Judge Kevin Lund and businessman John Kruesel have never been fans of Destination Medical Center, the $5 billion economic development initiative approved by the Legislature in 2013.
And nothing they have seen in the last six years has altered their dissent.
For Lund, a historic preservation advocate and a district judge, the problem goes back to the way DMC was packaged, marketed and sold. DMC was based on the idea that Rochester had to be transformed to ensure Mayo Clinic's relevance as a global health care entity. That premise was false, Lund said.
The clinic has always been a first-class health care center, and DMC or its absence was never going to change that, he said.
"This sense that somehow the city and, more particularly, the clinic was on the verge of becoming irrelevant without this Destination Medical Center — it's a fallacy," said Lund, a lifelong resident.
"I've never understood how all of a sudden we became so panic-stricken that we needed this, in order to maintain our standing in the medical health care community. We did fine. We've always done exceptionally well."
Lund and Kruesel both fear that Rochester is at risk of losing qualities that have made the city unique and distinctive. There is a small-town feel to Rochester that is gradually being lost, a personal touch that its mom-and-pop shops specialize in that is being eroded.
"I don't mean to sound like 'Ozzie and Harriett,' but these small unique businesses are the life-blood of the community. That's what built Rochester. Rochester was not built by the Mayo Clinic," Lund said.
Lund said the evidence is already accumulating that development — "growth on steriods" is how Kruesel describes it — is destroying the city's identity from an architectural standpoint. He says the new apartment buildings that have been built are indistinguishable from one another. They all look the same. And he questions the appropriateness of certain development and hotel projects for a city Rochester's size.
Lund calls Bloom International Realty's defunct Riverfront Towers, a downtown project that was to include two towers — one 20 stories, the other 28 — a case in point. He calls it the "best thing that's never happened in this community." It was "absolutely obnoxious in terms of its scale."
He said such proposals underscore a frustration that many in the community express when they talk to him about DMC: The sense that elected officials are not in control of the situation.
"You just don't blindly genuflect to Mayo Clinic administration, but that's what's happening," Lund said. "Has there ever been a dissenting vote in anything that has appeared before the Destination Medical Corporation Board? Has there ever been any vibrant, robust debate?"
Is growth sustainable?
Lund said he is convinced that there is a segment of the population that does not approve the direction the city is taking under DMC. But, unfortunately, "that ship has sailed. The cow is out the barn."
But he questions whether the growth trajectory Rochester is on is sustainable.
"My opinion is based on my life experience and what, I think, is important in the life of a community," Lund said. "And I've concluded that history does matter, and the path we're on ignores the rich history that we have. And that we're going to look like every other town."