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Hotel subway funding decision delayed

A proposed 225-room Holiday Inn development proposal is on hold again after meeting resistance Thursday at the Destination Medical Center Corp. Board. The board considered but did not approve use of special tax-increment financing for the project.

The Rochester City Council on Monday agreed to send a request to the DMCC board, seeking to use enhanced TIF authority allowed by DMC legislation. Larry Brutger, the developer, had proposed to construct a subway connection to Mayo Clinic Hospital Saint Marys Campus and add public parking stalls to an on-site parking ramp.

Brutger and his development team have spent the past four months navigating the city's development process and engaging in discussions with the DMC Economic Development Agency. Brutger has requested $5.6 million in TIF assistance for his $63 million project.

Rochester City Council President Randy Staver said the council still had questions on how the project would mesh with other city plans, including designs for a transit stop in the area and a reconstruction of Second Street Southwest, and whether the subway connection would extend to other buildings in the area.

The project did have merit enough to recommend continuing, Staver said. Brutger asked the council Monday for a clear direction, whether TIF was available or not, to continue his project.


"We are criticized, quite frankly, for perhaps not moving quickly enough on some elements of DMC implementation," Staver told the DMCC board Thursday. "This is a project that is at the threshold, and so we do feel some sense of urgency, or at least a sense of commitment, that we do owe the developer some degree of response."

DMCC board members did not share that sense of urgency.

R.T. Rybak, DMCC board member, questioned how the planned hotel would fit into the DMC plans, including the design guidelines for a DMC sub-district, Saint Marys Place , and how it fit the transportation vision for the area.

To use enhanced TIF authority, the project also should be held to a higher standard for providing public infrastructure — it should be "hugely compelling" — Rybak said.

"This is one project and we shouldn't have extensive conversations about all of these things, but we're going to have to until we clarify a couple of things," Rybak said. "Will this be the catalytic development that moves that forward? I have serious questions."

Ed Hruska, DMCC board member and city council member, advocated strongly to move the project ahead, through an outright approval of TIF authority or by using a conditional approval.

DMCC Board Chairwoman Tina Smith acknowledged the pressure to move ahead, but she too had questions that held her decision back.

"I just don't feel I'm quite sure about how this fits into what our vision is for this particular district," Smith said. "I'm also aware that we can't just wait forever to get the vision all completely filled in in order for projects to go forward."


The board carried a motion to continue its discussion of the TIF request to its next meeting. The next regular meeting is scheduled for March 24, but Rybak said the board would be open to calling a special meeting much sooner. The motion also called for a work group to find answers to the questions that held up its decision.

Hruska was the only board member to oppose the vote.

"If we don't do anything on this, I think we've seen a $65 million project walk away from the city," he said.

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