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Answer Man: Whether 19 or 20 stories, Hilton will improve skyline

December 22, 2017 GMT

Dear Answer Man, you had an item on architects the other day and I’ve been meaning to ask, who gets credit for the design of the new Hilton hotel going up at Broadway and Center -- is it a local firm?

I watch that project intently every day since it complicates life for my autograph seekers, who have to try to find a parking spot in the Civic Center ramp and walk to the Post Bulletin’s world headquarters, rather than parking right out front.

Hammel Green & Abrahamson, better known as HGA, gets the credit for the Hilton going up at East Center Street and South Broadway, and they have offices all over, including the one in Rochester headed by Hal Henderson. The people involved are principal in charge Henderson, designer Victor Pechaty, project manager Roger Nelson, project architect Greg Freeman, and interior designers Kristine Sallee and Maren Brueske.

According to the HGA fact sheet, it’ll be a 20-story building. More often, it’s referred to as a 19-story building, and I checked that with Hal -- he says the developer, Rochester’s Titan Development & Investments and Harbor Bay Real Estate Advisors, refers to it as 19 stories by omitting the 13th story, as some building owners do. But the building will have a “mechanical penthouse,” which essentially is one story, as well as one below-grade level, so Hal says they’re calling it 20.

I happen to know quite a bit about good architecture, and in my humble but informed opinion, based on the drawings and what’s already been built, I believe it could be the most attractive and stylish high-rise building in downtown Rochester since the Plummer Building. Yes, a bold assertion -- the Plummer Building is 90 years old -- and yes, the Gonda Building is impressive, was designed by Cesar Pelli and has its merits, mostly in how it connects to the more humdrum Mayo Building.

But it’s safe to say the new Hilton, which is planned for completion about a year from now, will at minimum add a touch of elegance and luxe to the Queen City skyline.

Dear Answer Man, the Star Tribune had a story Wednesday that said this about Rochester’s beloved Destination Medical Center: The project “includes about $585 million in public support, making it the state’s largest economic development project. Mayo officials have said the expanded hospital will raise $2 billion or more in additional tax revenue.”

I have never heard that figure before. Is it accurate? -- JF

That second sentence is as messed up as Santa’s workshop on Christmas Eve.

First of all, DMC is about a lot more than an “expanded hospital” -- note to Star Tribune: Mayo has more than one -- but regarding “additional tax revenue,” I’ve never heard a reference to a windfall of $2 billion. I checked with Lisa Clarke, who knows more about DMC than anyone (not counting me, arguably), and she said she’s unfamiliar with that alleged tax figure.

Maybe that $2 billion is meant to refer to the new investment Mayo is planning in Rochester over the next 20 years.