Sunny Prabhakar: Heart of the City should serve both visitors and residents
I wanted to give myself some time to calm down from the Heart of the City Community Advisory Committee meeting that took place on Tuesday. Fortunately, we had to cut the meeting short as I was preparing to make my rebuttal to the comments that were made. Javon Bea, CEO of Kahler Hospitality Group, spent the last seven minutes or so lecturing us on why he will be biased in his decisions and opinions on this committee. He proceeded to imply that Rochester residents were not an important group to be considered when discussing the Heart of the City design. In his mind, the patients who are here for relatively short-term stays are the important group that we should be focused on because they are the difference between Rochester being a “dumpy town” or a destination that spurs innovation, enjoyment and creativity.
While I agree that we all come into any committee with a certain level of bias due to our own personal experiences, it is important to maintain an open mind. Our goal by serving on these committees should be to represent our demographic and communities while acting in the best interest of the city as a whole, not in our own self-interest.
Mayo Clinic is an extremely important economic driver in Rochester and all of Minnesota. We cannot deny that the majority of people who visit here have some tie to Mayo Clinic. Patients and visitors are important to Rochester, but equally important are the residents of Rochester.
Mr. Bea painted many Rochester residents with a broad stroke when he classified those who do not live downtown, but still enjoy the downtown events, as “yuppies." I am still not quite sure what he is referring to with his word choice. Nonetheless, why should the “yuppies” travel to the cities to have social and cultural experiences? We should be focused on how we can engage the market that lives, works and plays here. When visitors see a vibrant, proud and connected community, they will have a stronger desire to come to that community. One group is not more important than the other and we have to be conscious of everyone that touches Rochester in the decisions that we make and in how we hold the design firm accountable.
While Mr. Bea might own two central hotels in our downtown and be a part of other large developments in Rochester, I believe he remains largely disconnected from the community and has little understanding of our community needs. This lack of understanding has caused a great deal of tension recently. We have all made mistakes and said things that we wish we did not while trying to prove a point. I would caution everyone not to rush to judgement and to try to understand Mr. Bea and his experiences before chastising his comments. I understand the difficulty in this, as his comment made me visibly upset as I rushed to my own judgements.
I have invited Mr. Bea to sit down with me and have coffee so that I may offer a new perspective and also listen to his frustrations. We are all human at the end of the day and the more open dialogue we have, the better our thought processes will be. We grow from experiences and from learning from those who have differing perspectives in order to get a 360-degree view of the issues.
In my opinion, Mr. Bea is not correct in his assessment of Rochester and what he thinks is important, but I welcome a discussion that allows him to express some of his concerns. I believe that my role on any of the community boards or organizations that I am involved in, is to represent my demographic and be mindful of what is best for all of Rochester moving forward.
I was born and raised here, married here and look forward to raising my family here. My “yuppie” opinion counts and I look forward to bringing more innovative ideas and experiences to my fellow residents and the visitors who come to Rochester from all over the world.
Sunny Prabhakar serves on the Heart of the City Community Advisory Committee.
(Cover graphic: The Med City Beat)