What's in DMC Design Guidelines?

Terry Spaeth City of Rochester

Design guidelines to steer the Destination Medical Center development outline an ambitious goal to transform Rochester into "America's City For Health."

The guidelines, created by the University of Minnesota Metropolitan Design Center, will be on display in two meetings Thursday.

"The sedentary, auto-centric lifestyle that dominated urban and suburban living over the last 70 years has negatively affected both human health, evident in the obesity epidemic, and environmental health, apparent in our changing climate," the authors wrote in an executive summary.

"No city in the United States has a better chance of demonstrating a healthier way forward than Rochester and it's Destination Medical Center, aiming to be 'America's City for Health.' "

What's in the guidelines?


The DMC Design Guidelines incorporated decades' worth of planning documents created by the city of Rochester and aligned those priorities and standards with the DMC Development Plan.

The guidelines are broken into three categories, with 12 guidelines per category. They are: Downtown District; Streets and Corridors; and Individual Sites and Buildings.

Each of the 36 guidelines includes a section on "performance guideline," a concise statement describing the desired outcome of the guideline.

Guidelines referring to streets, corridors, sites and buildings also include "prescriptive guidelines" that are requirements intended to be adopted in city planning standards, including the Rochester Zoning Ordinance, and Land Development Manual.

What does a typical guideline look like?

In the "Streets and Corridors" category, the first guideline is to design multimodal streets prioritizing pedestrians first.

The performance guideline in this example describes designing downtown and urban neighborhood streets with pedestrians as a priority — maximizing sidewalks widths, providing street amenities, slowing traffic and providing transit facilities.

The prescriptive requirements include minimum standards for sidewalk widths, sidewalk materials and lighting. Each prescriptive requirement includes illustrations and examples.


How will the standards be used?

With development standards in a single, accessible document, the DMC Design Guidelines will be a resource for both developers and the bodies that review projects.

"It certainly makes it much easier for everybody – the persons who want to develop and city staff and boards and councils that evaluate projects – to have one document that includes these guidelines in them, rather than searching through a number of documents," Terry Spaeth, city development director, said.

The guidelines could reach to other agencies operating in the DMC district, like the Rochester Downtown Alliance, which have counted on other city planning documents for their work.

"We use (the city's) Urban Design Guidelines as we facilitate the Facade Improvement Program," Jenna Bowman, Rochester Downtown Alliance executive director, said. "I would anticipate with the level of detail these design guidelines have gotten to, that that would most likely impact that work as we look at façade improvement grants as they come forward, as well."

What's next?

The design guidelines will be open for public review at two meetings Thursday: from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the University of Minnesota Rochester campus and from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Rochester Public Library.

The Rochester City Council plans to review public input and discuss adoption of the guidelines over the summer months. It will also discuss which points of the guidelines and prescriptive requirements to adopt into the city's zoning ordinance and land development manual.

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