Dreaming is edging toward reality in the heart of Rochester.
As consultants prepare to design Destination Medical Center's Heart of the City District, the potential of dreams were rolled out Thursday during a meeting of the Heart of the City Community Advisory Committee.
"Ideas are starting to come forward," said Shane Coen of Coen and Partners, which is working with RSP Architects of Minneapolis to create a plan for the area along Peace Plaza and stretching one block north and south, to Center Street and Second Street Southwest.
The dream phase is the second of four phases, which started with discovery and will continue into detailed design efforts next month, with the goal of having a completed plan in June.
Concepts revealed Thursday came after study and community engagement, which started in October. Through the process, consultants discovered a desire to create spaces to attract the interest of patients and include local residents. Additionally, there is a desire to balance public and private efforts.
Potential designs were displayed Wednesday and included:
• Installing a natural space outside the Gonda Building's east doors, with landscaping and an art element to actively engage visitors and residents.
• Constructing a 24-foot-wide elevated Peace Plaza section between the Kahler Hotel and Siebens Building. Similar to New York City's High Line, it could allow for potential retail and event space at the ground level, while offering an outside connection at the skyway level, as well as an elevator to the subway level.
• Creating a "living room" where the Peace Plaza intersects First Avenue, complete with a grand stairway to connect the upper Peace Plaza level and an adjustable stage in front of the Chateau Theatre.
• Possibly closing First Avenue north of Peace Plaza to create a landscaped area for pedestrians, as well as further landscaping the closed section of Second Avenue south of the plaza.
"They are the beginning of ideas that we believe we've heard," Coen said.
Committee members were divided on some concepts presented, but many voiced support for elements that offered more engagement for visitors and residents, including the potential changes that would generate greater use in the cold months, such as the proposed covered area in Peace Plaza.
Tom Hexum, a local business leader, urged the consultants to push even further to create year-round spaces that could engage retail growth, perhaps even enclosing part of the district in glass so it could be heated in the winter but open in warmer months.
While Rochester City Council member Nick Campion voiced a desire to see more attractions for young families, he said the shift toward pedestrian-centered spaces was on the mark.
"Somebody has to take the plunge and assert that we are creating a particularly pedestrian space here," he said.
Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede noted the concepts went beyond his expectations.
"This is exciting," he told the presenters. "For someone who thinks I can think outside the box, you've stretched it even further."
The next phase of the process will be to create detailed designs, which will take into account potential conflicts, as well as additional public input.
Lisa Clarke, executive director of the DMC Economic Development Authority, said the effort will also look at potential funding for the public space.
"We can draw all the pictures we want, but we need to operate it and maintain it," she said.
Erin Lonoff of HR&A Advisors, which is working with RSP Architects, said funding for long-term maintenance would likely come from multiple sources, which could include income from events, the existing service district, sponsorships and public funding.