City-owned parking separates Patrick Dean’s home from the Zumbro River.
The surrounding design keeps the waterway from being a downtown asset, he said.
“I feel like the river itself, the surface of the river is inaccessible,” said the owner of a condo on South Broadway Avenue.
Thursday evening, as he sketched a proposal for fountains and a plaza built across the river, he said he sees potential to embrace the river and turn the existing parking lot into a market square.
It was part of the Destination Medical Center annual meeting and the kind of engagement DMC Economic Development Agency Executive Director Patrick Seeb alluded to during the evening’s 30-minute program.
“We are beginning conversation right now about what the future of this site can be,” he said, noting a series of educational stations along the riverfront helped fuel the conversation Thursday.
The Rochester City Council will vote Monday on a contract to develop a small-area plan for the city’s nearly 2.5 acres between Second Street Southeast and Fourth Street Southeast on the west side of the river.
The $195,000 contract with Gamble Associates includes continued community engagement as the potential for the site is weighed, with the expectation for a final vision to be produced next summer.
Residents arrived early Thursday with their ideas for the area, which includes the former Legends building and Second Street parking ramp.
Comments about the Legends building, which started its life as a Red Owl grocery store and Time Theatre, were mixed, but more agreement was found around the goals of creating an inviting place.
Jim Pipe, a Mayo Clinic employee at Discovery Square, said he’d like to see the parking lots and other concrete behind the South Broadway buildings give way to green space, creating new venues for community activity and a walkable riverfront.
“I think DMC and the way it’s building Rochester in civic-minded ways is exciting,” he said.
Gillian Duncan and Michael Belknap agreed, saying they like the direction the city is headed.
At the same time, they said more must be done.
As residents of a restored building on the 300 block of South Broadway, they said the future Zumbro River area needs to attract people.
“It needs to be something that is so unique that people want to come downtown,” Duncan said, suggesting an indoor-outdoor garden space.
Belknap said he sees potential for a medical museum and a new library with exciting architectural design that would embrace the river and create a unique educational space for the city.
Citing frustration with earlier plans to build towers on the space behind their downtown home, the couple said the existing buildings need to be considered in future plans.
“Whatever you put in here has to compliment Broadway,” Belknap said.
Seeb also said the plans to be the right fit.
“We’re not building things,” he said. “We’re building community, and we’re building experiences.”
DMC Corp. Board Chairman R.T. Rybak also voiced excitement about transforming the river.
“This is a memory village for the next generation,” he said, pointing to the water. “We want to start that now.”
Rybak used Thursday’s meeting, which highlighted efforts to overcome COVID’s impact and build on the nearly $1 billion in private investment since the initiative’s beginning, as a call for recommitment to the overall DMC project in its sixth year.
“Are you ready to recommit to this vision? Are you willing to say we’ve come a long way, but are you willing to say we ain’t seen nothing yet?” he asked the crowd. “I’m willing to do that. I hope you are too.”