ROCHESTER — The face of downtown Rochester is changing as the city remakes itself amid Mayo Clinic's development of its massive Destination Medical Center.
Several longstanding businesses will soon close due to the rising cost of commercial downtown space, Minnesota Public Radio News reported. The effects of the 20-year plan to cement Mayo as a global health care destination have prompted concerns from residents who want to ensure Rochester doesn't simply become a city for nonlocals.
"I want to know, is downtown getting changed and created for outsiders and their enjoyment and their dollars? Or is it for locals to enjoy also?" asked resident Chris Atwood, who works at a downtown bank. "I don't know how they're going to find the balance."
The owners of Michael's Restaurant, a popular steakhouse that's been open for more than 60 years, recently announced it is closing Wednesday for demolition. George Pappas, one of the restaurant's four managing partners, said it has been swamped with reservations from loyal customers who want to come in for one last meal.
Rochester Mayor Ardell Brede has celebrated his wedding anniversary at the restaurant for the past five decades. He said the news of its closure feels like a death in the family.
"When my wife and I got married 53 years ago, that's where we went that evening after we got married," he said. "We've celebrated virtually every one of our 53 years of anniversaries there."
Michael's Restaurant has served a wide range of customers, including celebrities like Sean Connery, Kenny Rogers and Liberace.
"I remember talking to Ed Sullivan there once ... It is not just a restaurant. It's a real place," Brede said.
Pappas said his family hopes to eventually open another restaurant on the site.
Hanny's Men's and Women's Wear is also closing after 75 years in its 11,000-square-foot downtown location. Owner Tim Berg said the retail store will be forced to move to a smaller location due to a changing clothing market and rising rent.
"It's just not economical, for the landlord or the tenant," he said. "We can't generate enough sales per square foot out of that large a space to cover the rent."
A Barnes and Noble will also close Wednesday.