Rochester’s Community Development Department officially launched 10 days ago with a goal of creating the nation’s “most innovative development services team.”
“It’s not just something we are putting on a piece of paper,” City Administrator Steve Rymer said during Wednesday’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting for the department in City Hall.
During the event, city staff and elected officials said work to meet that goal will be ongoing.
“We are united in our commission to be your partners, to work collaboratively and to think outside the box,” Department Director Cindy Steinhauser told the 50 or so people gathered, which included developers, business leaders and other officials.
The work goes beyond the single department, she added, noting the goal is to create a one-stop shop with the city’s Building Safety and Public Works departments,
Deputy City Administrator Aaron Parrish, who is leading the work to combine efforts under a single roof, said the launch of the Community Development Department came with “optimism and horror at the same time” as the deadline neared.
He said the city is committed to creating the right place for the departments and putting the right people in a position to offer services.
Designed with a planned staff of 13, the Community Development Department has four more positions to fill: an urban design/heritage preservation coordinator, two planners and an administrative assistant. Steinhauser said she expects job offers to be made to potential employees by Friday.
With the first days of transition from a consolidated city and county planning department complete, Steinhauser said some adjustments have been made.
“There are going to be bumps with the transfer of information and technology,” she said, noting work continues to seek a smooth process for people needing the department’s services.
At the same time, she said she expects change to be a constant part of the process as work continues. On Wednesday, she said such efforts can be driven by community members.
“If you have ideas, we want to hear from you,” she told the crowd gathered for Wednesday’s ceremony.
She also noted the new department isn’t solely about planning and zoning. Additional work will revolve around urban design of public spaces, historic preservation and sustainability efforts, while continuing to work with a variety of community partners, including the Olmsted County Planning Department and the Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency.
Rymer said those ongoing connections are important to the city’s future, along with private investment, which is driving much of the city’s growth.
“Let’s work together on that, and you’ll be able to look back in a couple years and really be able to see what was achieved,” he said.
In closing the short ceremony, Rochester Mayor Kim Norton noted the decision to create a new department was an important decision for the council and provided a goal to find creative ways to address future growth and city needs.
“Change frightens people, but it didn’t frighten the City Council and administration,” she said. “In fact, it encouraged and excited them, and I hope it’s going to encourage and excite others.”