Days Inn follows winding path to destruction

December 18, 2018

Ron Wightman was considering perspectives Saturday morning as he pointed his camera at the demolition of the 98-year-old Days Inn building, seeking to include the upper levels of new Hilton Hotel on Broadway Avenue in the background.

Next, he headed to the Center Street parking ramp to get a view of the demolition work from above.

“I see both sides on this,” the Rochester Realtor said of the hotel’s sealed fate at the intersection of West Center Street and First Avenue Northwest.

He said he understands the importance of having dedicated historic areas and districts in the city, but he also appreciates the need for new development.

“I’m excited for this project,” he said, noting he changed his weekend plans to be able to document the demolition work.

While he hasn’t heard any indication of what the owner, Mark Kramer of MKDI, LLC, has planned for the site, Wightman said many types of development, from hotels and apartments to retail spaces, are needed for continued growth in downtown Rochester.

“Overall, the city is moving ahead,” he said.

A few blocks to the south, John Kruesel was in his store on Historic Third Street, wondering whether that forward movement was leaving too much behind.

“The fabric and personality of Rochester is changing,” he said, calling the loss of the former Hotel Carlton a “nail in the coffin” for the city’s ability to offer unique lodging options.

“The community is becoming lackluster in what we have to offer to others because of the use of TIF,” he said, referring to tax increment financing used to support private development in the downtown area.

In June, the Rochester City Council voted to preserve a three-year option for MDKI to seek the creation of a TIF district at the site, which could be used to help finance future development.

This morning, nearly half the building had been torn down.

The road to demolition of the building that originally housed the Hotel Carlton came with many twists and turns.

Plans to redevelop the site were originally submitted on Sept. 22, 2016. Those plans would have replaced the existing building with a 16-story multi-use building.

Less than three months later, the city’s Heritage Preservation Commission determined the structure built by Charles Grassle could be considered a heritage preservation site under an existing ordinance.

Public hearings on the issue were scheduled and rescheduled with talk of potentially incorporating a portion of the existing building into the new design. However, Hammes Sports Development eventually withdrew from development plans.

With no further plans in sight, the Rochester City Council initiated the process to consider the former Hotel Carlton as a city landmark, which would have been the first to receive the designation without first being on the National Register of Historic Places.

Approximately nine months later, the Heritage Preservation Commission completed its process and held a public hearing under a revised ordinance, eventually voting 6-4 to recommend the council designate the building as a landmark, which Kramer’s attorney argued would put a burden on the property owner.

In March, the city council voted 5-2 to reject the commission’s recommendation, and two months later MKDI received a demolition permit for the site.

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