A year ago, it was the home run development. Turns out, it might have been a foul ball.
The developer of a $257 million riverfront hotel, housing, and retail project envisioned for a spot in downtown Rochester just blocks from the Mayo Clinic terminated its purchase agreement last month for the city-owned land where the development would have risen.
“The approved project isn’t going forward,” at this point, said Terry Spaeth, assistant city administrator.
With no formal agreement for the land at this point, there’s nothing preventing the city from striking a deal with someone else for the prime downtown spot, he said.
The City Council plans to discuss the project, which has been years in the making, at its meeting Monday.
The Bloom Riverfront Towers project promised senior housing, retail, parking, condos, a four-star hotel, public space and a riverfront link for a city that has few of them. Architect renderings showed twin towers of steel and glass perched along the Zumbro River in a dramatic remake of the city’s skyline.
The combination was so appealing to city officials that they granted Abu Dhabi-based Bloom International Realty exclusive negotiating rights in 2015 for the city-owned land where the project would rise.
The city forked over tax incentives worth millions as well, but the problems may have been with things beyond Rochester’s control.
“I think this was not a credible proposal,” said City Council member Michael Wojcik. He said the communications from Bloom were inconsistent; construction was supposed to begin this July but vital feasibility studies were still not completed.
It would have been the largest investment in the city in the time of Destination Medical Center (DMC), the $5.6 billion Mayo project launched in 2013 to remake Rochester, grow the Mayo’s campus, and fuel a new era of health care, research and innovation for the world renowned Mayo Clinic.
The expansion project uses billions of Mayo money and private investment, as well as $545 million in public funds dedicated to infrastructure improvements for the city.
The Mayo expansion has given rise to rapid development of Rochester’s downtown, but the Bloom project stood apart for its size and scope. City Council member Nick Campion last year publicly worried that the project was too much, too fast for Rochester, calling it a microcosm of the pressures and promises of the DMC.
Even R.T. Rybak, the DMC Board chairman, who cheered the Bloom project last year while calling attention to the way it opened up Rochester’s largely ignored riverfront, said last week that it might be time to move on.
“The market in Rochester, and Mayo’s growth there, has surged since the Bloom project was proposed so I’m extremely confident another developer could do something great, or greater, in this prime spot,” he wrote in a statement to the Star Tribune. “Destination Medical Center is working, which means Rochester can negotiate with developers from a position of real strength.”
Wojcik, too, said he doesn’t think Bloom’s exit from Rochester would spell trouble for the DMC. “In terms of every metric you can check with DMC, we’re ahead of the expected pace,” he said.
The city plans to cut ribbons on nine development projects worth some $300 million this year, said Patrick Seeb, director of economic development for the DMC’s Economic Development Authority. The list of grand openings includes a research and business incubator building, a 19-story Hilton Hotel, a six-story residential and retail tower, a parking ramp, the renovation of an historic downtown theater, and more.
“We are in a very strong place,” said Seeb.
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