Public invited to 'roll up their sleeves' and help design the Heart of the City
Designers working on plans for Destination Medical Center's Heart of the City are inviting the community to come dream with them.
The public is invited to attend a community workshop Thursday, March 9 from 4:30-7 p.m. at the Rochester Art Center. The goal is to gather feedback on different design ideas and to get input on how to create a unique and authentic Rochester experience that attracts patients, visitors, employees and residents.
The design team — led by Minneapolis-based architecture firms RSP and Coen + Partners — has spent the past several months interviewing community members and downtown stakeholders to gauge the best ways to enhance the Heart of the City sub-district, which compasses the area in and around Peace Plaza. They have presented their research, along with some early design concepts, to the DMC Corporation Board and the Rochester City Council.
"Now we’re getting into the community side, where we’re asking the community to help refine and design the space — to take it to the next level," said Adam Ferrari, of 9.SQUARE. Ferrari was brought on to be the local representative on the design team. "The way to really get people engaged with design is to give them the chance to roll up their sleeves, be creative and try to problem solve."
Among the ideas being floated now: Elevating a portion of Peace Plaza and constructing an indoor event space on the ground level; adding gardens and other natural spaces outside Mayo Clinic's Gonda Building; and closing down portions of First and Second Avenues adjacent to the plaza and replacing the streets with pedestrian-friendly green spaces.
The goal is to make the area a year-round destination that encourages new interactions, enhances connectivity and accommodates the different reasons why people come downtown.
"What we have learned is that your experience in the Heart of the City differs based on your proximity," said Ferrari. "It sounds really straightforward, but if you’re a patient in a wheelchair and you only have 15 minutes between appointments, you can only get so far."
To stimulate activity, designers are also looking at possibilities for new activities and programming in Peace Plaza. While there are many great events throughout the year, such as SocialICE and Dogs Downtown, Ferarri said there is a need to make the plaza a more dynamic place more often.
"Peace Plaza on a Tuesday at 11 a.m. is a stark wasteland and it’s not a very nice place to be right now," he said. "We want to set the stage for the next level of programming."
Attendees at Thursday's workshop will be broken up into different groups, each focused on one of 12 core design principles. The team will then take the feedback they collect from the event and translate it into new, more refined design concepts.
“We want to be constantly evaluating and checking on where we’ve missed the mark in terms of making it feel like Rochester," said Ferrari. "To be authentic to who we are means using people’s ideas. We don’t want to just cherry-pick ideas that worked in other places and just throw them in there because it won’t feel like Rochester.”
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Cover graphic: DMC Development Plan