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Judge Frank on a news item about the forthcoming book “The Behavior of Federal Judges,” which concludes that “federal judges are not just politicians in robes, though that is part of what they are.”

Board OKs Destination Medical Center development plan

The Destination Medical Center Corp. board on Thursday adopted a comprehensive framework for the 20-year project that will redefine downtown Rochester, pledging in the meantime to collaborate with other stakeholders to address environmental and social issues.

In a unanimous vote, the board, led by Minnesota Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, signed off on the 700-page plan. The multibillion-dollar effort is expected to build out the Mayo Clinic and to bring an onslaught of new infrastructure and housing to accommodate as many as 45,000 workers that will fill jobs expected to sprout from the project.

“There is this tremendous potential, tremendous opportunity, and the framework for that opportunity is captured in this development plan,” Smith said. “But it is really going to be up to all of us to make sure that we realize that potential.”

The board adopted the plan after the Rochester City Council signed off last month after a pair of public hearings. With both go-aheads in place, the project is officially underway. Next, planners and city officials will fine-tune specific plans and move forward with development, including separating what pieces of the project fall to the corporation’s board versus the city.

Already, the Destination Medical Center effort has nailed down $327 million in matching funds from the state, to be distributed after private investors sink their first $200 million into the effort. In total, $585 million in state, county and city funding is available for project-related upgrades to infrastructure, transportation and public spaces, according to plans.

Organizers have predicted $5.56 billion in private investment, including from the Mayo Clinic, through 2034.

Thursday’s vote came after nearly two hours of public comments on the project, raising questions over whether the adopted plan offers enough support for social services, historical preservation and energy efficiency. Community members also kept transit options in focus, urging planners to prioritize innovation.

Former Minneapolis mayor R.T. Rybak, a member of the board, emphasized responsible energy use as a cornerstone of the development. He said the board has already opened a “very aggressive dialogue” with utilities in southeastern Minnesota, and pushed for fast action on an energy plan.

“The energy use especially is something that we be transformational if we act now,” he said. “We will constantly be losing our opportunity as the clock ticks.”

In addition, Rybak said historic preservation in Rochester – an issue that came up several times in public comments at Thursday’s meeting – could be incorporated into the development plan. As planners begin mapping out what makes sense for the project and stakeholders, there’s room to weave in sustainability and preservation, he said.

The Destination Medical Center Corp.’s board will meet again at 9:30 a.m. April 30.

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