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History buff? Tour Conley-Maass building tonight

From wool to Words One of the oldest remaining commercial structures in the city is what we call the Conley Building at 12-14 4th Street SW. Actually Conley Camera was the second occupant (a woolen mill the first) and only occupied the space from 1904 to 1909. Maass & McAndrew Plumbing and Heating, on the other hand, operated from this site from 1910 to 1955. By all rights we should know it as the Maass McAndrew Building. It was subsequently home to Bob's Liquor, the Eagles, VFW, Waters Conley, City Loan & Finance, Salvation Army, Moose Lodge, Reichert's Appliance, Troy's Billiard Supply, Rochester Ballet School and Masque Theatre. Today, Word Players Theater and Just for Kix occupy this historic space. Next week: Fine foods since 1913

History will meet innovation in one of Rochester's oldest and most historic buildings, the Conley-Maass Building, if the vision of property owners Hunter and Traci Downs comes together.

The Downses and their project team plan to host an open house Friday evening from 5 to 7 p.m., free and open to the public, to display the building in its current condition and to show plans for the unique project in store.

Local architect Adam Ferrari of plans to lead a tour at 6 p.m., followed by a second tour around 7 p.m. led by Jane Bisel, of Blue Planet Museum Consulting.

"It's a great opportunity to see a piece of our rather unknown and unique Rochester history," said Steve Williams, a principal with Blue Planet Museum Consulting.

The Conley-Maass Building, at 12 and 14 Fourth Street Southwest, has a 115-year history filled with some of Rochester's most recognizable names. The history of the building unfolded during the application process to include the building on the National Register of Historic Places.


The Downses and a team of preservationists, engineers and builders hope to elevate the Conley-Maass Building to a new recognition: they have applied for state and federal historic tax credits to pursue an estimated $2.69 million rehabilitation and renovation of the building.

A three-part application process is required to receive the tax credits, which could provide 20 percent federal and 20 percent Minnesota tax credits. The project team already received Part 1 approval in the process and has submitted its Part 2 application.

The Conley-Maass Building is the first in Rochester to move past the Part 1 application process for historic tax credits.

The property owners hope to reignite the building's history of hosting innovative spaces. The renovation plan calls for open office spaces, suited to creative business and technology firms.

The U.S. Department of Interior and National Park Service are expected to hand down a decision on the building's inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places by next May.

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