Former bank status decision delayed

December 20, 2018
The former Olmsted County Bank and Trust Co. was most recently occupied by Goonie’s Comedy Club and the McGoon’s Taxi Co. restaurant.

A proposal to add the former Olmsted County Bank and Trust Co. to Rochester’s list of potential landmarks was put on hold Tuesday.

The building, at 7 Second St. SW, last housed Goonie’s Comedy Club and the McGoon’s Taxi Co. restaurant and will be the future site of Fuji seafood and steakhouse. It was constructed in 1918 and is considered an example of neo-classical architecture, according to Heritage Preservation Commission documents.

Based on the building’s design, it was recommended as a potential landmark in early 2017 but was challenged before the Rochester City Council approved a list of potential landmarks.

It’s now on a list of 30 “challenged” properties. However, it’s unclear who challenged the proposed status.

The building was last purchased in February 2017, the same month the council approved the potential landmark list.

A.J. Hawkins, who purchased the building with his father, Mike, said he didn’t know whether his father made the original challenge or if it came from the previous owners.

On Tuesday, he said he’d be interested in learning more about the pros and cons of having the building listed as a potential landmark, but Brent Svenby, Rochester’s senior administrative analyst and HPC adviser, said Mike Hawkins called to object to the status change.

Commission Vice Chairman Mark Carlson noted the list of potentially historic properties is a holding place for buildings that could eventually be reviewed as landmarks. At this point, he said the major impact of the status is to add a layer of review if demolition is considered.

“A building that’s not on the list would be easier to demolish,” he said.

Commission Chairwoman Christine Schultze said efforts are also in the works to identify potential financial incentives and assistance for buildings that are either on the potential landmark list or those that become landmarks.

Teresa McCormack, an ex-officio commission member representing the Olmsted County Historical Society, said such incentives will be crucial for getting downtown building owners to agree to preserve their properties.

“When you own a piece of dirt downtown, it’s worth so much that it’s tempting to take down that building,” she said.

A.J. Hawkins said he doesn’t anticipate making such a move.

As a Rochester native, he said he sees benefits in protecting historic buildings. At the same time, he said he understands his father’s concerns about potential limitations placed on the building.

While the city’s current historic preservation ordinance creates an extra layer of review for a demolition permit, commission members noted a potential landmark isn’t required to receive unique approvals for most interior or exterior alterations.

Commission member Barry Skolnick said the ordinance is intentionally flexible.

“We want to preserve (the buildings) to some extent,” he said. “It’s not total flexibility, but it’s some flexibility.”

While the commission decided to wait until January to make a recommendation regarding the former bank building, it has sent a list of four properties to the Rochester City Council with the recommendation that they be added to the potential landmark list.

The properties are the Seneca corn cob tower, Assisi Heights, the Bulbulian House at 1229 Skyline Drive SW and the Charles Sheard residence, 2217 Balsam Court SW.

The council is slated to review the request on Jan. 7.

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