ROCHESTER, Minn. - As construction on the Heart of the City project approaches its anniversary, officials say Peace Plaza will be clear of construction by late summer.
Builders broke ground on the first phase of the project on April 13th of last year. Officials say 12 months later, construction is on schedule, and in some cases, ahead of schedule.
The city expects 1st Avenue will be open to traffic again in July while work is completed around the peace fountain into August.
Project Manager Josh Johnsen tells KIMT going into construction, planners hoped to mitigate impacts on nearby businesses by activating the site and inviting crowds. But with the onset of the pandemic, tactics had to change, and businesses have led the way in keeping the area alive alongside city staff.
"The solutions and the ideas really came from the businesses," Johnsen said. "The businesses have done a tremendous job revamping themselves to stay viable, and also to make themselves stronger coming out of the pandemic. And I would say the Heart of the City project team has really done the same. We've provided jobs throughout the pandemic, and we've made downtown, I believe, stronger, and even better coming out of the pandemic."
Johnsen says in addition to the numerous environmental and social benefits the project provides, once phase one construction is completed, businesses will be able to rally around improvements at Peace Plaza to draw people downtown and keep them there longer.
"The businesses and the property owners themselves are what create the actual vibrancy downtown, so it's really a symbiotic relationship between the streetscape and the vibrancy that the retail and restaurants create."
Johnsen adds phase two Heart of the City construction will involve improvements on the western portion of Peace Plaza, though concrete plans are still being worked out.