family home and a house that had been converted to a six-plex, was surrounded by controversy last year, not only because of his 52-unit apartment proposal but also because many people considered the now-razed six-plex to be an important historic property.

Downtown Master Plan

Hamilton and city planning staff contend that, according to Rochester's Downtown Master Plan, the site is located in a transition area, where the downtown and Mayo Clinic's campus abuts a mix of single-family homes and small apartment buildings.

"We envision Fifth on Fifth to be a dignified buffer," Hamilton said, pointing out that, depending on which direction one looks from his site, he or she might see single-family homes, apartment buildings, a church or commercial property.

Hamilton and his team of designers presented a long list of architectural features and amenities that are meant to address neighbors' concerns that the building have a residential appearance. It includes a courtyard, ground floor patios with short brick walls and gates, and terraces and balconies for the upper floors.

In the end, council members Mark Bilderback, Ed Hruska and Bruce Snyder voted against the proposal, while Sandra Means, Bob Nowicki, Randy Staver and Michael Wojcik voted for it.


However, the approval is based upon the council's review of City Attorney Terry Adkins' draft findings, which he plans to present to the council at its next regular meeting Sept. 4. An attorney hired by the Historic Southwest Neighborhood Association sent two letters to the city council claiming it cannot approve Hamilton's proposal because it violates the city's restricted development ordinance.

Adkins said Monday he believes the Fifth on Fifth proposal meets the criteria of a restricted development.

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