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Heart of City committee wants hands-on process

In its first meeting Tuesday the Heart of the City Community Advisory Committee dove straight into discussion of one of the body's primary purposes – the selection of a design firm to lead improvements to downtown Rochester's premier public space.

The city and DMCC cooperated to appoint the Heart of the City committee . One of the main charges of the committee is to provide a recommended design firm to the city and DMCC. Eleven firms submitted qualifications in response to a request sent out by the city and DMCC earlier this year.

"It was intended to get as large a pool as possible that we would then have to review and shortlist, and invite a smaller group to submit a full proposal," said Patrick Seeb, DMC Economic Development Agency director of economic development and placemaking.

Seeb has worked closely with city staff in a support role for the community advisory committee. Seeb proposed he and city staff could review the design firms using an evaluation score sheet and narrow the field to three to five candidates. Those candidates would be invited to submit full proposals to the committee, he said.

Some committee members favored a more hands-on approach to vetting the firms, given the experience of members including Gail Eadie, Mayo Clinic architect and design manager, and Tom Fisher, who is dean of the College of Design at University of Minnesota.


"I can't imagine Gail or Tom not being probably the primary sources of information and knowledge base as to who is qualified, versus you (Seeb) or … one of the city staff," said committee member Tom Hexum. "It's their profession. They've risen to the top of it."

Much of the detail the group was looking for would come in the request for proposals process, Seeb said. He and city staff would make available to the group the letter sent out with the request for proposals and the full responses from the 11 firms that replied. At the next meeting, the group would discuss more fully the details firms would be asked to submit with proposals, Seeb said.

Assistant City Administrator Gary Neumann was excited by the quality of firms that had responded and he looked forward to reviewing their qualifications further, he told the Post-Bulletin.

"They're all very good firms on that list. It's going to be an interesting exercise to try to winnow it down a bit to see who submits the final proposals," Neumann said.

The committee plans to meet five to eight times this year as it continues to vet design firms. According to the city action establishing the committee , it is planned to exist for no longer than two years and its core function is to recommend a design firm to the Rochester City Council and DMC Corp. Board of Directors for final approval.

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