CUDE comments on Community Center

CUDE comments on Senior Center / Recreation Center.

March 13, 2014

Honorable Mayor and City Council

City of Rochester

200 Fourth Street SE

Rochester, MN 55904


Re:  Senior Citizen Center and Recreation Center Expansion


Dear Mayor Brede and City Council,


The Committee on Urban Design and Environment (CUDE) appreciates the opportunity to provide input and feedback on the plans for the proposed Senior Citizen Center Addition and Recreation Center Renovation and Expansion. We also appreciate the additional time that the Council has granted to allow key group and community members the opportunity to voice opinions on usage of their tax dollars.  The designer presented plans at our February meeting.


CUDE recognizes the need for additional space for programming for older adult services as the population of our community is “graying”.  CUDE understands that the current facility restricts growth and prohibits certain types of programming.


Some highlights of the proposed project that CUDE supports include:

§ The need for additional and modern facilities to meet the needs of today’s older adults.

§ A nationally recognized consultant assisted in the design and programming.  However, an actual needs

assessment or future goals for programming were never presented.

§ The connection to fitness facilities promotes health and wellness in older adults.

  • Elton Hills Drive road “diet” and access management between Broadway and Zumbro River.  (Proposed by City of Rochester Public Works Department as a future project.)
  • Better streetscape for the east side of the recreation center.


CUDE has the following concerns regarding the project:

  1. The site reduces parking spaces.  CUDE normally encourages minimized parking.  However, the recreation center site currently lacks parking, especially during Ice Hawk games and other swimming and ice events.  The new Senior Center and Recreation Center addition will further reduce parking and place further strain on adjacent businesses.  The proponent and designer did not have a solution to the future parking crunch.  One possible, but not explored solution suggested by the designer, was to utilize the Kellogg Middle School parking lot.  This would require users of the senior center and recreation center to walk a considerable grade and cross 5 lanes of Broadway, which does not have an area of refuge.


  1. Access to public transportation.  Proponents of the project and Public Works have proposed a change to southbound Route #1 to drive onto the site and drop off passengers at the main entrance to the senior center which is located on the northwest side of the facility.  If a northbound rider wanted to be dropped off at the senior center, they would have to cross 5 lanes of Broadway, without an area of refuge and travel an additional 100+ yards to access an ancillary entrance to the senior center.  This route also has considerable grade concerns.  CUDE would like to see public transportation options along Elton Hills Drive and a better facility entrance to the Senior Center on Elton Hills Drive.


  1. Lack of emphasis on utilizing outdoors and city recreational trails.  CUDE would like to see a stronger promotion of the river, city recreational trails and outside seating and programming.  The proposed senior center does not take advantage of a natural resource that the site holds due to the location.  Access to the trails and river is by traveling a narrow sidewalk along the north side of the building, through a parking lot and across a driveway to the north parking lot for the entire complex.  The building position on the site itself does not take full advantage of the river and natural landscape views.  Additionally, the site and building does not have outdoor programming.  CUDE would like to see garden spaces and building patios for older adults to enjoy.  Research shows that a majority of older adults in the northern states have a Vitamin D deficiency which has many effects, including, in severe cases, decreased brain cognition, and increased risk of falls.


  1. Autocentric/Future older adults and Demographics.  The current Senior Center is located downtown with access to more transportation routes and is walkable to the high concentration of senior housing located in the downtown core.  Also, the number of seniors downtown in the future is expected to grow in number–and these people may not have cars.  The current site does lack parking, but will future older adults drive automobiles as they age in place in their own homes?  Will future older adults have the financial means to own an automobile?  The proposed site is more dependent upon the automobile due to location and lack of transportation options.


  1. Highest and best use of land/future expansion.  CUDE is concerned that the proposed senior center does not utilize the current site to the highest and best use possible.  With the need for increased ice sheets, pool lanes and recreation opportunities for the general community, does the proposed Senior Center limit future expansion of the city’s only Recreation Center?  Also, is the proposed Senior Center built with vertical and horizontal expansion in mind?  Does this project hinder the goals of the Recreation Center site master plan?  CUDE had an understanding that a master plan of the recreation center property.


  1. Service drive and loading dock location.  CUDE requests that the current loading dock and service drive be relocated away from Elton Hills Drive.  The additional driveway along Elton Hills creates an additional auto/pedestrian conflict to gain access to the senior center, particularly for northbound Route #1 users.  If this is not possible, provide better masking of the loading dock through landscaping and architectural features.


  1. Facility relationship with Elton Hills Drive.  The Senior Center should have a better relationship with Elton Hills Drive by creating an improved entrance and access to Elton Hills Drive.  CUDE encourages the proposed changes to Elton Hills Drive (i.e. road “diet”) as proposed by Public Works.  CUDE would like to see Elton Hills change from a suburban arterial to an urban street.  The facility itself should incorporate architectural features that utilize urban design concepts of windows, pedestrian scale design and reduced setbacks.  Together, this would promote activity between the Senior Center and the new senior housing development along the Zumbro River, create access to the businesses and health care facilities across Elton Hills Drive.


Along with the above suggestions, exterior elevations and landscape plans were not available for review at our February meeting.  CUDE would like to request to formally review exterior elevations and landscape plans, give community members more time to provide feedback on a 50 year facility complex before the plan is finalized and the Council gives approval.


Thank you again for the opportunity to provide input on this project. We look forward to seeing increased space and opportunities for older adults in our community.


Respectfully submitted,


Brian S. Smidt

Chair, CUDE





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