Rochester City Council update: park projects, Chateau Theatre update, Mayo Clinic tunnel approval

Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 6:54 PM CST
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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – Several big projects are in store for Rochester in 2022, thanks to a nod of approval from the Rochester city council Wednesday night. Among other things, $15 Million has been approved for the Rochester Parks and Recreation Department.

“It was exciting,” Rochester Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said. “We got some clear direction now, and you’ll be seeing some progress from this point forward.”

The Parks Department got its master plan of $90 Million worth of improvement approved and developed back in 2015. In 2020, the department turned toward public funding for the plan, passing a referendum of $2 Million annually. Wednesday night, $1 Million of that annual funding was approved for bonding, resulting in a jump start of $15 Million from the city to accelerate the process.

“We didn’t get approval last night to get shovels in the ground and start working on the pool and other amenities,” Widman said. “But what we did get was a clear direction and defining the scope. Start working with the public and bringing those ideas back to the council.”

$7 Million will go toward Soldiers Field, including the anticipated pool improvements. Another $4 Million will head towards Silver Lake Park.

“It may not be to the scope that everybody has envisioned now, but it’s a great start. Having one pool, that’s going to far outpace the capacity and quality of anything we have now, I think it will be really exciting for kids, families, everybody in Rochester,” he said.

Another highlight of Wednesday night’s meeting - Threshold Art will step in to take over the iconic Chateau Theatre.

“The Chateau is a really special place in Rochester, for so many people,” Threshold Arts Founding Director Naura Anderson said.

Anderson said her plan is to give a nod to the Chateau’s roots, by continuing to keep an element of live performance alive in the building. She also plans to maintain the space as a community gathering space, as well as keep local art at its center point.

“We see it as an honor to be trusted with this opportunity to become the operator of this space and really look forward to seeing even more people come together and show who and what Rochester is behind these walls.”

Threshold Arts has had its eye on the Chateau space for years, putting in its first bid for the building in 2019. Anderson and her team and excited of the possibilities.

“We want to welcome people in the space. It’s just an iconic and beautiful space that a lot of people haven’t had the opportunity to see especially with closures and things like that. And our goal is to bring as many people together in that space for a variety of reasons as we can.”

The council also approved Mayo Clinic’s proposal to construct three tunnels in downtown Rochester. This includes a service tunnel, a utility tunnel and a pedestrian tunnel. The pedestrian tunnel will run from the Eisenberg Building to the Mayo Clinic Employee Parking Ramp. The service and utility tunnels will run along 1st Avenue Northwest, connecting to Mayo’s existing subway system.

Mayo Clinic tells KTTC that the expansion is in preparation for the Proton Therapy Expansion along 1st Avenue. The project will allow the hospital to serve 900 new patients and employ an additional 117 staff with a variety of skills to support the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center.

Tunnel construction will begin in late January and go through November to complete the work. Right now, 1,200 proton beam therapy patients receive treatment annually. The goal is to begin treating patients in the new space by late 2025.

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