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Two Discovery Square is almost completed to add to the DMC's innovation hub

The shell of the 121,000-square-foot science and technology complex, linked to the original One Discovery Square center, is wrapping construction at 300 Second Ave. SW. The next stage of construction will build out the public meeting areas and lobby, and start work on tenant spaces aiming toward completion this summer.

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ROCHESTER — The next phase of the Discovery Square campus is about ready to open its doors, two months early.

The shell of the Two Discovery Square , the 121,000-square-foot science and technology complex linked to the original One Discovery Square center, is wrapping construction at 300 Second Ave. SW. The next stage of construction will build out the public meeting areas and lobby, and start work on tenant spaces aiming toward completion this summer.

Despite the complications of the pandemic, Discovery Square developer M.A. Mortenson Co. is pleased with how the construction of Two Discovery Square has gone.

“One of our missions is to make sure that a project is done safely, which we have done here,” said Mortenson Development Executive Brent Webb, walking though the building as workers install railings and other features. “And, obviously, finishing early is always, always a good thing.”

04 Two Discovery Square
The fifth floore of the Two Discovery Square building on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Are any tenants signed up to move into the five-story building, which is 35 percent larger than the original complex?

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Webb said that talks with potential tenants are underway, but none are ready to be announced yet.

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This phase of what Mortenson is now referring to as the Discovery Square campus is opening under much different circumstances than One DS did in 2019.

“One Discovery Square was a wonderful milestone. We knew what we were getting into then. We had businesses interested in moving in,” said Rochester Mayor Kim Norton at the topping off ceremony of Two DS in March. “Two Discovery Square is really being built on faith … faith about what we are doing in this community.”

Before One Discovery Square was completed, Mayo Clinic had committed to leasing 30,000 square feet, while the University of Minnesota Rochester had signed up for 9,383 square feet and the electronic health records giant Epic Systems was also a confirmed tenant.

One Discovery Square was completely leased out in 2021.

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Brent Webb, left, a development executive with Mortenson, and Jason Walter, a senior project manager, give a tour of the Two Discovery Square building on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Two Discovery Square is opening at a time when having employees work from home is commonplace and companies need less office space than they did in pre-pandemic times.

“We call it like a Swiss army knife, where you're trying to accommodate many different things. And I feel like we've been progressing and honing in on the right elements,” said Webb.

“One thing that we have actually shifted with this building is from large office space toward the large demand for lab space. A lot of that demand is due to new partnerships and some of it is attributed to the pandemic as well.

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"If you look across the country, there's just been a lot of growth and investment in science. … We've made some investments to be able to accommodate GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) space,” Webb said.

Two Discovery Square will be more focused on research and development than the first building, which has offices that house teams working for Thermo Fisher, Boston Scientific, Philips and other bioscience giants partnering with Mayo Clinic that use lab space on Mayo’s campus.

06 Two Discovery Square
An American flag waves in the wind at the top of a crane at the Discovery Square parking ramp construction site adjacent to Discovery Square on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester. At left is the new Two Discovery Square, and at right is One Discovery Square.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Part of preparing for more lab-focused tenants is fitting out Two Discovery Square to be “WiredScore” certified.

“That's really a measure of a building's ability to accommodate digital capabilities and enhance connectivity pathways,” explained Senior Project Manager Jason Walter.

This is the first WiredScore-certified building in Rochester and the ninth in Minnesota.

“That checks a box for many tenants,” said Webb.

Office space is also being designed differently with a focus on collaboration spaces for teams to work on projects versus cubicles for individuals to work.

03 Two Discovery Square
Jason Walter, a senior project manager with Mortenson, gives a tour of the Two Discovery Square building on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

The first Discovery Square building features a bleacher seating area near the entrance along with a Cafe Steam coffee shop. Two DS will have a different feel with more accessible conference meeting areas.

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Webb said talks with a tenant that is interested in ground floor space means the specifics of those plans are still being worked out.

A tunnel connecting the new building to the Cafe Steam area in the first building means that amenity will be easily available to tenants in both buildings as well as the future planned third Discovery Square building.

However, Walter said plans for a catering kitchen on the ground level of Two Discovery Square is in the works to help tenants make working in the building more attractive to employees.

Webb pointed out that a courtyard space between One DS and Two DS will provide a link to the future Three Discovery Square complex as well as providing a pathway for the public passing through the area.

01 Two Discovery Square
Brent Webb, a development executive with Mortenson, gives a tour of the Two Discovery Square building on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Overall, the Discovery Square campus project represents the core of the Destination Medical Center initiative’s 16-block “hub for bio-medicine, research and technology innovation.”

“Two Discovery Square is an important addition to our Discovery Square district. In addition to new housing, learning labs, restaurants, and extraordinary public spaces, it helps achieve the overall vision for Discovery Square as a place of collaboration, discovery and innovation," said DMC Economic Development Agency Executive Director Patrick Seeb of the project.

Mayo Clinic’s proposed $120 million Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Building to house research into “the medicine of the future” as also part of that area.

The 11-story Kellen tower, with 176,000 square feet of lab space, will stand nearby, on the corner of Third Street and Fourth Avenue Southwest. The goal is to open the Kellen building in the fourth quarter of 2023.

Jeff Kiger tracks business action in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota every day in "Heard on the Street." Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.

07 Two Discovery Square
Jason Walter, a senior project manager with Mortenson, gives a tour of the Two Discovery Square building on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
05 Two Discovery Square
Brent Webb, a development executive with Mortenson, gives a tour of the Two Discovery Square building on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in downtown Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin

Jeff Kiger writes a daily column, "Heard Around Rochester," in addition to writing articles about local businesses, Mayo Clinic, IBM, Hormel Foods, Crenlo and others. The opinions of my employer do not necessarily reflect my opinions. He has worked in Rochester for the Post Bulletin since 1999. Send tips to jkiger@postbulletin.com or via Twitter to @whereskiger . You can call him at 507-285-7798.
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