“We are starting this thing!” said Lisa Clarke to nearly 450 members of the Rochester community gathered in the Grand Ballroom of the Mayo Civic Center on Tuesday evening, April 22, 2014. In her current role as the interim executive director of the DMC Economic Development Agency (EDA), Clarke was well aware, however, that what was “just starting” had actually begun many years ago. In the ballroom that night, though, there was an energetic feeling of something being launched—an end to getting ready and the beginning of getting started.
This evening public forum brought to a close a long and productive day of visioning by DMC leadership groups and Rochester-area residents. The day marked the first of many dedicated to public assemblies, community conversations, and governance meetings that will drive the DMC planning process in the coming months.
For the first time, the boards of the Destination Medical Center Corporation (DMCC) and the EDA held a joint board meeting. Also joining the groups for the first time were representatives of the four companies selected to serve as consultants to the DMC planning process:
- EE&K, a Perkins Eastman company (master planner)
- Kimley-Horn & Associates (infrastructure)
- Nelson/Nygaard (transportation)
- AECOM (market analysis and economic-fiscal consultant)
During the morning session of the joint board meeting, board members participated in a series of presentations that included consultants sharing their planning responsibilities, approach, and experience; a briefing about ongoing city/county planning; an overview of patient-experience design work now underway at Mayo Clinic; and, an overview of Mayo Clinic’s strategic outlook provided by President and CEO John Noseworthy, M.D. The group also took a trolley tour, visiting downtown Rochester and other parts of the city that will be important to DMC planning.
Later in the day, EEK Design Principal Peter Cavaluzzi led a discussion that focused the board’s attention on some central questions to spur the planning process and guide the consultants in their work. Board members shared their vivid impressions of a city that is clearly somebody’s “hometown”—a city proud of its residents, what it has become, and generous in the welcoming presence it offers locals and visitors alike. The board agreed that what is “authentic” about Rochester is found in its neighborhoods, the farmlands that surround it, and the variety of places and purpose found along the wide streets, green spaces, and eclectic city scenes.
Board members agreed that growth will bring challenges in transportation and create opportunities to rediscover assets like the winding Zumbro River, but the biggest gains will come in not losing this “authentic Rochester.”
In the evening, more than 400 Rochester area residents were introduced to the planning consultants more intimately and heard from each about their responsibilities and examples of their work in other growing, vibrant cities.
As he did earlier in the day, Cavaluzzi led a discussion about what Rochester “is” to its residents, what we all want it to become, and how we build future spaces that say, “There is no better place to be than right here.” The themes and ideas were similar: smart, bright, and diverse people; small businesses; local artists; athletic options; green spaces and spiritual places; and great schools, just to name a few.
In the coming months, more conversations will guide the planning process—a process that results in a compelling vision of a great American city that aspires to be the healthiest city in the world.