ROCHESTER — Brooke Carlson remembers jogging up flights of stairs as a kid to see fireworks every July 4th with her father, a Mayo Clinic doctor who worked on the 19th floor of the Mayo building in this city.

Carlson, the Rochester City Council president, was inspired in part by those experiences at Mayo Clinic to work in health care. Officials hope a planned public corridor will one day connect future generations to the city by stretching across downtown.

"It's really not about an individual building or two buildings," said Patrick Seeb, executive director of Destination Medical Center Economic Development Agency. "It's about creating a district that inspires people, that creates spaces for people to work, spaces for people to live, places where people will eat, outdoor spaces that people will congregate."

The public corridor, called Discovery Walk, is designed to resemble a public park and act as a community gathering space as part of the Destination Medical Center (DMC) initiative to transform downtown Rochester. It currently spans four blocks, connecting Soldiers Field Memorial Park to the Mayo Clinic complex along 2nd St. SW.

Local officials have pushed for the $18 million project in recent years as a way to bring more people and create more community space in the southwest part of downtown, where new medical labs have been built in recent years.

The project is about halfway done and scheduled to wrap up toward the end of 2023, but local officials are already eyeing ways to extend the Discovery Walk across the downtown area from Soldiers Field Memorial Park to Silver Lake Park.

"We take it one step at a time, but we have that bigger vision in mind," Seeb said earlier this month at an open house for the Discovery Walk.

Downtown Rochester has undergone drastic changes over the past few years in part due to DMC's influence. That includes the city's Discovery Square developments attracting medical technology and research companies.

One Discovery Square, a commercial and research hub, opened in 2019. Two Discovery Square, the latest medical lab building, wrapped up major construction toward the end of last year and is accepting tenants.

Discovery Walk runs next to both buildings. At the moment, it looks more like piles of dirt than the lush path city officials envision, but that will change over the next 12 months.

The corridor will feature green space, more benches and chairs, more lighting than usual and outdoor art. It will also have awnings to provide shade and redirect rain and snow. The sidewalks will include snowmelt features, making the corridor more accessible to wheelchairs in the winter.

The roadway will be narrowed to make way for more pedestrian and bike space, along with other natural amenities.

"It makes it a much more gratifying project and much more fulfilling project in terms of what we can offer the community and business owners," said Josh Johnsen, a project planner with the city of Rochester.

For Carlson, the project is a means to continue connecting families to the area. She said she plans to bring her own children once the corridor is completed so they can get the same inspiration she felt as a kid.

"We may not see the immediate change, and we know it's really challenging times and hard work to get there," she said. "But boy, how incredibly, incredibly exciting is it to be part of that!"