Popular art gallery on Peace Plaza closing after 23 years of business
The SEMVA — Southeastern Minnesota Visual Artists — Art Gallery is closing its doors this Christmas Eve after 23 years of business in the heart of Rochester.
Over the past couple decades, the gallery has become a cornerstone of Peace Plaza, providing downtown visitors and workers an escape from the health care setting. More than 80 local artists use the space to display and sell their work.
In a phone interview on Wednesday, SEMVA President Andy Westreich cited a 40 increase in rent as the primary factor. He said the group worked for months with the building's owner to reach a deal, but negotiations collapsed in the end.
The organization will continue to exist and support its artists without a physical space. Westreich said the group is now in the early stages of looking for another location in town.
"This was a very, very important resource for the community and medical visitors," he said. "They're not going to have it any more, and that's a loss."
The building's landlord is George Psomas, the owner of Mac's Café. Citing real estate records, the P-B reports the building's value has gone up by 56 percent in just the past two years, causing a spike in property taxes.
The rapid increase in property values, fueled by speculative investing, is causing concern in the offices of the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce. The group's president, Rob Miller, spoke about the issue at two recent public hearings.
"Our elected officials heard, loud and clear, about the negative impacts the proposed tax increases are having on you, your employees and your business," Miller said in a letter sent out to chamber members.
We'll have more on the challenges affecting business owners in our upcoming special report on DMC. The full series will be published Dec. 18.
(Cover photo: The Med City Beat)