A U link to local residents will move to the suburbs

The Hennepin County Extension Service will move Feb. 11 to Eden Prairie, Minn.

Jerret Raffety

The University’s Hennepin County Extension Service’s days in north Minneapolis are numbered.

The service is scheduled to be moved from its previous location on Glenwood Avenue in north Minneapolis to a location on Prairie Center Drive in Eden Prairie, Minn.

It should begin moving into the new building Feb. 11, said John Wicks, senior manager for Hennepin County’s Property Services Department. The move is expected to take up to 10 days, he said.

The service will share the new location with the Hennepin County Service Center, which will occupy the larger, western portion of the L-shaped building, Wicks said.

The greater University Extension Service system brings educational programs and information to Minnesota residents and communities through a network of researchers, educators and volunteers, according to the Extension Service Web site. It has satellite offices in every Minnesota county, and its goal is to address the needs of the state and its urban communities by focusing on issues in which research-based education and expertise can make a difference, according to the Web site.

The new facility will allow the Hennepin County office to focus on what it needs to do, said Pat O’Connor, Hennepin County auditor and treasurer. Previously, Hennepin County Extension Service employees were left in charge of building upkeep such as repairing a leaky roof, cutting grass and plowing snow.

“Many times, educators would have to come in on weekends, in jeans and T-shirts, to mop up water that came in through the roof,” O’Connor said.

In its new location, the Hennepin County Service Center will be a source for services such as driver’s licenses, motor vehicle registrations, passports and records of births, deaths and marriages.

The Hennepin County Extension Service and the Hennepin County Service Center will share a main entrance, lobby, restrooms and parking lot, O’Connor said.

Renovation on the new location to accommodate the two centers began Sept. 1. Workers will build office and meeting rooms, and install new fire sprinklers, an integrated phone system and lines for the Internet, Wicks said.

Purchasing and installing new information technology might delay the renovation, but the building should be ready for the anticipated move-in day, Wicks said.

The new location was formerly used by the Eden Prairie Public Library, which has moved to a renovated and larger building, Wicks said.

Officials said the new location will benefit the Hennepin County Extension Service in many ways.

Because the new building is owned by Hennepin County, the service will no longer have an expensive lease, O’Connor said. Instead, more funds can pay for educational programs in the community, he said.

“We’re not simply fleeing to the suburbs,” O’Connor said.

The Hennepin County service will also have Hennepin County maintenance crews at its disposal, he said.

A metropolitan location is ideal for reaching some in need of the Hennepin County Extension Service’s outreach programs, but a suburban location will also help benefit its target consumers because budget dollars will be going toward new educational programs, said Jeanne Markell, associate dean and director of the greater University Extension Service program.

“When a taxpayer is investing money, they feel better when it’s helping people, rather than going towards bricks and mortar,” Markell said.

The Hennepin County Extension Service’s commitment to underserved urban communities will remain strong despite the move, said Dale Blyth, associate dean for youth development with the University Extension Service. In fact, the Hennepin County service will offer several new urban youth programs, he said.

The Hennepin County service makes several programs available for urban youth. The programs center around different themes such as project-based, club-based and after-school activities, Blyth said.

“Some staff may have to travel farther (to the new Hennepin County office), but the effects on programming will be minimal,” Blyth said.