Does DMC have an image problem? Board members think so.
Members of Destination Medical Center staff and its corporate board met Thursday in Rochester to discuss ongoing DMC projects.
In a discussion meeting, another topic came up – do people like DMC?
The 20-year, $5.6 billion economic development initiative was established in 2013 to improve infrastructure and draw investment and jobs to Rochester.
"My sense is the community is not with us," said R.T. Rybak, DMC corporate board chairman and former Minneapolis mayor. "I don’t want to come down here and piss everybody off and make them think we’re taking over the town."
Some local community leaders agreed with that assessment.
"There’s, I’d say, anger in the community that this is being shoved down their throats," said Jim Bier, Olmsted County Commissioner and DMC corporate board member.
Some of that sentiment is in reaction to change that would have taken place with or without DMC, some observed.
"For too long DMC has been portrayed as the cause of or solution to every problem in the community," said Michael Wojcik, Rochester City Council member. "Things were going to change no matter what."
More downtown residents and employees were going to make investment in transit necessary and parking scarce, he said.
Working to create infrastructure to accommodate that change is one of DMC’s missions.
Some projects are infrastructure improvement, including ongoing water and sewer improvements downtown. However, the results aren’t visible and the construction tends to be a nuisance.
"Seeing it right now, just means you have to drive around it," Rochester Mayor Kim Norton said in an interview after the meeting.
That’s not much of a selling point, she added.
Wojcik said more investment in transit would be a tangible change people could see.
Norton agreed, but said too early investment in transit could make justifying the costs difficult.
"It’s a chicken and egg situation," she said.
Wojcik said one transit initiative could be implemented this year -- making ridership free.
"No one can put their finger on something, my life is better because DMC is here," Wojcik said. "Let’s do something significant to help people in the community."
Responding to community needs and working with groups that also do so could help, said Gregg Wright, Olmsted County Commissioner.
"We have groups working on a livable community … we need to help them," Wright said. "We can work with those neighborhoods and how they want to preserve their neighborhoods and how we can do that."