ROCHESTER – Tens of thousands of new residents are expected to move to Rochester over the next two decades, thanks in part to massive projects like Mayo Clinic's ongoing $5 billion expansion.

More people means more infrastructure, services and bills to pay, according to Rochester leaders, many of whom say action needs to be taken now to keep pace with the population boom.

"It's affordability at all levels," said Patrick Seeb, executive director of Destination Medical Center (DMC). "How do we create strategies that ensure there is continued opportunity for all members of our community to afford to live here and do business here?"

Local leaders met Thursday with DMC staff to review community needs for the city of 125,000 residents amid several large-scale projects planned over the next six years.

The DMC Board approved about $12 million in funding for housing development and historic preservation — including $5 million for a program to support Rochester's downtown historic commercial district.

DMC officials also signed off on at least $7 million in new housing projects, including a $4 million senior housing complex as part of the upcoming bus rapid transit line and $3 million for a 319-unit apartment complex north of the Mayo Civic Center.

While Mayo moves forward with expansion plans, local leaders need to find housing for at least 2,000 trade workers coming to the area to build new Mayo facilities. The city is shepherding a bus rapid transit line to open in 2026. Meanwhile, Olmsted County officials are concerned with how they can help an increasing number of lower-wage workers get by.

There's the budget woes at Rochester Public Schools, the growing mental health and homeless crises in the county, and the need for a new county jail in a few years.

"It's not happening tomorrow or even next year, but it's these kind of investments that are going to be needed," Olmsted County Administrator Heidi Welsch said.

Local officials say they'll have to partner on more issues than ever before, since they say that Rochester, Olmsted County and the public schools don't have enough resources to address major problems on their own. For example, Rochester's population has almost doubled in size over the past four decades, while city staff has increased by only 17% during that time.

Several groups offered positive signs of continued growth, however.

County officials are applauding state funding for a new recycling facility that will also help process food waste, as well as funding for a major Hwy. 14/County Road 44 interchange over the next few years.

Rochester staffers point to a recent City Council decision to grant $1.5 million to help Rochester International Airport secure new flights to Phoenix and Florida using low-cost carriers. They also tout relaxed tax-increment financing rules they hope will attract more outside development; the apartment complex north of the Mayo Civic Center could get up to $13 million in tax-increment financing breaks.

The area's largest employer, Mayo, is charging ahead with expansion plans. Documents show the first phase of construction on nearly 2 million square feet of new medical facilities will start in August. Mayo officials say the first buildings will open in 2029.

"We've got something really big now that we're headed into," said Dr. Clark Otley of Mayo Clinic. "I don't think any of us know what's going to hit us. It's going to be bigger than we think at the biggest."

Rochester city officials are acting to handle the incoming glut of infrastructure projects, with a new deputy city administrator and more community development staffers. City Administrator Alison Zelms said she expects the additional tax base from completed projects will pay for expanded services, turning Minnesota's third-largest city into a major metropolitan area.

"Fortunately we have a lot of tools to get us there," Zelms said.