Type: Education/senior housing
Units: 40 senior condos, 10 townhouses
Area: About 25 acres
Developer: Tammy Malmquist
Details: After guiding it through a lengthy approval process, preschool owner Tammy Malmquist has gained the city permits necessary to launch a unique project that would combine a preschool, a senior housing campus and a working farm on a rural setting in Lake Elmo.
Under her plans, Malmquist is seeking to construct 40-unit senior condominium building, some townhouse units and a new preschool/community center built to resemble a historic schoolhouse, all situated on a working hobby farm that would be used to impart a "farm school" experience and promote "intergenerational learning" via interaction between the senior citizen residents and the young students.
The concept is certainly an unusual one, and its vision is what sold community leaders on the project, Lake Elmo City Administrator Bruce Messelt said.
"The whole 'intergenerational' aspect is something we haven't seen before, and I think it's why the project was able to generate the support it has," he said.
The concept had to not only get the thumbs-up as a mixed-use "planned unit development," but also needed to satisfy the stringent requirements of Lake Elmo's open space preservation ordinances, which city officials have used for years to preserve the rural character of the suburb.
Malmquist said she doesn't see herself as a developer so much as a Lake Elmo local who believes in a new concept she says can provide small towns and rural America with a new paradigm for building community.
"One of the things that has been lost in our country is that connection between the elderly and kids that we once had on farms. ... They don't have chances to connect anymore," she said. "The seniors I've talked to about this idea are excited and see it as a way to stay young."
Elderly residents living on the farm/housing campus would take part in seasonal activities such as canning and baking, with the food donated to local charities, Malmquist said. The preschool kids would be able to watch, participate and learn.
The proposed senior units are condominiums rather than rentals, so whether the project will get financing and actually be built is dependent on how many of them can be presold. If it does generate enough buyer interest to proceed, the Farm School project would have to go back in front of city officials to gain approval for its preliminary plat, Messelt said.
Don Jacobson, a freelance writer based in St. Paul, can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.