Council approves $20 million assistance package for Bloom development
The Rochester City Council on Monday approved more than $20 million in tax increment financing for a proposal to redevelop the downtown riverfront with condos, senior housing, parking and retail.
The council approved the development assistance agreement with Bloom International Realty by a 5-1 vote. Council Member Michael Wocjik was the lone dissenting vote. Councilor Mark Hickey was absent from the meeting.
Plans for the development — now more than three years in the making — call for two towers along the west side of the Zumbro River. With a price tag over $200 million, the two-phased project is the largest private development to be approved since the implementation of Destination Medical Center.
“Anytime you take a step into one of these things, it’s kind of stepping into the unknown,” Council Member Mark Bilderback said during Monday night’s meeting. “And that’s where we’re at. This is a project that’s bigger than any of us have been a part of or handled before.”
According to city staff, Bloom plans to begin construction on the first phase of the project by next July. The 20-story tower — to be located on the parcel of land now home to Legends Bar and Grill — will include senior housing, parking and retail. Work on the second tower — which calls for 28 stories of condos, hotel rooms and parking — will likely begin 18 months later.
Bloom has had exclusive rights to the property since 2015 — though it only recently reached a deal with the city to purchase the land. In exchange for the $8 million property, Bloom agreed to make more than a third of its 460 planned parking spots available for public use.
As part of the tax assistance package approved Monday, Bloom has also pledged to build additional public amenities along the riverfront — including a boardwalk, indoor winter garden and rooftop park.
Council Member Nick Campion, who had been skeptical of the assistance agreement, noted that the structuring of the deal allows for any leftover TIF funds to be used for other public infrastructure improvements that might come up in the future. As part its agreement with the city, Bloom will also have to come back before the council if their plans happen to change.
“I think we’ve done anything I’ve seen a city do to protect itself … from the potential of the wheels coming off,” said Campion.
The TIF allotment, as it stands now, represents the biggest public assistance package ever awarded by the city. In voting against the motion Monday night, Council Member Wojcik suggested that given the city’s commitment, he would like to have seen more done to address the needs of the lower-income individuals who will likely be staffing the buildings.
“This is a very nice luxury project with a lot of luxury elements built on the back of a lot of public financing,” said Wojcik. “I struggle to find what the true public benefit is of that.”
You can read our previous reporting on this project here.
Cover: Rendering of proposed Bloom development from Broadway