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Council agrees tight space limits parking options

November 8, 2018

Reduced parking in a planned 50-unit downtown apartment building was tentatively supported Monday.

“If we are going to do tax-increment financing or a parking variance, I choose a parking variance,” Rochester City Council Member Michael Wojcik said following a public hearing on a preliminary plan for the building proposed for the intersection of First Avenue and Fourth Street Southwest.

Mike Zirbes, of North Rock Real Estate, said the building dubbed “The 324 Apartments” would include small studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom apartments, along with 2,000 square feet of retail space.

Acknowledging the proposed 27 parking spaces fail to meet standards adopted last year, Zirbes said he believes the proposed building will cater to people who work and go to school downtown, meaning limited parking will be required.

Additionally, he said the retail space was designed to keep parking expectations as low as possible.

“If you are over 2,000 square feet, then your parking requirement goes up,” he said.

Acknowledging the tight space now housing the former home of Gallery 24/The Creative Salon limits options, council members discussed alternatives, including reducing parking further by expanding retail space.

Council Member Nick Campion voiced concerns about a ground-floor garage with an access point on Fourth Street. He said eliminating the level of parking could reduce traffic over the sidewalk.

The other parking access is for underground parking from the alley, which raises concerns for Rochester businessman John Kruesel, who owns a nearby store. He said he worries about the impact of additional alley traffic.

Ultimately, the council agreed to waive the need for additional parking if the retail operation slightly exceeds 2,000 square feet. The additional footage could reduce the planned access point off Fourth Street.

An additional expectation would call for working with the city to offer extra pedestrian space on the south side of the building.

While Wojcik and other council members indicated their support for the preliminary plan comes with expectation that TIF will be not requested, Zirbes said it’s too early to tell whether financial support will be sought.

“We haven’t necessarily determined whether we need it yet,” he told the council when asked about TIF. “We’re kind of waiting to see how things pan out with our design and approvals process.”

With Monday’s council approval, potential project changes will be made and a final design will be presented for later review.

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