The Mayo Clinic will add 2 million square feet of research space in downtown Rochester in less than 20 years, a key piece of its Destination Medical Center (DMC) plan.

The plan, announced Tuesday by the clinic, will create an urban bioresearch campus to drive the quest for new cures as private researchers collaborate with Mayo doctors on the frontiers of medicine, said Mayo CEO John Noseworthy.

“It’s a big deal,” said Noseworthy, adding that there has long been a strong appetite from the private sector for such a space.

The clinic’s existing footprint of 15 million square feet includes 1.3 million square feet of research space that will rise on Mayo-owned land in a six-block area of Rochester known under the Destination Medical Center plan as Discovery Square.

Noseworthy said he expects the bioresearch campus to encompass a broad array of subjects, including genomics, regenerative medicine and biotechnology.

He touted the clinic’s annual research accomplishments, saying that in 2015 alone, the clinic had a $662 million research budget, started 2,723 new human-subject studies and saw Mayo research published in thousands of journal articles.

The clinic is now looking for a real estate developer to oversee the project and envisions the first groundbreaking taking place next year. No specific building plans have been presented to the city.

High stakes, big money

Mayo unveiled its plans Tuesday night at a major biotech conference, BIO, being held in San Francisco. Several people connected to the Destination Medical Center plan and Rochester are attending.

The announcement wasn’t a complete surprise to people familiar with the Mayo Clinic’s strategic plans.

The Discovery Square research campus is a key piece of Destination Medical Center, the clinic’s effort, unveiled in 2012, to stay competitive with other world-class medical centers.

The 20-year plan blends billions of dollars in Mayo and private-sector investment with $585 million in taxpayer support to expand Mayo’s campus and remake downtown Rochester into a destination in its own right. In recent weeks, the plan has generated headlines with news of commercial and residential projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

Gary Smith, president of the local economic development nonprofit Rochester Area Economic Development Inc., said Mayo’s announcement was about what was expected for the DMC plan.

“My guess is the first building will be [in the] 60,000-to-100,000-square-foot range,” he said.

Smith said much of the recent new growth has come from people within Mayo spinning off new companies. In the past, they might have taken those ideas and licensed them with companies elsewhere, he said. With the new focus on developing Rochester under the DMC plan, more of those efforts will stay local.

“There’s more of a concerted effort now,” he said.

City Council Member Mark Bilderback, whose ward includes some of the area where Mayo intends to expand the Discovery Square research space, said he has been meeting regularly with DMC officials to smooth the city’s process for new investment.

The monthly meetings began earlier this year after a $63 million hotel proposal folded. One of the backers of that project said the city’s process for private investment was faulty and warned that other developers would shy away from Rochester as a result.

Bilderback said his meetings are part of a larger effort to help investors push building plans through city offices more seamlessly. Learning of the Mayo Clinic’s announcement late Tuesday, he was upbeat.

“It’s exciting,” he said. “It’s what we’ve been hoping for.”