Proposed developments see mixed response

January 11, 2019
AT RIGHT: Civic on First is a planned eight-story hotel building on the former American Legion site at the intersection of First Avenue Northwest and Civic Center Drive.

Two projects on First Avenue west of Broadway Avenue resulted in differing recommendations Wednesday as they head toward final review.

Rochester’s Planning and Zoning Commission gave a nod to a proposed 172-room hotel on the former American Legion Post 92 site, but a proposed 50-unit apartment building eight blocks south failed to get a recommendation.

Both projects will advance to public hearings at the Feb. 4 Rochester City Council meeting.


The commission gave unanimous support to a recommendation for approval of the $35 million hotel planned at the intersection of First Avenue Northwest and Civic Center Drive.

The proposed eight-story hotel being developed by EKN Development Group of Newport Beach, Calif., is expected to carry the Hyatt House brand. It will also include a retail space on the ground floor along First Avenue.

“I’m very excited to support this project with a few extra conditions and modifications,” Commissioner Lindsey Meek said.

The added conditions included calling for alterations at the curb to provide added pedestrian space, ensuring windows would be clear and calling for raised planters for boulevard trees.

Additionally, planning staff recommended revisions to meet specific city requirements, as well as adding a deadline for the eventual removal of a planned digital billboard that will be in place on the west side of the building to fulfill an existing contract.


An electrical transformer offered a barrier Planning and Zoning Commission members couldn’t overcome at the proposed apartment building on the northeast corner of First Avenue Southwest and Fourth Street.

The transformer is proposed to be placed in a driveway located in the alley on the east side of the property, the former home of Gallery 24/The Creative Salon.

Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department senior planner Greg Johnson said the location fails to provide space for two-way traffic to enter and leave the lower parking garage, which includes 18 of the 27 spaces planned for the development proposed by 324 Partners, LLC, which includes developer Mike Zirbes of North Rock Real Estate.

While Johnson’s report recommended postponing a decision, to allow developers a chance to address concerns regarding the transformer, commissioners indicated a letter from Zirbes indicated changes were unlikely with a delay.

“I have a hard time just shutting this down,” Commissioner Tyler Despins said. “It’s such a great project.”

Mark Engel, current planning supervisor, said the project could advance for Rochester City Council consideration with a vote based on the existing plan, even if the recommendation is to deny approval.

“It doesn’t stop the project,” he said.

In the end, commissioners voted 7-1 to recommend the council deny the project as proposed, with Despins opposing the recommendation.

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