A River Runs through It

DT Rochester - CJ


It’s time to rediscover the Zumbro River.

On April 22, toward the end of a lively first hour of the joint DMCC/EDA visioning session, Peter Cavaluzzi, EEK master planning consultant, directed the board’s attention to an aerial photograph of Rochester.

“Look at this city,” he said, staring at the image. “Just sort of glance at some of the most obvious things,” he said, pointing. “You do see the river.” It is, he added, a “wonderful, natural attribute.” In bringing this visual reference to the meeting, Mr. Cavaluzzi echoes what is already a part of the downtown planning conversation—the Rochester riverfront.

The riverfront is among several development opportunities included in the Rochester Downtown Master Plan (RDMP). The plan’s August 2010 report observes, “Revitalization of the Zumbro River’s edge represents a tremendous opportunity for downtown Rochester.”

The RDMP includes the redevelopment of public properties along the river, including a Mayo Civic Center addition as well as expansion of key properties immediately to the south. New developments coupled with redesigning and rebuilding public spaces along the waterway would bring improved landscape, continuous trail connections, and open spaces along the river’s edge. Because the RDMP is one of several existing plans included in the DMC planning, it’s worth reviewing what it has to offer regarding the riverfront (view pages 79–82 of the 150-page report).

The flood-control work on the Zumbro River that has been accomplished—and proven effective—in 2007 and 2010 will be foremost in many minds as any riverfront plans are considered. Some may also consider the watershed at the south fork of the river. The folks at EEK will tell you that designing along a riverfront isn’t easy. Cavaluzzi says it entails working with “the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and state Department of Environmental Protection to craft innovative solutions that balance environmental standards with economic constraints and market realities.”

But safe, sound, and sustainable development can be accomplished. EEK and the other DMC planners have a record of success in working through complex city-planning issues and realizing the advantages of riverfront places where communities work, live, and gather.

If you’d like to learn more about waterfronts, visit the Project for Public Spaces website. They are a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. The site has some helpful resources and examples from around the world.