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UMR wants Discovery Square space

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Discovery Square exterior

The University of Minnesota Rochester is negotiating to lease classroom and lab space in the first of the Discovery Square buildings planned to start construction in downtown this fall.

UMR is the first potential tenant, other than Mayo Clinic, announced for the estimated four-story, 89,000-square-foot complex. Minneapolis-based Mortenson Co. is building this long-anticipated Destination Medical Center project at the corner of Fourth Street Southwest and Second Avenue Southwest. That's on Mayo Clinic's employee parking Lot No. 2.

This will be the first Mortenson's development of an estimated 2 million square feet of research and development space in the DMC Discovery Square subdistrict. The hope is to break ground this fall.

Mayo Clinic chose Mortenson to drive the massive project. The developer will own the building. Mayo Clinic will be the anchor tenant, with the rest of the facility to be filled with scientific and health care firms looking for easy access to Mayo Clinic.

UMR Chief of Staff Jay Hesley said that the university has signed a letter of intent and is talking to Mortenson, though no details have been worked out yet.

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"We have needs for spaces coming for us in 2019, given our projections. And wet labs are clearly a pinch point in those coming needs," he said.

UMR currently has one wet lab with space for 20 students on the fourth floor of University Square in downtown Rochester.

General financing for the estimated $3 million project has already been lined up, with the University of Minnesota pledging $1.5 million. The rest of the money is slated to come from the $11.3 million remaining in the fund created by Rochester's sales tax referendum in 2012. The Rochester City Council approved that use for the sales tax money last week.

Hesley said UMR would ideally like to have two hooded wet chemistry laboratories as well as classrooms and "collaborative" space. The labs are expected to be on 25-year leases and the rest of the space will probably be on 10-year leases.

The university has long planned to build a 10-acre campus, a few blocks southeast of this new Mortenson complex. How does putting labs in a general commercial building fit in with the future campus plans?

"We've always talked about a distributed model of campus. There has never been an intent to move lock, stock and barrel to move everything in that direction," he said "We feel very strongly that the integrating of the campus spaces into the community is very, very important to the educational process for the students."

Collaboration between tenants, particularly Mayo Clinic, is a major theme for this first Discovery Square building. Jeremy Jacobs of Mortenson told a crowd this week that while many details are not locked down yet, designer are planning to have a three-story stairway in the center of the building to encourage spontaneous intellectual "collisions" and conversions.

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