Downtown looks to new consumer base as housing units double in 10 years

Downtown Rochester’s population grew at some of the fastest rates in the region over the last 10 years, according to a recently released study commissioned jointly by Rochester Downtown Alliance and Destination Medical Center.

“We first saw the need for this study in fall 2020,” said Holly Masek, RDA executive director. “We knew many daytime workers that downtown businesses rely on were moving to a hybrid work model and changing spending patterns, but we could also see new residential buildings were opening all around downtown. We wanted to find out who these new downtown residents were and if we could connect their consumer needs to our existing and future downtown business community.”

“Downtown Rochester has been described as the fastest-growing neighborhood in Rochester,” said DMC Director of Business Development Chris Schad. “Providing current retailers and potential retailers with relevant data to understand the customer-base in the downtown area is a vital piece of our plan.”

The study, which was completed by the Minneapolis office of Stantec, included quantitative demographic analysis, interviews with building managers, focus groups with residents of new and existing apartment buildings downtown, a digital survey of downtown residents, and interviews with downtown district managers in comparable neighborhoods in the country.

Since 2010, the findings include:

  • Downtown’s population grew by 28.5 percent (twice the rate of Olmsted County)
  • A total of 966 new housing units were built within a half-mile radius of downtown
  • More than 1,840 new housing units were built within a one-and-a-half-mile radius
  • Approximately 22 percent of downtown residents have a graduate or professional degree

The new residents of downtown include undergraduate and graduate students, young professional singles and couples, young families, and downsizing empty nesters. Residents are focused on walkability, inviting street life, experience-based shopping and dining, and products that are considered “local” or “authentic”. They are well-traveled and active, and often civic-minded. A previous DMC study found that a downtown resident is likely to spend seven times more in one year in a downtown neighborhood than a downtown employee, making these audiences vital to understand.

The report has been shared with City of Rochester officials and the downtown business community. It will now be incorporated into DMC materials used to recruit new retailers and businesses to the downtown core.

The full report can be found here.

About the Rochester Downtown Alliance
The Rochester Downtown Alliance is a nonprofit corporation comprised of a broad range of people representing property owners, business leaders, the city and others with a direct stake in enhanced business and economic development conditions in the downtown district. We work together to build a vibrant downtown community. We believe a strong core positively impacts the greater city of Rochester. Through a series of special events, activities, and initiatives, we create energy, excitement, and a unique character to Downtown Rochester, Minnesota.

About Destination Medical Center
Destination Medical Center (DMC) is a 20-year, public-private partnership, and economic development initiative. The $5.6 billion plan is the largest in Minnesota’s history and one of the largest currently underway in the U.S. The partnership, which began in 2013, combines Mayo Clinic private development with that of other developers and investors, in addition to public infrastructure investment from the city of Rochester, Olmsted County, and the state of Minnesota.