Extended interview: DMC Master Planner Peter Cavaluzzi
Here are some of the highlights of that conversation:
First thoughts about Rochester:
One of the things I was struck by was the very compact downtown area and the character that already exists here. It seemed to me that we would have a lot easier time with it because there's so much already here that we can grow and enhance.
So many of the people we encountered when we were first introduced to the project talked about, 'well, we're different here in Rochester and it's harder here and the politics are more complicated.' But to be honest with you, I don't know if that's the case.
I think every large-scale project has its cast of characters and there's always issues that have to be dealt with. As it relates to the progress of the plan, and the level of acceptance of the vision, I would say that it has actually been extremely remarkable how the city, Mayo and the EDA have come together and rallied around this vision. That would be a one-of-a-kind experience as it compares to other places that we've worked.
What makes Rochester different:
The one thing that stands out that is unique is the Mayo Clinic. It is a world-renowned destination unto itself for health care, and it's a great foundation for this city to grow.
But I think the way we began to look at it is: as essential as the Mayo Clinic is, we had to look at the design problem in a way that we had to make the downtown and the development a destination for people who weren't even going to the clinic.
Because if we can attract people that want to live here and come to the downtown area on its own right, for its own amenities, we will have succeeded.
Building a city that serves employees, patients and residents:
We focus on places, not projects. What I mean by that is if you look at the Destination Medical Center vision, there are six or seven key places that are created by buildings that really create the address, create the environment, create the place people want to be in.
Too many times with large-scale projects like this there's an over-emphasis on the buildings in themselves, and not how those buildings create the environment that people want to be in.
If we can create a variety of welcoming, inviting places that will feel like they belong to the culture and character of Rochester, we will have the ability to attract the widest audience to the city.
Creating a more vibrant downtown:
You really do have to accept and appreciate the weather as being a factor in people's desire to be in climate-controlled spaces. That said, the skyway and subway systems weren't really planned as much as they were about connecting one building to another.
So what we did in the DMC plan is try to merge all three levels; we tried to do what we call 'daylight' the subway by bringing light and activity to the area — most notably this idea of a Rockefeller-style ice rink to the base of the Gonda tower.
We wanted to open up that lower level and make it visible to the street, and at the same time, at the [skyway] level, create spaces that weren't just the bridges, but also winter gardens and gallerias that really are an attraction. That way they don't make you feel like you are walking through these tunnels as much as it feels like you are passing through places.
Diversifying transportation options:
We embodied an idea of open transit, where you try to provide all modes of transportation. That includes pedestrians, automobiles, buses, bikes, trains, street cars — so you make the downtown as accessible as you possible can. And then we want to integrate those transit modes with public spaces so they reinforce one another and they're not separated and divorced from the overall development vision.
Concepts vs. concrete ideas:
With everything that we illustrated, we not only tried to be as creative and visionary as we possibly could be, but we're always focused on implementation. Everything that we drew really was done in a way to make it something that could be accomplished.
Now, we understand that at the end of the day that development is a market-driven process, so the market will determine just how these spaces take shape.
But what we've established is something that truly can be followed fairly literally, and at the same time is flexible enough to adapt to market conditions, ownership and other things that come along as part of the natural development process.
Bringing the plan to life:
We're now focused on implementation, so we want to go out and build these things. Master plans, by definition and by their nature, evolve and change over time. Cities and institutions regularly update their master plans to respond to the conditions that they see in front of them.
The plan will continue to grow, continue to evolve, but the plan now has really entered the implementation phase. We've got some great ideas — we've developed them in a way that can be achieved — so now our focus is how do we get them built?
Starting off with a bang:
We've determined that the Heart of the City, right in the middle of the city, is really the most critical and will have the biggest impact early on. The first phase of every large-scale project has to be large enough and bold enough to have an impact, but at the same time it has to be small enough that it can be achieved.
The area will be almost a celebratory space where it has the light pavilion, where we can have cultural and artistic events happen under this beautiful ceiling over the intersection of First and First. It will be visible to patients and workers, as well as to visitors who inhabit Peace Plaza.
In some ways it will have characteristics that are similar to Time Square by building off the Chateau Theatre. At the same time, it will just be a beautiful civic space for people to gather.
Reinventing the waterfront:
The waterfront is the sentimental home for the residents of Rochester. Every great city usually has a great waterfront where people go to relax, have meals and entertain guests. But Rochester never really has realized the potential of the Zumbro River.
With the expansion of the [Mayo Civic Center] and with the possibility of what we're showing in the plan — giving Second Street a more visible connection to the waterfront — we think that it will be a real town square for the city of Rochester.
Building a space for innovation:
Discovery Square is really the most avant garde; it's the most forward looking and economically driven space within the plan. We hope to create a world-renowned address for science and biotech in the city. At the same time, the facilities are surrounding a great downtown square that will appeal to everyone.
[The plan] has been very carefully considered and carefully linked. The focus is on great places that will attract the widest audience of people.
It will be a way to really express the wonderful culture and the pride of the city of Rochester and the great institution of the Mayo Clinic.
Click here to lean more about the DMC initiative.
(Cover graphic: DMC Development Plan)