Development plans underway for area near Fort Snelling

Broken buildings
Most historic buildings in Fort Snelling's Upper Post area have fallen into disrepair. Hennepin County is hosting public meetings about redeveloping the site. Consultants have recommended reusing the buildings for commercial purposes.
MPR Photo/Jeff Jones

A tract of land near the old Fort Snelling is getting attention after standing largely neglected for decades. There are some new efforts to preserve and redevelop the historic site.

The property sits between Minneapolis and St. Paul, near Twin Cities International Airport. Most of the two dozen historic buildings sit abandoned on the 140-acre site.

Fort Snelling was decommissioned as a military post after World War II. Its historic buildings have deteriorated since then.

Over the years there have been a series of efforts to protect them. Now there's a new plan.

Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin says consultants recommend reusing the buildings.

"There is a 21st century use of these historic properties," said McLaughlin. "We're trying to find that in the marketplace and find a way to honor the history of the place."

The county is organizing public discussions about how to redevelop the area.

McLaughlin says the property could make a good home for commercial businesses.

Fort Snelling's Upper Post
Most historic buildings in Fort Snelling's Upper Post area have fallen into disrepair. Hennepin County is hosting public meetings about redeveloping the site. Consultants have recommended reusing the buildings for commercial purposes.
MPR Photo/Jeff Jones

Officials may apply for federal aid to repair the buildings. After that, McLaughlin hopes the private sector will take over.

"An exciting vision and a regulatory structure that encourages investment will, once the recession is over, yield private sector investment," he said.

McLaughlin says a preliminary master plan should be in place for the area by March. But first, groups with a claim to the land have to be satisfied.

Todd Hintz, a member of the Friends of Fort Snelling board of directors, says redevelopment has been complicated in the past because so many organizations and agencies hold an interest in a small wedge of the property -- land considered sacred to the Dakota people.

Fort Snelling's Upper Post buildings
Fort Snelling was decommissioned as a military post after World War II. Its historic buildings have deteriorated since then.
MPR Photo/Jeff Jones

"You've got Hennepin County, you got the state, National Park Service, Veterans Administration, Department of Natural Resources, Historical Society -- the Boy Scouts now own a portion of the site," said Hintz.

This time, though, he says the plan might work. The various groups involved have agreed informally on the general idea of reuse and redevelopment.

"Looking at past history efforts we've had previously, nothing's really jelled or worked out. But this time it's looking pretty good," said Hintz.

The first meeting to solicit public input on a master plan is this evening.

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