Star Tribune: Rosemount laying the UMore Park groundwork

The city recently was chosen as the University of Minnesota's partner for a sustainable-community program. Two of the proposed projects would help pave the way for development. 

By Meghan Holden, Star Tribune, April 8, 2014

Rosemount is beginning to prepare for the potential 25,000 additional residents it could see in the next few decades, and University of Minnesota students could help with the transition.

Rosemount was recently chosen for the U's Resilient Communities Project (RCP), where students will partner with the city on projects aimed at making the city more socially, economically and environmentally sustainable.

Two of the more than 40 projects suggested by Rosemount specifically focus on getting the city ready for the development of the 5,000-acre, university-owned UMore Park — where many of the new residents might live — by making open land more attractive and usable and creating an oral history of the city for newcomers. The city will meet with program leaders from the RCP later this month to begin deciding which projects they'll work on during their yearlong partnership beginning this fall.

"We know UMore is going to occur here in the future and we do, along with the university, want it to be sustainable," said senior city planner Eric Zweber.

One of the potential projects aims to bring the city, the U and Dakota County Technical College together in creating an open space that will give future residents something pleasant to look at that's also meaningful.

The city hopes the project will create a plan to connect three amen­ities in a large open space near UMore property: an arboretum that the university and the technical college are currently working to develop; city soccer and ball fields, and a wetland. The more-attractive space could make the area more appealing to future developers and homeowners, Zweber said.

Along with amping up Rosemount's aesthetics for future UMore development, the city wants new residents to understand and connect with their history. The second UMore-focused project would help this effort by creating an oral and written history of the city from residents who lived or worked there during iconic local events, like the construction of the Gopher Ordnance Works facility during World War II.

"Those kinds of things really bring a community together and instill pride," said Carla Carlson, executive director of UMore Development LLC.

While the city and the U already are planning how to best bring in and incorporate its new residents, it will still be a while until UMore development begins.

First, the land needs to be redesignated from an agricultural research space to an urban development area. If all goes as planned, the City Council will review the plan in June, Zweber said. And a developer still needs to be chosen, which Carlson said likely won't happen until late summer at the soonest.

Building a lasting city

UMore-focused projects make up only a small portion of the ones outlined in the city's application. Other proposed projects include building more affordable and multigenerational housing, creating green business parks and increasing services for new immigrants.

These projects will make Rosemount a more-sustainable community and could help draw and retain residents, said RCP's program manager, Mike Greco.

Rosemount Mayor Bill Droste said that he'd like the U's help in stormwater runoff and transit issues the city struggles with and that the outside expertise from university students and faculty could offer a fresh perspective on these problems.

"Seeking the information and knowledge from graduate students is just a wonderful opportunity," he said.

The city partnership program is relatively new: It began two years ago when the U teamed up with Minne­tonka for more than a dozen community projects. This year, 17 projects were completed in North St. Paul, where hundreds of students from more than 40 courses helped the city with problems similar to Rosemount's, like multifamily housing and stormwater issues.

The university's help is vital to completing the projects in a timely matter, Zweber said. "We think all these projects are important to us, but it's projects that wouldn't get done in the next year if it wasn't for the resources that the university can bring."

Meghan Holden is a University of Minnesota student reporter on assignment for the Star Tribune.