An environmental-learning charter school has won the bidding to redevelop historic buildings overlooking Fort Snelling State Park.
The Upper Mississippi Academy will use 200,000 feet spread among nine buildings on the so-called Upper Post for a prekindergarten-through-12th-grade school, the state Department of Natural Resources announced Thursday.
Upper Mississippi Development LLC submitted the winning proposal to the DNR earlier this spring. The state agency had asked for proposals to restore and reuse 28 buildings on the Upper Post that have been vacant for four decades.
The plan was one of five submitted to the DNR. Proposals also came from AirSpace Minnesota, the American Indian Community Development Corp., Legacy Management and Development, and Global Athlete Village.
Archie Givens of Legacy Management had wanted to redevelop the entire parcel, roughly the size of the Mall of America, for numerous projects, including an embassy for the state’s Indian tribes, a museum, monuments, transitional housing and a commemoration of slave Dred Scott, who lived at Fort Snelling for a while.
And the American Indian Development Corp. had wanted to use two buildings for a K-12 charter school offering Dakota cultural and language immersion to about 300 students.
But the proposal for the Upper Mississippi Academy, whose curriculum would include a strong focus on environmental education, won out.
The Upper Post is a cousin to Historic Fort Snelling, which was restored in 1970 and has become a tourist attraction. Fort Snelling was the hub of Upper Mississippi government in the early to mid-1800s. Thousands of Union volunteers trained there during the Civil War, many of them going on to hold the line at Gettysburg.
In recent years, the Upper Post’s historic buildings were shuttered and reinforced to stave off degradation, but prompt rehabilitation is vital to their preservation.
The unincorporated Upper Post is overseen by an unusual joint powers board that includes not just the DNR but the National Park Service, Hennepin County, the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and the Minnesota Historical Society. The coalition specifically sought a use for the Upper Post that would connect people to the outdoors and teach them about the environment and history.
The DNR now will begin negotiations with Upper Mississippi Development about a lease and design plans. Because the site is part of the Fort Snelling National Historic Landmark, the National Park Service must approve the design. And because the project would rely on a long-term lease of state property, it will need to be approved by the Executive Council, which consists of Minnesota’s governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, auditor and secretary of state.