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New life for historic Rochester building

The Conley-Maass-Downs Building on 4th Street SW in downtown Rochester is set to be redeveloped into a restaurant and offices.

The story of one of Rochester's most historic buildings is soon to open a new chapter: the Rochester City Council approved a funding agreement with the owners of the Conley-Maass Building that will allow a restoration of the 115-year-old property.

The council voted Monday night to establish an economic development district and tax-increment financing district for the building at 14 Fourth Street SW, and to enter a development assistance agreement that provides up to $400,000 in funding to the project.

Traci Downs , who with her husband Hunter Downs purchased the building in June, was ecstatic to finalize the agreement.

"This is one of those projects which has been just a group effort of wonderful people coming together to save a historic building, and not just for the sake of saving it but taking and creating a sense of place and development in downtown Rochester," Downs said.

"We've had such overwhelming support, and it's been really gratifying and exciting."


Council Member Michael Wojcik spoke highly of the project and the building owners. Wojcik has asked for higher standards for the city's tax-increment financing in the past, but in this instance, he found fair value in the renovation.

"The community has spoken pretty loud and clear saying a lot of these historic structures in the downtown, we do value them," Wojcik said. "I think this has been a fantastic partnership with some really outstanding entrepreneurs."

The $3 million restoration project will rehabilitate the blighted building, Downs said, and create spaces for a restaurant, offices and co-working space.

"We have an exciting lineup of tenants that are going in," Downs said. "It's turning this building, which was kind of slated for tear down, and is going to be turning it into one of the gems of downtown."

The development assistance agreement provides for up to $400,000 or 15 years of tax increments, whichever comes first, at a 3 percent interest rate. The increments will be reimbursed to the developers over the life of the district, which starts Aug. 1, 2018.

The owners have submitted the Conley-Maass Building to be included on the National Register of Historic Places and would seek historic preservation tax credits, as well, Downs said.

The project will not receive financial assistance from the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency, according to City Council President Randy Staver.

"I was a little puzzled and a little disappointed, I should say, that the DMC EDA supports the project but will not be recommending it for consideration as part of the DMC development plan," Staver said.


"This seemed like a great opportunity to support the preservation aspect of what we're trying to retain as part of the overall DMC vision."

Work on the restoration project is anticipated to begin this month and continue over the next year.

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