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Our View: First DMC priorities need to start taking shape

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After approving the Destination Medical Center development plan and moving forward on a funding source, the Rochester City Council's next step will be establishing priorities for future spending.

As the council discussed funding options Monday, freshman member Nick Campion rightfully noted the importance of working with the Destination Medical Center Corp. board to make sure each entity is on the same page and goals are well defined.

"I think if we are transparent about what we think the priorities are, we will grease the skids a bit," he said.

Mayor Ardell Brede, who also serves on the DMCC board, said two of the six districts — Discovery Square and Heart of the City — have started rising to the top of the list. We feel that's where they should be.

Discovery Square, which will include the current BioBusiness Center, likely will be one of the biggest DMC drivers for job growth as it lures medical innovators and researchers. At the same time, it could be one of the most challenging aspects for DMC's early years.

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Bill George, DMCC board member and former chairman and CEO of Medtronic, has said it will take time to recruit investment in Discovery Square, noting Mayo Clinic staff will need to do some "heavy lifting" to recruit companies.

While the square will be a centerpiece of the final DMC project, its expected slow start means it can't be the only priority. If all attention is focused on building the area and movement is slow, it could discourage growth and investment elsewhere.

That's where the Heart of the City district comes into play. Sitting in the core of downtown Rochester, the district promises to be a gathering place for visitors and residents. The city's plan to acquire the Chateau Theatre could give the "heart" a new beat quicker than expected.

DMCC board member Jim Campbell said that beat is providing a peek at the promise of DMC when it comes to the city and Mayo Clinic working together. "I think the last two weeks is an example of what we hoped would happen here," the former chief executive officer of Wells Fargo Minnesota said.

We expect the collaboration to continue as plans move forward. Thursday, Lisa Clarke, the interim executive director for DMC's EDA, said community leaders and a variety of local groups are working together to define future plans. "We've learned the critical nature of the coordination," she told the DMCC board.

We're encouraged by the talk of openly defining priorities and working together. It's going to take effort to follow through on the promise that has been seen in recent weeks as the focus starts to shift, but we remain confident the right path will be found as long as all groups involved remain open and provide a clear picture of what is happening along the way.

"If we do this well, all the tactical aspects ahead of us have the opportunity to happen," Campbell noted when discussing first steps in January.

We agree. The way decisions are made today has the chance to bear fruit for the next two decades.

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