1998 / 2015
The Mayo Clinic is one of the premier medical centers in the world, ranked as the top healthcare institution in the United States for the last 20 years, with a focus on Patient Care, Research and Education. The Mayo Clinic faces a challenge that affects all institutions globally: the competition for talent. For decades, Mayo by reputation alone attracted the top talent. The issue is that the city of Rochester, though safe and convenient, remains a small suburban city that lacks amenities and any sense of place or cultural interests that other more urban cities provide. To address this issue, the Hammes Company approached our team to initially develop a conceptual master plan study in 2002 to define broad brush strategies to begin a conversation with the Mayo Clinic, the City of Rochester and various public and private stakeholders associated with the city in the hopes of launching a formal process to redevelop the city.
Rise of the Creative Class
The team focused defining what interests and elements of a city are desirable to what is defined as the “Creative Class”, a term recently coined to define the workforce that is critical for sustainable growth and necessary to foster to compete in a global economy built on ideas and rapidly changing technology. Research involving the preferences and values of this new socioeconomic class has shown that where people choose to live can no longer be predicted according to conventional industrial theories. Creative workers are no longer bound by physical products, rather working with intellectual products. Their migration to metropolitan urban areas where creative work is available is more due to the attraction of leisure life and community rather than actual work. Although the Creative Class works towards the globalization of progressive and innovative ideas and products, they can also be considered to value local community and local autonomy.
What became clear is that Rochester was in need of a vibrant, higher density mixed-use downtown core, combining multifamily housing, retail, hospitality, entertainment and public services intermixed with engaging public streets and spaces that fostered pedestrian interaction and engagement. The challenge was to define right scale of “critical mass” that is economically feasible and physically possible given the existing conditions of the downtown core, from the complexities of land ownership, existing planning regulations, infrastructure and transportation. After careful analysis of the existing downtown core it became evident that there existed 5 key neighborhoods that defined the extent of the framework of the master plan and that two of them would be the main focus of the effort to create the critical mass.
The first neighborhood was defined as “Discovery Square” which was already defined as an area of growth for the Mayo Clinic medical and support facilities, but lacked a cohesive urban plan that included a qualitative framework that defined the social and environmental features and more importantly did not look at the future in terms of the mission of the institution related to competitiveness, talent and economics. Working with the Mayo leadership the team refocused the development strategy of this neighborhood to leverage Mayo’s reputation to grow its medical research significantly to compete on a global scale. The plan was not to only use existing research and teaching institutions within Mayo but to look at a partnering model to engage outside investors and the private sector which would include pharmaceutical companies, medical device companies, software and other research entities to create a vibrant research and development hub. Encompassing 16 large city blocks South of the Mayo Clinic facilities, the plan for Discovery Square focused on the creation of a public square as the centerpiece of the neighborhood along with several pedestrian oriented streets that intersected various sub-neighborhoods that would integrate research labs, offices, housing, educational tenants, retail and smaller outpatient facilities for the Mayo Clinic. The main public space, Research Park, surrounded by the highest concentration of density, would contain 2 research towers, a University of Minnesota satellite campus tower, regional transportation center and incubator office building. The lower floors of the buildings are zoned to contain retail, restaurants and conferencing facilities to encourage mixing of the various tenants bringing together researchers, academics, practitioners and investors encouraging cross discipline interaction.
Heart of the City
The second neighborhood was defined as “Heart of the City” which would provide the vibrant urban core to the city becoming the mixed-use social and cultural fabric of the city. Encompassing 12 smaller city blocks East of the Mayo Clinic facilities, the existing neighborhood is a collection of disjointed, stand-alone commercial and retail developments.. The challenge lay in development of a real estate strategy to consolidate key parcels and concurrently encourage existing land owners to re-invest in their existing properties. Through proposed public infrastructure projects improving access and parking, changes to the regional transportation plan and public funding and tax credits for developers, the development team came up with a strategy that would allow for a comprehensive strategy to consolidate one overall master plan. The master plan was created that allowed for higher densities of use, the creation of pedestrian connections that integrated the Mayo Clinic facilities and the development of a series of public plazas and alley ways that created a vibrant, pedestrian oriented neighborhood with activated streets and a 24/7 live/work/play environment.
Catalyst for Change
Upon the completion of the initial visioning Master Plan, Hammes Company was successful in working with the Mayo Clinic and the City of Rochester, forming in 2012 the DMC Development, a public/private entity to manage the planning and development of the Rochester city to enhance the Mayo Clinics mission and enhance the city. After the development of a detailed master plan authored by Perkins Eastman, the DMC Development group was successful in securing over US$ 585m of public financing for various infrastructure and development projects to encourage private and public developments identified in the master plan. At this time there are several developments happening that leverage both public and private investments that are helping the original vision come to life and further the mission of the Mayo Clinic and provide economic and social improvements to the city of Rochester as it evolves into a truly unique community able to attract top global talent.