Proposal calls for U outreach center

by Tess Langfus

Residents, tenants and University administrators heard the fate of the University’s Rosemount property in a public forum Monday night.
In a meeting held in the Rosemount City Council chambers, representatives from a Toronto consulting firm, Urban Strategies, unveiled their strategies for developing the 7,500-acre property coined MORE Park — the Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education Park.
According to the plan, University research sites from colleges such as the agriculture, veterinary medicine and natural resources will be linked with areas set aside for public enjoyment including walking and biking trails, along with a possible equestrian trail.
Calling the property a welcome barrier to urban sprawl, George Dark, the Urban Strategies developer, said, “MORE will be embracing to the surrounding community.”
The plans call for development of a research and learning center where University professors could learn from the land and educate the community about its benefits.
Yet representatives from the Rosemount community, including those who currently lease portions of the University land, presented concerns about being forced to leave their property.
“It’s not that easy to find a place to put a blacksmith shop,” one tenant said.
Officials from both the Minneapolis and St. Paul bomb squad units were concerned about having to relocate to another remote area where bombs could be safely detonated.
Dark and Warren Sifferath, a College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Sciences instructor and an outreach representative, assured those present that they would be given ample time to find other property.
The University will not require all lease holders to relocate, however. Part of the land used for a compost site, for instance, serves the University in its research.
“There are some other leases that probably will stay simply because of their clear academic connection. Other leases that don’t will eventually be phased out,” said Tom Fisher, chair of the planning task and dean of the University architecture and landscape department.
Yet, the fate of the farmers who lease the property remained unclear.
“Immigrant farmers want residential permancy and aren’t going to get it,” Sifferath said.
But since farming the property may attribute to the educational vision of the University, their replacement may be delayed or avoided.
“It’s unclear to me how quickly you should dismantle the farmers,” Dark said. “I don’t see us changing it until we can come up with a better use.”
The long-term plan developed by Urban Strategies could take decades to fully implement, Fisher said.
A new director for the area is currently being sought who will manage the entire development.
Urban Strategies will present their proposals to the University Board of Regents in December for final approval.
The 7,500-acre plot of land in the southeast Twin Cities has been the topic of discussion for the last several years when various ideas for its use were considered, then discarded.
Some proposals have been to sell the property to home developers, build a golf course or expand the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.
Only the plan for a golf course may still be implemented.
“Those are all ideas that have been floated in part because there’s never really been a plan developed by the University that has an academic vision behind it,” Fisher said,
“That’s essentially what we’re working on now, which is how to connect this to the academic mission of the University in ways to benefit the state.”