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At the 5-year mark, what does Rochester think of DMC?

Heart of the City plans
Plans for the Heart of the City redesign are posted at the Rochester Art Center for a community meeting a year ago. There have been a multitude of public meetings, community listening posts, prototyping events and more, but there’s no public research that gets at the question: What do Rochester residents think of DMC?
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Does Rochester like DMC?

We know Mayo likes it. Many or most business leaders like it a lot, as do most elected officials who have a stake in Rochester and Olmsted County. At least they vote as if they like it.

But what about the people who live here?

That question lingers over just about everything related to Destination Medical Center as it nears its five-year anniversary in May. The $5.6 billion initiative, triggered by Mayo Clinic with a grand announcement on Jan. 30, 2013, in the gilded Governor’s Reception Room at the State Capitol, won approval from the Legislature in the waning hours of May 20 and was signed into law by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 23.

On that date, everything changed for Mayo Clinic and Rochester.

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What is it?

DMC means about $3.5 billion in new investment by Mayo by about 2033, and if it lives up to its press releases, DMC promises to change Rochester more than any event since the legendary twister of 1883.

It envisions a tornado of private investment, at least $2 billion in hotels and restaurants, more shopping and services, health care-related R & D and manufacturing, more jobs and housing in regional cities — you name it, we’ll grow it.

And to accommodate all the new people — residents and visitors — and all the jobs, DMC means $585 million in state, county and city spending on streets, sewer and water, public amenities and a whole lot of design and planning consultants.

DMC means the clinic, city, county and state are partners in all this, which as we’ve learned in the first five years can make for some tension, some awkward moments, and many shared triumphs, including all the construction cranes you see towering over the city.

DMC promises as many as 30,000 new jobs in Rochester, and it claims 3,000 already have been created since 2014.

Most cities would go nuts to have this. Many larger cities are doing their best, for example, to get Amazon to build its "second headquarters" there, with its promised 50,000 jobs.

So why is there a perception — and it’s only a perception, the next best thing to a guess, since there’s no polling that I’m aware of, and DMC’s Economic Development Agency also says they’re not aware of polling — that most people who live here aren’t going nuts about DMC?

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No cartwheels yet

Like everyone in Rochester, I’ve heard a lot of people talk about "the DMC," as it’s often called. In my experience, people are happy to hear about more jobs, more things to do, more excitement downtown, and if DMC is responsible for Rochester now having a Chick-fil-A, great. But people are cautious. They don’t take the press releases at face value. They’re appropriately skeptical of the fancy graphics and master-planning jargon.

The thinking likely goes: If it’s good for Mayo, it’s probably good for Rochester, but what about me? What will happen to my property taxes? Will the city become too expensive to live and do business in? Will I recognize downtown 10 years from now?

What if I like Rochester more or less the way it is?

There are other skeptics who say that for all the hullabaloo about DMC, there’s not a lot to show for it. Mayo always has new buildings going up, and while there are more hotels, too, we don’t have any major new employers.

That’s just not true. More than $200 million in private investment — by Mayo and others — has occurred in Rochester in the past five years. This year alone, there’s about $1 billion in new development underway in the city. A thousand construction jobs have been created to do the work. And more is just ahead.

There aren’t many cities anywhere in America that can make those claims.

DMC promoters would ask for patience. It takes time to listen to people, hear their ideas and do the planning for the Heart of the City area, for example. Renovation of the historic Chateau Theatre can’t happen until those plans are finished, and it has to be coordinated with projects next door. The Chateau project is a microcosm of what’s happening with all of DMC: There are a lot of moving parts, and every major project has to be coordinated with many others.

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But promoters would say DMC is on track, it’s creating jobs, it has attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investment to Rochester, it’s creating distinctive new public spaces and places, and it will make the city stronger. That’s good for people who live here and people who visit our world-class medical center.

What do you think? Five years on, do you like what you see? Do you think your friends and neighbors do?

Go to my Facebook page , or email furst@postbulletin.com and tell me what you think. Some of your feedback will make it into Part Two of "DMC: Five Years and Building," next Monday, which will have another 20-24 pages of information.

I encourage you to read it all and learn everything you can about DMC. In just five years — and that includes the time needed to form boards, hire staff and create a development district — DMC has changed the direction of the city in ways we continue to discover every day, and 2018 will be another year of discovery.

Related Topics: FINANCEMAYO CLINIC
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