Maybe you’ve heard of Discovery Walk from a neighbor, or co-worker, from the news or maybe you were able to see for yourself where this exciting new project will be when you attended The Big Dig! Regardless, this important Destination Medical Center project will impact Rochester area residents and certainly bring additional vibrancy to downtown Rochester, MN. Rochester Mom is keeping you informed throughout the life of the project with regular updates, information, facts, and profiles from those working on Discovery Walk!
What is Discovery Walk?
This spring, construction began on Discovery Walk. This four-block linear parkway will cover approximately 28,000 square feet and connect The Heart of the City with the Discovery Square sub-district via a 10-minute walk. The project is set to add up to 300 additional trees downtown, 1000 more linear square feet of seating, and several integrated art installations.
The Discovery Walk project broke ground in early 2022. Since then, construction has prioritized updating and adding to the infrastructure of the project. As we talked about with The Heart of the City infrastructure project, infrastructure is the most important work! While it won’t be the most visible when the project is done, it’s certainly the absolute foundation of the success and longevity of the Discovery Walk project.
It’s hard to understand the impact of the current work on the infrastructure, so we recently paid a visit to the Knutson Construction team while they were working. We gained a better understanding of the ins and outs of why the work of infrastructure is time-consuming but paramount and what is being done that generations of Rochester citizens will enjoy long into the future.
One of the largest aspects of the project is replacing the 100-year-old clay pipes that were carrying the main water supply to the Discovery Square area of Downtown Rochester. Clay pipes were the standard around the turn of the century when cities and towns were quickly taking shape, and Rochester MN was no different. Clay pipes were inexpensive to fabricate and easily accessible making them the material of choice when laying the groundwork for a neighborhood. However, clay pipes are porous and fragile. As time goes on, tree roots, utility digging, corrosion, and other environmental impacts can (and have!) damaged the clay pipes.
The Discovery Walk infrastructure construction work includes laying new zinc-coated iron pipes. Zinc-treated ductile (the term for the pipes used in supply main piping) extends the longevity and lifespan of the pipes. Zinc acts as a barrier and when elements such as moisture come into contact with the pipes, the zinc corrodes instead of the iron where water is pumped through preventing expensive and time-consuming repairs.
While replacing the old clay pipes with new zinc coated ductile, the construction team encountered many unmarked utilities. When working on a project, a construction team has an “underground roadmap” that tells them the function of each pipe, wire, cable, etc, and who it belongs to. It’s common with large-scale construction projects to unearth unmarked utilities…and that’s when the team needs to trade in their construction hat for a magnifying glass to collect the clues needed to determine WHAT the utility is and WHO owns it. This detective work includes contacting the city, utility companies, telecommunication companies, and more. If no one claims the utility, it can officially be marked “dead.” However, this process can sometimes take months! The end goal is to – of course – not cut a wire that powers the internet for a neighborhood!
Laying pipes and playing detective isn’t the only work that’s been done on the project. Here’s a partial list of other aspects of Discovery Walk that have been worked on or completed:
- Laying electrical for pedestrian lights and other features
- Sanitary sewer pipes have been replaced
- Concrete curves and road pavement laid in the 500 block of 2nd Ave SW
- The sidewalk snowmelt system has been installed
- The heating and Cooling elements of the walk have been mapped out and laid
- The east side of 2nd Avenue SW sidewalks has been poured
While the infrastructure lacks some of the exciting appeal and beautiful aesthetics of the finished project, its importance to Discovery Walk cannot be understated. The goal is to provide a beautiful amenity the city of Rochester can enjoy for decades to come.