Business Forward: Downtown Rochester Businesses Top of Mind for Heart of the City Project Leaders

Destination Medical Center (DMC) is prototyping a kinder future for construction; one that considers patients, pedestrians, and business owners first. It’s called Business Forward.

“Every business owner will say that anytime they’ve had construction in front of their businesses, they’ve never felt like they’ve been a part of the plan,” says Jamie Rothe, Director of Community Engagement and Experience for DMC Economic Development Agency. “With this type of project, we felt like we needed to build it together. And that’s what we need to do; share information, get information back, then modify and adjust.”

Heart of the City is one of Rochester’s densest areas, with foot traffic and diverse businesses. What’s the key to addressing the diverse needs of stakeholders? Relationships.

“When we started working on the Heart of the City project, the first thing we did was meet with local businesses and landowners. We wanted to quickly understand their priorities for their businesses,” says Rothe.

Among the top concerns: long construction cycles, dust, access to buildings, loss of shopper incentives and window shopping.

To address those concerns, the team developed ‘micro-phasing,’ which allows them to break down each part of a construction project and study its impact. Then they ask, “Can it be done another way?”

The people on the receiving end of that question, led by Kraus Anderson, have proven equal to the task.

“Everything that we’re asking the construction team to do interrupts their work. But it’s been great. It helps people to think completely different about what how construction can work,” says Rothe.

When COVID-19 arrived, construction teams started working 12 hours a day, six days a week, to get as much done as possible while crowds were small.

To address the loudest, most disruptive process of this construction, the contractor rented a specialized piece of equipment called a Rock Trencher, which cuts through rock faster and quieter than traditional methods. Plans originally called for removing 10 to 20 feet of rock per day. With the trencher, 190 feet of rock was removed in three days.

To alleviate dust, extra water equipment and monthly window washings have been employed.

For accessibility concerns, the construction team has created flexible pedestrian walkways.

Weekly email updates are now standard practice, and in-person meetings with business owners are frequent occurrences for Rothe and construction supervisor Troy Dale.

Those visits have impact. Input from business owners helped relocate a 30×12 foot underground vault for Peace Fountain machinery away from two shops’ front doors.

“Business Forward really makes the Kraus-Anderson team rethink how our jobs are built,” said Dale. “We’ve started by building great working relationships with the business owners and managers, and we’re utilizing their input, such as working hours, deliveries, and key appointments, to plan our daily and weekly activities. It makes it more challenging but rewarding when we are still able to get our work done and they can have guests visit their stores.”

In the old world of construction, those businesses would likely have been made to simply deal with interrupted access. Thanks to Business Forward, that kind of inconvenience may be a thing of the past.

This ongoing effort would not be possible without the support and participation of Heart of the City partners, including the City of Rochester, Rochester Downtown Alliance, Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, Experience Rochester, Rochester Downtown Neighborhood Association, Mayo Clinic, Coen and Partners, Kraus-Anderson, White Space, and others.