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Developer withdraws proposal to demolish downtown hotel

Developer withdraws proposal to demolish downtown hotel

The developer behind a proposed 16-story tower in downtown Rochester has withdrawn its application to demolish the historic structure currently occupying the site.

Bob Dunn, president of Hammes Sports Development, had introduced a proposal last fall to raze the Days Inn hotel building and replace it with a $100 million multi-use development. Plans for the project — labeled Heart of the City North — included 200 hotel rooms and 120 contemporary apartments.

The project, though, ran into a number of obstacles, including concerns over whether the century-old building — formerly known as the Hotel Carlton — should be deemed worth protecting under the city's new historic preservation ordinance. 

Additionally, a request for $12 million public assistance, in the form of tax increment financing, was met with a lukewarm response from the city council. Public hearings on the project were repeatedly postponed at the request of the developer.

In a statement released Friday to the Med City Beat, Dunn said the decision to withdraw the proposal was made "in light of our evolving development activities related to the proposed Heart of the City North project." However, he indicated his company is still interested in coming back to the table with a revised proposal. 

"[We want] to take the time necessary to address some of the feedback that has been received about the Heart of the City North project, including historic preservation and adaptive reuse or renovation of the former Hotel Carlton building," said Dunn.

"We continue to work with the community — including RCVB, the downtown neighborhood group, and others — to consider possible modifications to the program we originally proposed for this site."

While Dunn did not provide any specifics on what kind of modifications could be made to the proposal, as the Post-Bulletin's Jeff Kiger pointed out earlier this month, there are some similarities between this project and one in Madison, Wis. In the case of Madison's historic Edgewater Hotel, Hammes spent $100 million renovating the hotel and building new structures around it.

But it remains unclear whether such a move would be possible with the Rochester hotel. A report released by Hammes in October concluded the building is "obsolete and cannot accommodate a modern, state of the art hotel."

"An assessment of the building’s structure and its mechanical and electrical systems concludes that is not feasible to renovate the existing building," the report stated. 

Reached Friday, neither City Council President Randy Staver or Assistant City Administrator Aaron Reeves could comment further on the status of the project. Both were only recently made aware of Dunn's decision to scrap the existing proposal.

"We haven’t been filled in on any details," said Reeves.

With the demolition permit off the table, the city's Heritage Preservation Commission will likely discuss how the property should be designated under the preservation ordinance. Its next scheduled meeting is Tuesday, April 25.

Hammes Co. has been heavily involved in Rochester's Destination Medical Center efforts since the very formation of the initiative, most recently assisting Mayo Clinic with its planning efforts for Discovery Square. The company was also commissioned by the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau to study the feasibility of building a new sports arena in downtown Rochester.

Related: Adam Ferrari: A missed opportunity for placemaking

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Cover photo: File / Med City Beat

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