To help fire up Discovery Square as "a catalyst" to create jobs in downtown Rochester, Mayo Clinic has contracted a feasibility study, independent of the Destination Medical Center Corp.
Mayo Clinic has hired the DMC development manager, Hammes Co. of Madison, Wis., to analyze the Discovery Square piece of the DMC vision and offer a market plan of how the medical and technology research area might be developed. Mayo is paying Hammes $1.5 million to conduct the study, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
One expected tenant is Epic, a Madison-based software system that recently signed a contract to help build an electronic health record system for Mayo Clinic. It's planning on having many employees based in Rochester.
"They've indicated a strong interest in the Discovery Square concept, and we're exploring ways they may participate in that," said Bolton.
Discovery Square is described as "the focal point" for Mayo Clinic's expansion of its science and technology institutes, and it's designed as a place for private companies and others to work with Mayo on research and other projects. It's marked on the DMC map as being central to the Gonda Building and the Mayo Medical School.
"The Square is designed to be playful and artful, similar to the Google Commons in order to, quite simply, attract the best and the brightest, the most creative minds in the world," according to the DMC plan.
Mayo Clinic owns about 35 percent of the property within the proposed Discovery Square area.
The goal of the new study is to map out the area more specifically and identify potential partners and funding streams to make it sustainable.
Jeff Bolton, Mayo's chief administrative officer and the chair of DMC's Economic Development Agency, said Mayo funded the study because it's not part of the DMC EDA's scope.
"The EDA budget is really to provide staffing to support the DMCC board, to work with developers and help market the DMC concept," he said. "Mayo Clinic views this as area where we could serve as an important catalyst to advance the DMC vision. That's why we stepped up and are making this investment."
Mayo Clinic's relationship with Hammes dates back to the very early days of the DMC concept in 2008 before it became public. Mayo Clinic first officially contracted with the company about DMC in 2011. When the EDA signed its own contract with Hammes last year for $2.3 million a year, it had no ongoing Mayo contracts.
Bob Dunn, president of Hammes, explained that this study will be similar to his company's work on the overall DMC plan but will be much more detailed.
This study will include a master plan, a conceptual design, preliminary engineering, financial analysis, financing plan, a market analysis, a review of effective land use and operational aspects for Discovery Square.
"This will be a block-by-block plan," he said. "But we're not starting at ground zero. Mayo, which owns a good portion of the land in Discovery Square, has already thought a lot about this development."
Meanwhile, Mayo is actively working with companies to try to get them to locate there, Bolton said.
"We're out marketing the concept," said Mayo's Bolton. "Obviously, we have an interest in terms of attracting groups to collaborate with us."
The project's success likely will be driven by what partners want to work with Mayo Clinic.
"If I were to forecast, I'd say there will be multiple of owners of facilities in Discovery Square. Many will probably be owned by private developers," predicted Bolton. "There won't be a monolithic owner of the facilities. The free market will play out in this environment."
He added that Mayo Clinic may participate "directly or indirectly" in some of the development.
The multimillion dollar question is when actual development of this new job generator area will begin.
"We'll need a critical mass of corporate engagement in order to have a developer to put that first shovel in the ground," said Bolton.
Dunn said this is a fascinating feature of what is already a unique project.
"DMC and Discovery Square, to me, is one of the most interesting things that I can think of nationally in terms of major economic development," he said. "It's unique because impact Mayo Clinic can bring to something like this in a market that's now beginning to mature and evolve very quickly."