Rochester City Council approves more research into Labor Temple property, delays decisions on affordable housing project

During a long meeting that led to the delay of multiple decisions, city council members voted to dig deeper into the Labor Temple's past.

Posted: Apr 6, 2021 12:32 AM
Updated: Apr 6, 2021 6:52 AM

ROCHESTER, Minn. - The Rochester City Council has granted additional time and resources into researching the history of the Labor Temple property downtown.

Recently resurfaced documents show the property was once home to a theater and the first Red Owl store in the 1930's. The discoveries could upend the city's plans to redevelop the parcel.

Monday night, the council signed off on a $7,000 study into the property's history, and an extension to the deadline for its landmark designation application.

Council member Mark Bransford says he considers the additional research an investment.

"When it turns out that this building is as amazing as it is, and we get it all fixed up and it's retro-cool, that's going to bring people downtown and put money into businesses' pockets," Bransford said.

Not everyone shared Bransford's enthusiasm for the research. Multiple city leaders expressed frustration with the allocation of more time and money into the process.

The council also delayed a pair of decisions that could help clear the way for a proposed affordable housing complex in Northeast Rochester.

After hours of discussion, the council chose to postpone votes on two land use and zoning changes that would facilitate the building of a proposed three-story, 66-unit complex on a vacant lot off East Circle Drive near Century High School.

The project is supported by the City of Rochester, but several area residents have voiced opposition to it. Discussion on the changes are set to continue at the council's next meeting on April 19th.

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