Long-delayed demolition clears way for Rochester hotel
Jeff Kiger | Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn. | January 2, 2017 3:16pm
Dec. 29--After years on death row, the ax finally fell on the three empty buildings on the downtown corner of Broadway and Center Street.
On Wednesday, demolition crews tore into the buildings that last housed CJ's Midtown Lounge, Jackobson Management and Ginny's Fine Fabrics. The buildings have been empty and awaiting demolition, since 2014.
They are being knocked down to make for a 19-story, 264-room Hilton hotel with restaurant and retail space.
That development, previously called Broadway at Center, is being driven by Rochester's Titan Development & Investments and Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, of Chicago. On Friday, the developers issued a statement saying that the project had been scaled down from a 23-story tower after four floors of apartments were cut from the plans.
First proposed in 2013, the Broadway struggled to find financing. Friday's announcement stated that the financing was finalized and that construction would begin before the first of the year.
That statement became reality on Wednesday morning to the delight of many people who have been waiting for this project to start.
"This is a welcome demolition for us," said Brad Jones, the executive director of the Rochester Convention & Visitors Bureau. "If this could have happened earlier, it would have been great. But we're glad it's happening now."
Jones sees the new Hilton hotel as filling a need in downtown. He said despite the influx of many new hotels on the edges of Rochester, Mayo Clinic patients and convention goers at the Mayo Civic Center are hungry for more hotels rooms downtown.
"That's what people want. That's what is in demand," Jones said.
This proposed hotel is expected to be connected to downtown's famous skyway system as well as featuring 7,000-square-feet of restaurant space and 15,000-square-feet of retail.
Many of the hotels built in the last two to three years are limited service hotels. That means they do not include a restaurant, bar or many other amenities. The proposed Hilton is described as a full-service hotel. Jones has long advocated that Rochester needs more full-service hotels to balance the growing number of limited service ones.
"I warned them (the city council) that we couldn't over develop any hotel sector. We need to develop what people want in downtown," Jones said.
Skyway connection and restaurant services mean the proposed Hilton will fit the description of what many convention groups look for when shopping for a place to host their events.
The growing number of hotel rooms in Rochester has not slowed the growth of hotel occupancy, which Jones said is still on the rise of 3 percent to 4 percent. That means addition rooms have "absorbed" the demand, which continues to grow, he said.
This new Hilton, which will probably open in late 2017 or early 2018, could be the first of a new downtown hotel boom. Jones pointed to other proposed projects like the Bloom Properties' waterfront development and Hammes' Days Inn development as examples of what Rochester can expect in coming years.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said. "I expect we'll see 600 to 700 new hotel rooms (including the Hilton) in downtown in the next two or three years."
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