A pair of transit villages seen as vital solutions to Rochester’s ever-worsening traffic would rise on the northwest and southeast sides of the city in a vision approved by the Destination Medical Center Corporation board on Tuesday.
The villages — think parking ramps with hundreds of housing units, some retail and a link to downtown via an every-10-minutes circulator bus — would provide some of the thousands of additional parking spaces projections say will be needed in Rochester by 2040.
It could be three to five years or more before the vision is fully realized, but chairman R.T. Rybak cheered the board for choosing locations for the two “mobility hubs,” a step that will launch needed engineering studies, grant applications and other groundwork.
“We’ve done a major, major thing here today,” Rybak said at Tuesday’s meeting.
The hubs are expected to ease the parking and traffic burdens facing Rochester as the Mayo Clinic undergoes a $5.6 billion expansion. Known as Destination Medical Center, the project promises to expand the clinic’s footprint, see the arrival of tens of thousands of new Mayo employees, draw major investment to the city and remake Rochester into a destination in its own right.
The city’s population is already growing at 1.5 percent annually, one of the state’s fastest rates. The DMCC board expects the number of daily commuters to grow from 35,250 today to 62,400 in just over 20 years.
An existing surface parking lot owned by Mayo on the southern edge of Cascade Lake was chosen for the northwest transit village. The 13.6-acre site sits next to a bike trail system and is 2 miles from downtown. It was chosen over two other locations, both smaller: one at 2301 Hwy. 14 West and the other at the Hwy. 52 and 2nd Street interchange.
The county-owned Graham Park was chosen for the southeast transit village. The 8-acre site is 1.3 miles from downtown and hosts the Olmsted County Fair and other events. It’s not yet clear exactly where on the park the mobility hub would be located, but Olmsted County Board chairman Jim Bier, who also sits on the DMCC board, said the county approves of the plan.
The park beat out two options that were closer to downtown: one was a Mayo-owned property at 431 3rd Av. SE. that sits half a mile from downtown; the other was the lot at Kmart at 844 4th Av. SE., about 0.8 miles from downtown.