Rochester's Heart of the City to feature 'world-class art, flexi - KTTC Rochester, Austin, Mason City News, Weather and Sports

Rochester's Heart of the City to feature 'world-class art, flexibility and diverse retail'


With the goal of creating a vibrant and world-class downtown Rochester, the designers for the Heart of the City project shared their latest ideas during a community workshop Tuesday evening.

Dozens attended the workshop at the historic Chateau Theatre to hear from Shane Coen, founder of Coen + Partners, a Minneapolis-based landscape architecture and urban design firm. Coen + Partners is working with RSP Architects, 9-Square Community Design, HR&A Advisors, and Kimley-Horn & Associates to create a schematic design for Heart of the City.

"The Heart of the City is to recognize that the Mayo Clinic is a world destination and Rochester is a really unique, charming medium-small town," said Coen.

Heart of the City is one of six sub-districts of Destination Medical Center, a 20-year, $5 billion economic development initiative in Rochester and the largest such initiative in Minnesota. Heart of the City would encompass the core of downtown, from the Gonda building to Peace Plaza to University Square. (CLICK HERE for the exact boundaries of the sub-district.)

Coen said Heart of the City would have three main ingredients, including "world-class art, flexibility -- where you can program the space in a number of different ways, and diverse retail."

Coen said the project is comprised of five initiatives:

1. Create flexibility and activation at Peace Plaza:

"One of the things now is there is a real separation between people in the Gonda [Building] and Peace Plaza. So we take that lower level of the Gonda and extend it out and build a giant staircase so that people can walk up and down between Gonda and Peace Plaza," Coen explained. "In the middle of the staircase is a passageway that goes into a lower level that's connected to the James Turrell art installation. So the community and patients can gather either in the lower level or the upper level. And then, that white circle [of the art installation] changes color as the sky gets dark at night, and you view the sky through it."

2. Change 1st Avenue Southwest to resemble a giant plaza. The street would be at the same level as the sidewalk, so there would be no curb. The benches, trees and lights would define where people would drive and walk. Coen said it would be ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) accessible and pedestrian friendly.

3. Connect people with nature and promote healing by planting gardens along 2nd Avenue Southwest next to the Gonda building.

4. Establish a Theatre Square, an extension of the Chateau Theatre for performances outdoors.

5. Install world-class art.

Coen said another goal for Heart of the City is to create a world-class destination that still retains Rochester's identity.

"So if you go inside the Gonda Building right now, [there] is incredible quality and there are incredible art and materials in there. And so the idea is to take that legacy and extend it outside into Peace Plaza, into Theatre Square, and to create a place outside that brings the patients and the community together," Coen said. "There are also three million people that travel under in the subways and on the skyways that don't really -- a lot of them don't get outside. And so we're trying to pull them up."

Coen also envisions a space that engages residents more than ever before.

"Right now, there are 78 events in Peace Plaza. We want that same activation to happen year-round," Coen said.

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