A few months ago, I plotted surface parking in Rochester, MN. Granted, the concept of mapping surface parking lots is outdated now that Andrew Price pioneered maps that show places versus non-places. Yet a map of surface parking looks to give the first layer of non-places in Downtown Rochester. These parcels are also the most easy to convert into actual places, especially as Rochester has the opportunity to liberalise parking requirements and provisions in their DMC plans and city comprehensive plan.
Unfortunately, Rochester’s parking ramps aren’t places either…
Parking developers in Rochester, as in most cities, have ignored the oath to “do no harm,” building blank walls and placing parking decks over streets. But with treatment of chronic anti-place conditions, these blocks can become healthy once again. Parking ramps allow for slightly more surgical insertion of “place” within an existing structure, especially ramps with level decks. These sidewalks could be activated by small flex spaces, creating storefront spaces that could range from small offices for startups to small restaurants to light industrial make-spaces. Anything is more active than a blank wall with empty cars behind it.
But surface parking requires no such triage: it’s not just a non-place, it’s a non-anything. It’s a blank slate, ready for replacement of the places that were once there.
Rochester, go turn your parking lots into places!
Downtown Rochester has an astounding amount of parking, especially if you’re walking around it on a Sunday.
Most of the downtown parking is owned and used by the Mayo Clinic. They maintain the flat-lots partially as a means of acquiring land when it is cheap for future expansion projects.
That being said, yes, absolutely Rochester and Mayo both could stand to create more “places”, especially with the DMC running through, rather than removing them (re: convention center expansion).
Even the Mayo’s non-parking buildings are offensively anti-place. I think about the Dan Abraham block, a new building that spared no expense on materials and architecture. Except it still gives the finger to anyone walking along W Center St or SW 6th Ave, with zero sidewalk activation.
Oh there is truth to that! People aren’t meant to be outside in DT Rochester. Mayo’s not interested in Place and the City really isn’t either… I don’t have any faith that DMC will resolve it.