Newspaper article

Grand Plan for Rochester Targets Wellness, Not Just Illness

Newspaper article

Grand Plan for Rochester Targets Wellness, Not Just Illness

Article excerpt

The $5.5 billion private-public plan to transform Rochester into a global Destination Medical Center (DMC) aims to generate tens of thousands of jobs and billions in tax revenues. But it also aims to become an international attraction for those who are focused on wellness, not just coping with illness.

That includes providing options for improving health and fitness, effectively managing the increase in visitors and residents, increasing the social connections that foster a vibrant community, and attracting highly trained young professionals to keep Rochester at the top in the health-care field.

Crucial to that vision (shared by Mayo Clinic, the state of Minnesota, the city of Rochester and Olmsted County) will be expanding the city's walking, biking and transit opportunities, said DMC manager Heidi Mestad in a recent interview.

"People today want more chances to walk and bike and take a bus," she said. "As we build out DMC, this will give people more modes of transportation to move around than just cars. That's the urban lifestyle the Millennial Generation and retiring baby boomers want."

Complete Streets

Even before plans for DMC were rolled out, Rochester was busy making improvements in biking, walking and transit as part of its Complete Streets strategy - a state policy that the 2010 Legislature passed and Gov. Tim Pawlenty signed. MnDOT describes Complete Streets as "an integrated transportation approach that includes all modes of transportation (transit, freight, automobile, bicycle and pedestrian)" and "serves everyone, all ages and abilities."

Mitzi Baker, interim planning director for Rochester and Olmsted County, noted that Complete Streets "bring more life and sense of community to Rochester. It gives us a strong sense of place, making us somewhere where people really enjoy being."

"It also allows us to use existing infrastructure in a more efficient way - a conservative concept because it saves public money," she said.

A greater opportunity for people to travel on foot, bike or transit is essential for downtown Rochester to accommodate the anticipated growth (including 30,000 new jobs), said Jeff Ellerbusch, a planning supervisor at the Rochester-Olmsted Planning Department. …

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