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     April 1, 2019      #84-91 PB1

Let's not forget to build lines of communication

DMC aims to demolish my house.

The City Loop plan, approved by the DMCC and Rochester City Council last summer, secures 51 additional feet of right-of-way along the east side of 11th Avenue, on a line running north from Virgil’s to Kutzky Park.

The bold and ambitious plan includes bike lanes, a pedestrian path and landscaped green way. It is precisely the kind of DMC project that would benefit Rochester’s residents, visitors, employees and patients. It is the infrastructure needed for our children to be more mobile and for promoting healthy daily habits of residents and visitors.

Yet it is an odd feeling to discover this grand Loop plan, already approved, and unbeknownst to me, includes demolishing a property I own.

The City Loop plan, as approved, would remove 15 properties along this 11th Avenue corridor in the Kutzky Park neighborhood. Purchasing and demolishing 15 private properties is a big deal, a big enough deal that one would think that either DMC or the city would have reached out to these property owners or the neighborhood association before such a plan was approved. That did not happen.

Most Rochester neighborhoods will not experience DMC in the deep, transformative ways that Kutzky Park will. However, other core neighborhoods will feel the impact. This will most obviously be through increased demand on real estate, including R2X rezoning and Opportunity Zone legislation passed by the 2017 tax bill. This will hit Lowertown and Washington neighborhoods especially.

New R2X zones allow homeowners and developers to make drastic changes to parcels — from adding “mother-in-law” dwellings to four-story apartments--without a public hearing process. As currently written, R2X includes no design standards for these changes.

Other neighborhoods close to downtown will also feel DMC in their schools, roads, parks and shops. To get critical, supportive buy-in from neighborhoods, we will need coordinated communication and transparency from DMC, the City, Olmsted County and the neighborhood associations. Neighborhoods need to be better informed and organized to share that information and engage residents in creating the community they want.

DMC may not be in the business of building neighborhoods, but the City of Rochester can dedicate staff to help with communication, ensuring that development of neighborhoods happens in a way that enhances neighborhoods and embraces neighbors. Development that builds things like the City Loop but doesn’t make that building a shock to property owners.

It is easy, and understandably soothing, to gripe that DMC is not for the people of Rochester. But it will still impact all of us in one way or another.

We have an incredible opportunity to really imagine and realize new spaces within our neighborhoods. We need to demand more communication and do a better job of sharing so that we all have a say in what our DMC future looks like.

Kellie Mueller is the broker/owner of Midwest Landing, LLC, a real estate redevelopment company that was active in the renewal of the Kutzky Park neighborhood. Her latest project, Grove Condos, is the first newly constructed residential project in the Lowertown neighborhood in more than 60 years.

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