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Public input sought for downtown plan

Big changes are being considered for downtown Rochester, and now is your chance to voice opinions on everything from mass transit to retail.

An open house for learning about, discussing, and providing input into updates being made to the downtown master plan will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Jan. 26 at Mayo Civic Center, in Riverview Suites C and D.

The meeting ends the first phase of the planning process, which was started in November by the city, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Minnesota Rochester.

A second public meeting is tentatively planned for April 6. Development options will be presented for public comment at that meeting, according to Doug Knott, the city’s downtown development director. A final version of the master plan could be presented to the Rochester City Council in June.

The master planning process comes as the University of Minnesota Rochester prepares to establish a five-block downtown campus over the next two decades and Mayo Clinic goes through a long-range master plan update of its own.

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Rochester, Mayo, and UMR officials will join consultants at public input stations Jan. 26 to discuss topics such as urban design, historic preservation, the arts, tourism, and connecting downtown to nearby neighborhoods, Knott said.

Here are a few things to keep in mind related to the meeting:

UMR campus location still unclear.City officials hoped UMR would have announced its downtown campus before the Jan. 26 meeting, but it looks like that won’t happen, Knott said. General discussion can still take place about opportunities the campus will create downtown and how to link the campus to Mayo Clinic and the central business district, however, Knott said.

•  Mayo Clinic planning still under way.Details are also still scant on Mayo’s planning process, which appears to be months away from completion. "I don’t think they (Mayo) have any intention of announcing specific locations for specific buildings" at the Jan. 26 meeting, Knott said.

•  Downtown mobility is a key issue.Part of the master plan that could be discussed in detail is a mobility study that is now under way. With downtown expected to grow, the study is looking at how to minimize traffic congestion, provide adequate parking, integrate mass transit, and make it easier to bike and walk downtown, Knott said. The possibility of restricting traffic on Broadway through downtown is also being considered, he added.

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