Our View: Change requires defined expectations
After waiting a few minutes to speak during a downtown press conference on transportation this week, Rochester City Council Member Michael Wojcik glanced over his shoulder and referenced the possibility that new buildings may have popped up during his wait.
The joke featuring unrealistic expectations in the midst of Destination Medical Center efforts draws attention to blossoming realities: Developers are looking for local opportunities, and growth is coming.
In the wake of St. Cloud-based developer Larry Brutger's decision to back off plans to erect a new Holiday Inn across from Mayo Clinic's Saint Marys Hospital, a related reality is being brought to light — development takes time, and everything doesn't always go as planned.
"People are realizing through this controversy that real change is happening," DMC Economic Development Agency Executive Director Lisa Clarke said, noting such public awareness should spur community engagement in the process and bring focus to efforts aimed at using individual projects to create a sense of place within parts of the city.
Beyond raising that public awareness, we hope it also brings an urgency to better define the process for projects that continue to move forward. It's not the time to look back to cast blame. Rather, it should be about developing steps for future growth and finding ways to ensure other projects aren't stymied by past problems.
As City Council Member Nick Campion noted Monday, more communication should be part of that process. "I would really like to come up with a way that we can handle the communication back and forth a little better," he said referring to coordination between the city and DMC EDA.
While Council President Randy Staver noted a plan including several checkpoints has been put into place to improve that communication, we'd note efforts also should ensure a level of transparency for developers and residents.
We are encouraged to see council members addressing the concerns. "We have some incredible projects in the pipeline as well as on the horizon," Staver said. "We just need to figure out how to do this better so we don't get to late stages on any project and get surprises or disappointment."
At the same time, we understand developing a defined process won't solve all future problems. As DMC EDA Economic Development and Placemaking Director Patrick Seeb noted, "A process doesn't guarantee an outcome."
Yet, an improved process should provide developers, neighbors and government officials something to fall back on if things start to go awry. It can create expectations and guidelines to offset concerns.
Such efforts shouldn't be restricted to DMC projects. Granted, projects within the DMC footprint have an added layer of oversight through the EDA and DMC Corp. board, but development throughout the city can benefit from streamlined efforts, better communication and transparency.
While planned developments — whether multimillion dollar hotels or smaller retail sites — won't be popping up over anyone's shoulder in the blink of an eye, they are coming. That's the reality of living in Rochester.
Part of that reality needs to be finding ways to make sure development fits plans for success for the city as a whole.