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Rochester, MN (KROC-AM News) - The Rochester City Council voted last night to create a Downtown Commercial Historic District.

The vote was 4-3, with Councilmembers Palmer, Keane, and Wahl voting against granting the historic landmark designation to more than 30 buildings in an area mainly bordered by First Avenue Southwest on the west, South Broadway on the east, Second Street Southwest on the north and Fourth Street Southwest on the South. The district does extend to the east side of South Broadway to cover some of the oldest buildings in downtown Rochester on the south end of the 300 block and the Riverside Building at the southeast corner of South Broadway and Fourth Street Southeast. It also extends to the north side of Second Street Southwest to include the buildings between Broadway and First Avenue Southwest.

City of Rochester
City of Rochester
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The vote came after a lengthy discussion by members of the City Council concerning the financial incentives that could be offered to the affected property owners. The final motion but one approval included the creation of a city fund that would offer zero-interest loans of up to $200,000 to help finance restoration projects, the implementation of a streetscape project for the area, and a strong recommendation to the Destination Medical Center Corporation to provide funding to assist the owners of the historic buildings.

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Google
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During the presentation of the proposed ordinance, the Councilmembers were told the DMC needed the city to create the historic district before it could begin the process of approving the use of DMC funds to provide grants or other assistance to help the property owners deal with the added costs of renovations under the restrictions imposed by the historic district. City Council President Brooke Carlson and Mayor Kim Norton are both members of the DMC Corporation Board and stated they would strongly lobby the other board members to support the use of DMC funds for that purpose.

File photo of Rochester City Council meeting. City of Rochester
File photo of Rochester City Council meeting. City of Rochester
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The vote to approve the Downtown Historic District followed years of discussion. It was first proposed in 2019 and resulted in an extensive study by a consultant to identify the historically significant structures in the area that served as the commercial center of the city since its earliest days.

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