Business owners speak on downtown Rochester’s revival

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(ABC 6 News) – There have been many conversations of late on multiple plans regarding the revitalization of downtown Rochester.

This comes after a dip in business activity and workers that began during the start of COVID-19 lockdowns in early 2020. Now with a new task force commissioned by Destination Medical Center (DMC), to work on the issue, things seem to be moving.

During the Rochester City Council study session this week, council members discussed key downtown issues including parking, rent, and foot traffic, but some business owners feel it’s time to end conversations and start taking action.

“We’re coming into summer. Right now is really when people want to come downtown,” said Joe Powers of Powers Ventures and the recently opened downtown restaurant, the Well.

“We all have to come together to help one another because if we want this to be the Disney of medical care we need to think about it that way,” said Pasquale Presa, owner of Pasquale’s. “We try to be proactive, we are community driven so we can all continue to stimulate downtown.”

Free parking availability for two hours is a solution that many people are behind from business owners to workers and patrons of downtown. But that is only one step to bringing more people downtown for both work and leisure.

“The biggest thing we need is that we need to go back to the pre-pandemic mindset. The mindset was that parking downtown was a big issue. We didn’t have enough. Now we have plenty and because we have plenty is because we don’t have enough people working downtown,” said Presa.

While getting more people downtown is still a major priority, there has been a recovery in people going there since the COVID-19 restrictions on businesses ended.

“All and all we’ve seen an uptick, you know the downtown’s clean, it is safe, and we have a great downtown,” said Powers.

However, the future of downtown is still unknown, especially with the recent controversy surrounding Mayo Clinic and the Keeping Nurses at the Bedside Act, within the Minnesota State Legislature.

“We’re very concerned about that,” Powers said. “Mayo has said that they would probably not invest the 4.5 billion dollars of the downtown. That’s what we built for. We made a considerable investment downtown. So on the immediate front, we’re worried about that.”

The $4.5 billion that Mayo said they would not invest would be for the entire state of Minnesota and not just downtown Rochester.

ABC 6 did receive a statement from Mayo Clinic on its commitment to bring more people back downtown with the construction of the Kellen building set to be completed before the end of 2023.

The statement read as follows:

“The downtown community provides our patients and visitors with a world-class experience and our staff and the community with vibrancy, entertainment, and economic growth. Mayo has been an active partner on the Downtown Task Force with DMC, the Rochester Downtown Alliance, the City of Rochester, Experience Rochester, the Rochester Area Chamber of Commerce, and RAEDI and will continue to work in partnership to implement strategies and plans for a strong, vibrant and welcoming downtown.”

Mayo Clinic