Council sets rules for enjoying Peace Plaza
By Jeffrey Pieters
Some new rules will be in place on Rochester’s expanded downtown Peace Plaza when it opens this spring.
No smoking, no skateboarding and no excessively loud music are among the policies adopted Monday by the Rochester City Council. The pedestrian-only plaza, on First Street Southwest between University Square and Mayo Clinic’s Gonda Building, is scheduled to open by June 1.
The council also authorized a service agreement with the nonprofit Rochester Downtown Alliance to schedule events and take reservations for the plaza space.
The city, through its Park and Recreation Department, will provide the physical upkeep, from watering plants to emptying trash cans.
The smoking regulation generated the only contentious discussion about the plaza. Council member Pat Carr spoke up for smokers.
"I think there’s a lot of smokers’ tax dollars that went into this Peace Plaza," Carr said.
The plaza policies passed on a 6-1 vote, with Carr voting no. A city ordinance including the new plaza smoking ban also passed on a 6-1 vote with Carr opposed. The service agreement with RDA passed unanimously.
The RDA’s job is to keep the plaza lively by organizing events and allowing other groups to rent parts or all of the plaza. The city council also authorized a rental-fee schedule on Monday.
Rental costs range from $350 to $3,000, depending on the amount of space and the time period desired. The plaza will be available for rental from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Nonprofit organizations holding private events and organizations holding events open to the general public are eligible for discounts of up to 50 percent.
The new plaza is an extension of the former Peace Plaza, which covered half a block outside the former Galleria shopping center, now called University Square.
The city is spending $2.9 million to extend the pedestrian-only space one block west, to the doorstep of Mayo Clinic, to create a downtown "focal point" for public gatherings and entertainment events.
Loud music is of concern to two neighboring property owners, Mayo Clinic and the Kahler Grand Hotel. They, with city officials, recently conducted a test with sound levels slightly beyond 85 decibels, about as loud as a vacuum cleaner or lawn mower.
"It was plenty loud so as to be enjoyed," said Bruce Fairchild, regional director of operations of Sunstone Hotels, which owns the Kahler Grand.
If the Kahler seems ready to rock, the rest of downtown might need a little more convincing.
Doug Knott, the city’s downtown development director, chuckled at his recollection of the decibel test.
"We had big speakers, and we cranked it to 100 decibels," he said. "We had somebody call the police on us."
To learn more, go to Postbulletin.com/weblinks.
Peace Plaza use policies and fee schedule, http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/citycouncil/councilmeetings/2008/04April/040708/040708_agenda_D08.pdf
Services agreement with Rochester Downtown Alliance, http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/citycouncil/councilmeetings/2008/04April/040708/040708_agenda_D07.pdf
City Ordinance Section 45D, Rules of Conduct in Peace Plaza (editor’s note: smoking ban to be incorporated in the ordinance), http://www.rochestermn.gov/departments/citycouncil/councilmeetings/2008/04April/040708/040708_agenda_D06.pdf