U backs off plan for 'sustainable' town at UMore Park

Umore Park
UMore Park, 2010.
Tim Post / MPR News 2010

The University of Minnesota will significantly scale back plans for developing a 5,000 acre property it owns near Rosemount.

The university's vision for a sustainable community of 20,000 to 30,000 residents has been shelved in favor of preserving agricultural research on the site.

"Given changing market conditions and our priorities in light of the Twin Cities Strategic Plan, this new vision represents the best way to move forward," university president Eric Kaler said in a statement issued Friday after regents approved a resolution in favor of the new focus for the property.

Five years ago, the university released its ambitious plan for UMore Park, essentially proposing to build a new town from the ground up about 20 miles south of the Twin Cities. In addition to its tens of thousands of residents it was supposed to have schools, businesses and industry.

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Charles Muscoplat, a former university dean who was named president of UMore Development LLC, described it in 2010 as a community "that strives for carbon neutrality, self-sufficient in energy production, lots of green space and planned for transportation."

Residential and commercial development may still occur at the site, but it will happen without the active oversight of the university, which is dissolving UMore Development LLC. Instead, the university will seek proposals from potential private developers.

University research will continue on the site. A report to regents cited the property's uniform and flat soil, as well as its proximity to the Twin Cities campus, in declaring it "a unique and valuable resource" for agricultural experiments. Research activities are expected to generate about $70 million for the university over the next 40 years.

In order to maintain its suitability for agricultural research, the university will try to renegotiate gravel mining leases with Dakota Aggregates, which currently has to provide a three-year notice to mine on parts of the property. The university would like to extend that window to provide more certainty as it seeks grants for new research.