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Soldiers Field Park, rapid transit are big spends in plan for nearly $32 million in state DMC funds for 2023

State board approves spending plan that includes upgrades to city park and work moving toward downtown transit project.

Drone - Soldiers Field Park (copy)
A planned $17.5 million update to Soldier's Field Park is expected to use $10 million in state Destination Medical Center funds next year.
Post Bulletin file photo
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ROCHESTER — Nearly $32 million in state Destination Medical Center funds is tentatively earmarked for work in 2023.

The state DMC Corp. board unanimously approved the funding request Thursday morning.

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Clark Otley, the DMC Economic Development Agency board president, said the budget was designed by reviewing goals of the city and state board as they related to the DMC initiative.

"Our intention is that, by being thoughtful and purposeful about how we complete our work, the EDA can make recommendations to you and the (Rochester) City Council that fulfill the broadest vision of DMC," he said. "After all, being thoughtful and purposeful is essentially what DMC is all about."

The state funding includes up to $10 million for renovation work at Soldiers Field Park, which includes plans for a new aquatic center to replace the existing pool.

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The state board’s approval hinges on future review of planned updates to the park at the southern end of the DMC district.

“The work is still very much occurring in the community to define what the vision is for this amazing asset on the southern end of the DMC zone,” DMCC Board Chairwoman Pamela Wheelock said, adding that the tentative approval is to recognize the importance of the project.

The Rochester City Council reviewed a proposed master plan update on Monday, which calls for an estimated $18.5 million in upgrades in the next five years, with $10 million dedicated to a new aquatic center.

Several council members voiced a desire to maintain 18 holes at the golf course.

Any DMC funding would be combined with $5 million in federal funding, as well as a potential $3.5 million in city funds dedicated for park projects.

“It is, I think, our top example so far of how DMC is investing in a very real accessible community asset,” said Rochester City Council President Brooke Carlson, who sits on the DMCC board.

DMC Economic Development Agency Executive Director Patrick Seeb said he anticipated the DMCC board will receive an update on the plan during its Nov. 10 meeting, which follows a potential Rochester Park Board decision regarding the plan on Oct. 4.

Another $14.1 million – $9 million in regular state DMC funding and $5.1 million in DMC state transit aid – is slated for work on the city’s planned rapid-transit system, which will include reconstruction of portions of Second Street Southwest, along with the creation of dedicated transit stops.

The rapid-transit project is also expected to use $3.4 million in Olmsted County transit aid next year, as the city plans to spend $300,000 to begin planning for the next phase of rapid transit operations.

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20-year agreement calls for Mayo Clinic to fill funding gap for operating the proposed city-owned downtown transit service.

The city has applied for nearly $85 million in federal funding for the overall project, which is expected to cost approximately $137 million during a five-year period.

The DMC spending plan for 2023 also includes:

  • $1.7 million for continued construction of the Discovery Walk linear park along Second Avenue Southwest, between the Mayo Clinic campus and Soldiers Field Park. 
  • $1 million for design work related to the potential creation of a proposed Sixth Street bridge and work along Sixth Street Southeast. 
  • $1 million for continued planning and design of public spaces along the downtown riverfront. 
  • $1 million to upgrade the Chateau Theatre heating and cooling system.

While the budget outlines potential spending, Seeb said the DMCC board and Rochester City Council will still need to approve details for many of the proposed projects.
The proposed budget also continues to fund $3 million in state DMC funds for continued strategic redevelopment within the DMC district, which can include projects the DMCC board and Rochester City Council consider to be a valuable investment in the community.

The annual budget calls for the city to provide nearly $4 million in operations funding for the DMC initiative, which will count toward the $128 million it is required to contribute to receive up to $411 million in state funds.

A report filed earlier this year stated the city had spent $58.6 million on DMC efforts since mid-2013, with the state providing nearly $68.3 million, which didn’t include a $29.2 million state payment approved this year.

With the DMCC board's approval of the initiative’s 2023 budget, the Rochester City Council will vote on the spending plan next month.

Randy Petersen joined the Post Bulletin in 2014 and became the local government reporter in 2017. An Elkton native, he's worked for a variety of Midwest papers as reporter, photographer and editor since graduating from Winona State University in 1996. Readers can reach Randy at 507-285-7709 or rpetersen@postbulletin.com.
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