PlaceMakers is Rochester’s prototyping festival allowing residents to see the many different ways public space can be transformed. Prototyping is the practice of creating, testing, and trying an experimental model of a new idea or object. Rochester’s Downtown Alliance wanted to involve a range of people to develop creative solutions to physical spaces. In 2016, 16 prototypes were tested over one weekend. Creative Crosswalks by the team RNeighbors aimed to nurture citizen involvement for positive community change by helping bring art to barren spaces and by emphasizing safe crosswalk space for one of the most heavily used pedestrian areas in downtown Rochester. This exploration of new ideas and ways of seeing public space allows communities to innovate and flourish, better serving the people who live and work there.


Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: Rene Lafflam of RNeighbors

Mission 21 is an “anti-trafficking service provider committed to the complete restoration of child victims of sex trafficking.” A November 2010 study found that each month in Minnesota, at least 213 girls are sold for sex an average of five times per day through the Internet and escort services. The average age of victims is 12-14 years old and many suffer from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual abuse. Mission 21 has been working tirelessly to provide services like food, clothing, and emergency medical services to children and women up to age 21 who are caught in trafficking.. Mayor Ardell Brede says, “You know, probably 90% of the people…here in town have no clue that [trafficking] is going on here, but it happens.” The city’s commitment to helping youth transition out of trafficking is an example of communities in which everyone can thrive.

Mission 21

Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: Shawnna Seaquist of Mission21

“We Want You Back” is a partnership between Rochester Public Schools and the United Way of Olmsted County to re-engage students who have dropped-out and encourage them to come back to school. According to Minnesota Department of Education 2017 data, students of color graduate at a rate of 69 percent compared to 88 percent for White students. When Superintendent Michael Muñoz noticed in 2012 that almost 300 students have not finished the year, he decided to hit the streets. Volunteer community members and teachers show up at students’ doors and talk about the importance of education. “That’s been effective and it continues because sometimes people, either the parents are both working, or whatever and the kid just stays at home or feels that nobody really cares…‘I won’t be missed,’” says Mayor Brede who is also a volunteer for the program.

“We Want You Back”

Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: John Danilenko-Dixon from Rochester Public Schools

Riverside Concerts provides the Rochester community with opportunities for high quality, diverse, and accessible musical and educational programs that create a sense of welcome and belonging, enhance the enjoyment of life, and celebrate community. The Sunday evening summer concert series helps make Rochester a more livable community and contributes to the quality of life of its residents. The City of Rochester spends about 8% of their general fund for music and other performing and visual arts in the city. In 2018, they planned to invest over $1 million in public music venues. “It’s free…everybody’s invited and the diversity that can be there is huge,” reflects Mayor Brede. The concerts are held in Mayo Park, an open-to-the-public city park, adjacent to the Zumbro River and the Mayo Civic Building and Rochester Art Center. During the concerts, downtown city streets are temporarily closed to make Rochester more pedestrian and bicycle friendly.

Riverside Concerts

Rochester, Minnesota

Photo credit: City of Rochester Music Dept./Riverside Concerts

The Empowerment Center is a collaborative project to renovate an old elementary school into a service hub for partner agencies that provide supportive services to homeless and low-income households. The center is adjacent to a permanent supportive housing development, and is owned by a nonprofit developer of affordable housing. The renovation means extending the life of the building by at least 20 years as well as providing a much needed community asset. The long-term goal of the center is to strengthen Rochester by breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty and homelessness through early interventions. According to the American Community Survey, in 2016, 10.7% of individuals living in Rochester lived below the poverty line (for comparison, Minneapolis was 21.3%)–23% are Black residents and 4.3% Asian (Census Bureau, 2015).

The Empowerment Center

Rochester, Minnesota

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