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Council OKs next step in North Station renovation

February 23, 2019

The Rochester City Council said it wants a clearer picture before moving too far with renovating the city’s current North Police Station.

The plans call for expanding the space in the the former Think Bank, at 4001 West River Parkway, include creating a one-stop shop for development needs, including offices planned for the city’s Community Development, Building Safety and Public Works departments.

Council members, however, raised questions Wednesday about whether the current proposal provides an efficient use of space.

“I’m not completely clear about the vision for the whole building,” Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said, noting the plans have evolved since the building was purchased for $3.2 million in 2016.

Questions about space allocations were raised by others on the council as city staff sought approval to hire Kraus-Anderson as a construction manager for the project with a potential $22 million price tag.

As construction manager, Kraus-Anderson would be responsible for working with an architect on designing the project and overseeing the construction process.

While the bid for the services is slightly more than $1 million, the payment in the pre-construction phase would be capped at $15,000.

Rochester Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish said that period would allow city staff, designers and the construction manager to address questions raised Wednesday, while also giving the city an option to opt out of further expenses.

Council Member Michael Wojcik suggested the council needs to have discussions about policy regarding space requirements, rather than relying on staff to define what they believe is needed.

“As a starting point, I would say offices at the director level only,” he said after raising questions about requested office sizes.

Bruce Swartzman of BKV Group, who has helped create preliminary designs for the site, said he sees an ability to consider shared spaces between departments.

“I think there is clearly some space efficiency that can be created,” he said.

At the same time, Parrish said space needs are driving the current plans.

Once the city council opted to create its own community development department to oversee aspects of city planning, it agreed to move building safety offices out of county facilities by the end of the year.

Existing City Hall space doesn’t allow room for added planning and building safety staff, Parrish said.

Combined with plans to move an undefined number of police staff to the site, council members said they want to better understand the goals.

“Right now, I’m still trying to understand the basis of how I should look at it,” said Council Member Patrick Keane, who said it appears the North Police Station could become a new headquarters.

Swartzman said that’s not the goal. “There’s always going to be a major presence downtown,” he said.

However, Council Member Nick Campion said it remains unclear how vacated space in the city-county Government Center will be used. He said the council should be setting policies that guide the use of public space.

“There is at least a half dozen policies we need to tackle as a council,” he said.

Parrish said such policies can be considered as work continues to meet the proposed timeline to approve the North Station renovation work in the fall and have construction completed next year.

“I think a construction manager can provide us with a lot of insights as we move along,” he said.

The council agreed to go forward with the hire, voting unanimously to approve the agreement with Kraus-Anderson.