by CHRIS ROGERS
Next week, Winona city officials will consider granting Bob Kierlin’s Main Square Development one of the first city approvals the company’s Hardee’s block redevelopment project needs. On Wednesday, the Winona Board of Adjustment (BOA) will discuss whether to grant exceptions to downtown aesthetic rules for Main Square Development.
The city’s zoning code normally requires that downtown buildings cannot have residential units in the front half of the first-floor or first-floor residential units next to a city street or sidewalk. The rule is meant to preserve the storefront character of downtown. Main Square Development is seeking an exception, or variance, to that rule that would allow it to build street-level apartments on one corner of the building: on the corner of Fifth and Main streets. The rest of the building would have commercial space on the first floor with apartments above.
Winona Planning Commission member Peter Shortridge criticized earlier designs that included more first-floor apartments, saying that maintaining commercial storefronts was crucial to downtown Winona’s aesthetic. Shortridge said that if Main Square Development reduced the amount of square footage of first-floor apartments, it would be more palatable. Since then, Main Square Development did just that, and company representative John Hill stated that no more than 25 percent of the first floor would be residential.
The company will also ask the BOA for a variance to the city’s downtown setback rules. The zoning code requires downtown buildings to be built very close to the sidewalk in order to maintain the look and feel of Winona’s historic downtown, where shop windows are immediately next to the sidewalk. The code allows for a setback of up to 10 feet. Main Square Development is asking for a variance to increase that to 15 feet for a portion of the building where it is proposing a patio dining area.
“Increasing the setback will provide a buffer between the concrete sidewalk and the proposed raised concrete outdoor eating area along Main Street,” Hill explained. “Without a buffer, the width of the concrete terrace needed for tables and seating area would create a less hospitable transition to the concrete sidewalk below.”
City staff is recommending approval of both variances. There will be a public hearing at the BOA’s meeting on Wednesday, June 6, at 5 p.m. in the council chambers on the third floor of city hall.