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Launched in 2014 by journalist Sean Baker, Med City Beat is an independent news source covering government, business and culture in Rochester, Minnesota.

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County board favors private proposal for Biermann House

County board favors private proposal for Biermann House

A divided Olmsted County Board voted Tuesday to move forward with a proposal from Powers Ventures to renovate the historic Biermann House.

The plan calls for converting the building, which dates back to the 1860s, into rental units while maintaining the historic elements of the property. 

The proposal from Powers Ventures was one of two being considered by the county. The other, which came from Rochester Parks and Recreation, called for renovating the property for some sort of public benefit. 

In making his case for the proposal, Joe Powers, owner of Powers Ventures, said he has experience with historic preservation and noted that his plan would put the property back on the tax rolls. He described himself, in contrast to city government, as someone who can get things done.

"Let's not forget the city four or five years ago bought the Chateau Theatre for $6 million," said Powers, who owns the Mayowood Stone Barn. "Mayo [Clinic] donated a half million dollars to it. And now I gotta ask you: What's been done? Nothing? That's why I am nervous about their proposal."

Commissioners credited both parties for coming forward to save the property — which after years of neglect had fallen into disrepair and, until recently, was at risk of being demolished.

But they were split on which direction to go in.

"I know we have been talking about value of the house and the land, but sometimes there is a value that is very difficult to assess," said Commissioner Gregg Wright. "And that's the value of keeping it in the public domain — and I think that is of a great value to the people of Olmsted County."

After over an hour of conversation, the board voted 4 (Bier, Brown, Flynn, Podulke) to 3 (Kiscaden, Thein, Wright) to begin working with Powers on an agreement for the transfer of the 1.3 acre property.

While Powers will not pay the county for the property, valued at $300,000, he has committed to renovating the structure in accordance with various preservation standards.

Park officials were not in attendance at Tuesday's meeting. With their proposal, which also included about 70 acres of adjacent land, they had hoped to make the Biermann property a focal point for trail visitors. As part of their pitch, they said an anonymous donor had come forward and pledged to contribute the $500,000 needed to renovate the structure.

Cover photo: Biermann House / Jonathunder / Wikimedia Commons

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