DMC subgroups working toward February forum

Heidi Mestad addresses attendees while presenting a PowerPoint presentation at a meeting of the sub-groups of the Destination Medical Center community input groups Thursday at the Ramada Inn and Conference Center in Rochester, Minn. The meeting was held to further discuss how the input of all the subgroups will contribute to the overall design and framework of the Destination Medical Center project.

If you haven't had a chance to express your opinion what you want Rochester to become over the next 20 years, you will have many opportunities — starting soon.

Eight Destination Medical Center committees given the job of figuring out the best way to spur public input met for a second time Thursday.

More than 50 people gathered at the Ramada Inn, got an update on detailed input they had previously given and were asked to assess what they've already done and come up with more-focused ideas of how to get community members to express their opinions.

The Livable City group, for example, considered the possibility of asking residents to finish the sentence "I would live downtown if…."

Ideas at this early stage are still preliminary and it's uncertain what the groups will eventually advise consultants chosen to manage the public-input process.


Proposals have been reviewed and a decision on which consultant groups will be chosen should be coming soon, the committees were told.

Once that happens, a large, informational forum is expected to be held. There will likely be two or three, or perhaps more, such large forums. Information from those forums will be fed to planners creating the formal DMC development plan.

At each large-forum stage, the draft plan will be opened for public feedback and then adjusted to better reflect the community's desires for the future of Rochester.

Along the way, individual forums will be held about each of the eight committees' focus areas.

Input gathered at those smaller forums will be fed into the draft plan for review at the larger forums.

The idea, said Lisa Clarke, executive director of the DMC Economic Development Agency, is to engage the community "so that people have a voice — so that people can be heard."

Committees include diverse members, from front-line hotel workers to the director of Olmsted County Public Health.

Brandon Sampson, who is preparing to open a new prosthetics business in Rochester, serves on the Commercial Research and Technology group. Wes Emmert, Olmsted Medical Center Sports Medicine, serves on Health and Wellness. And Brad Jones, executive director of the Rochester Convention and Visitors Bureau, chairs the Hospitality/Conventions group, while Don Supalla chairs the Learning Environment committee.


As a side benefit, the act of getting such a broad range of committees together for the eight categories, along with separate groups of about 100 "DMC ambassadors" who volunteer to, essentially, keep chatter about DMC in the wind, has produced connections among individuals who might not otherwise have hung out together.

"Almost every day, somebody comes up to me and says, 'Wow, our group is really working, our group is really moving forward, really making connections. We're all here to really support DMC — and the community of Rochester," Clarke said.

Many plans are already taking place in Rochester, outside of the DMC economic zone downtown.

"What we're trying to do is make sure that our plans are synced, coordinated," Clarke said.

The first big community forum is likely in February. The second in April. The third in June or July. As the development plan forms, community members at each forum will be asked to "feed back" into the process to help adjust the plan to make it a plan that speaks with the voice of the community.

Tentative discussions Thursday included topics such as, in the education group, the possibility of self-directed courses. In Arts and Culture, one topic of discussion was how to foster "organic growth" of the arts.

The Hospitality group talked about holding a "world cafe" for its subgroup forum feeding into the large community forums. The Research and Technology group talked about finding a way to set up "accelerated space" for small businesses to sprout.

"The really cool part about it is people are so engaged," Clarke said.

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