“Can it be done another way?” | ♡ Heart of the City for Rochester Families


sponsored by Destination Medical Center

1st Avenue SW open for traffic

Last year, construction began on a major phase of the Destination Medical Center’s (DMC) plan for downtown Rochester MN.  The ground was broken in early winter 2020 for the Heart of the City, shortly before the pandemic began.

Last summer we introduced the Rochester community to the Heart of the City project and were able to fill you in on exciting milestones and fun behind-the-scenes looks at the extensive construction project to enhance the Peace Plaza area of downtown Rochester MN.  You can find all sorts of great posts from last year in the main navigation bar on rochestermom.com.  We discuss everything from the Peace Fountain, to the trees planted, to Kids asking construction workers their most pressing questions.

Find more information on Heart of the City on rochestermom.com!

Where Are We Now?

Earlier this summer, 1st Avenue was opened back up to both foot traffic and auto traffic running North and South. This is a huge milestone in working towards the completion of the project.  From here, the majority of the construction is not expected to have any additional street closures.  The work remaining includes art installations, paving work, and completion of the reflection pool, and re-installation of the Peace Fountain.

Opening up 1st Avenue is great news for businesses in the Heart of the City construction era!  While sidewalks to the businesses always remained open during construction, the opening of 1st Avenue provides more ease to navigate downtown easily.

Heart of the City, Rochester MN

Who was Consulted About the Heart of the City Construction?

Prior to the Heart of the City construction project, planners knew it would cause a disruption to downtown businesses.  To alleviate some of the disruptions and to work towards a kinder and more inclusive construction project, Heart of the City business owners were invited to participate in Business Forward.

The idea of Business Forward is simple: involve businesses affected by the construction into aspects of planning. Businesses were invited to share information, experiences, perspective, and ideas.  In turn, DMC would provide information back to the owners, then modify plans as needed and adjust the construction and direction of the project.

In fact, before construction began on Heart of the City, businesses and landowners were able to meet with DMC, share their priorities for their businesses as well as major concerns. Some top concerns started to emerge: long-construction cycles, foot traffic, loss of window-shopping, dust, and more.

To address these primary concerns, DMC and Kraus Anderson (the construction company) developed ‘micro-phasing,’ which allowed them to break down each part of the Heart of the City construction project.

“Can it be done another way?”

In order to alleviate the impact of major construction disruptions to downtown businesses, Heart of the City planners asked themselves: “Can it be done another way?” And they’ve risen to the challenge. Here are just a few ways an innovative approach to construction disruptions has been approached with Heart of the City.

Rock trencher at the beginning of the Heart of the City construction project
  • a rock trencher was brought in to quickly move through 190 feet of rock.  What was scheduled to be days and days of noise and dust was reduced to just three with this special piece of equipment.
  • extra water equipment and monthly window washings to help alleviate dust
  • flexible pedestrian walkways to alleviate accessibility concerns
  • weekly email updates about construction phases and possible disruptions to downtown stakeholders
  • weekly Round Table discussions in partnership with Destination Medical Center and the Rochester Downtown Alliance
  • Weekly “Sidewalk Sessions” featuring local musical talent in downtown Rochester to help drive foot traffic
signage along First Avenue during Heart of the City construction

Where Is Heart of the City headed?

Construction is never convenient and it’s never easy. Throw a pandemic into the mix and it’s definitely a bigger issue than it could have been.  While it might have felt like a long and hard process, the Rochester MN Heart of the City project is ahead of the curve.

Rochester was able to keep pace with the tremendous growth the city was experiencing and meet that head-on with projects that are critical to maintain and update the public infrastructure of the city during this time of growth.

While the decision to keep the construction going during the pandemic was not easy and meant additional obstacles, the Heart of the City avoided major timeline delays that other national construction projects are facing now such as labor shortages and supply chain issues for materials. One interesting thing to note is that the Kraus Anderson construction team stepped up to 12 hour working days at the beginning of the pandemic to capitalize on fewer people visiting downtown.  This pushed the project ahead of schedule.

Family Selfie in front of the New Heart of the City art installation, “A Not So Private Sky”

Join Us!

The Heart of the City means good things for families in Rochester MN.  There will be opportunities to learn about arts, culture, music, and more. A safe place to enjoy all our city has to offer. The gathering of community and the witnessing of history. This fall, we’ll be filling you in on all the Heart of the City has to offer Rochester families.  We invite you to follow along!

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Rochester Mom is written by and for moms who live in the Rochester MN area. We strive to connect local moms by sharing personal experiences, fun ideas and useful information as well as promoting local businesses and seeking to connect moms both on and offline.