Vision for former Kmart, AMPI sites, and nearby area, set for hearing Monday

Randy Petersen, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.
·5 min read

Apr. 17—A vision for 61 acres, dubbed the "Downtown Waterfront SE" area, will be up for review Monday.

The Rochester City Council will review a small-area plan for the area, which includes the former Kmart and AMPI sites, as well as property north to Fourth Street Southeast.

"A small-area plan is a strategy for preserving or improving a specific area," Ryan Yetzer, the city's interim deputy director of development and construction services, said during a March 24 Planning and Zoning Commission review of the plan.

The council's review will include the plan's second public hearing, with residents able to weigh in before council members decide whether to support the vision. The online public hearing will be part of the council's 6 p.m. Monday meeting and access information is available in the council agenda posted at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas.

The approval of the small-area plan doesn't necessarily mean everything envisioned will become a reality. It doesn't commit the city to purchase property or start development on projects shown in the plan.

The plan is intended to help guide future policy-making and infrastructure decisions by addressing issues that include land-use and zoning, transportation and housing needs, and potential aesthetics of the district.

The proposed waterfront plan started with community debate over plans to temporarily use the former Kmart site for commuter parking, which sparked concerns related to the eventual redevelopment of the site. From those discussions came a proposal to create a long-term vision for the area.

A project committee was formed with city officials, property owners, neighborhood residents and Destination Medical Center officials to determine what would be considered the best uses for the property.

With the plan in the works, Camegaran LLC, which owned the Kmart site, opted to purchase the AMPI site, giving the company control of approximately 25 acres in the area, which is bordered by Broadway and Third avenues, Fourth Street Southeast and 9 1/2 Street Southeast.

"It is a concept plan, and it is chock full of good ideas," Camegaran President Pat Regan told the planning and zoning commission.

"Our attraction to this site is greatly enhanced by the fact that we are next to the Zumbro River, and our vision is to activate and get next to the river with our people who live here and come here to visit the site," he added.

Yetzer said the property purchases, along with other changes in the area, make it an ideal time to review the potential for economic development there and how potential development will mix with existing neighborhoods.

"Currently, the site is a stark campus composed of a lot of concrete and hardscape," he said, "The current site serves as a major barrier to connect to the surrounding areas and has virtually no riverfront access."

The vision calls for creating a mixed-use urban district that could include a variety of housing options, business and public spaces along the Zumbro River.

Part of that includes the potential for creating cross streets through the area, with small roundabouts to limit traffic speeds, as well as a new bridge to cross the Zumbro River near the intersection of Sixth Street and Broadway Avenue.

The 20-year vision also points to the potential creation of 1,500 housing units with half defined as affordable and half at market rate, 140 hotel rooms, 70,000 to 100,000 square feet of retail space and 50,000 to 70,000 square feet of office space.

"We see the potential for this area to be a destination, but also serve the nearby neighborhoods," said Jay Demma, senior planner for Perkins and Will, which served as a consultant for the plan.

The $90,000 contract with the national firm to oversee the nine-month effort was covered by the city, DMC Economic Development Agency, Mayo Clinic and Camegaron.

The public hearing on the plan is the fifth of nine hearings on the council's Monday agenda. Topics of other hearings include a proposed business subsidy for Crenlo Engineered Cabs and proposed plans for a multi-use path north and east of Crossroads Shopping Center.

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UPCOMING MEETINGS

Meetings scheduled to be held during the week of April 19 include:

Rochester

—City Council study session, 3:30 p.m. Monday. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

—City Council, 6 p.m. Monday. The meeting will livestream at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas and available on Spectrum cable channel 180 or 188 and Metronet channel 80.

—Park Board study session, 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. Dial-in information for listening to the meeting live can be requested by emailing parknrec@rochestermn.gov. Video will be posted online following the meeting.

—Library Board, 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Video of the meeting will be posted online at www.rochestermn.gov/agendas the following day.

Olmsted County

—Health, Housing and Human Services committee, 11 a.m. Tuesday.

—Housing and Redevelopment Authority, 1 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meeting will be livestreamed at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

—Administrative Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center.

—Physical Development Committee, 2 p.m. Tuesday in conference room 2 of the government center.

—Board of County Commissioners, 3 p.m. Tuesday in the board chambers of the government center. The meeting livestream is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

—Parks Commission, 5 p.m. Tuesday. Information for connecting to the online meeting is posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/

—Environmental Commission, 7:15 p.m. Wednesday. Information for connecting to the online meeting will be posted at http://olmstedcountymn.iqm2.com/