Arden Hills will discuss an environmental study for the Army ammunition site.
The future of a 450-acre parcel in Arden Hills -- part of a former ammunition plant site -- will be viewed through a new lens before it goes up for auction.
The City Council voted this month to look at the Army-owned land with an eye toward creating an active community, with walkable neighborhoods, safe streets, access to green space, healthful food and medical care, clean air and water. The assessment is meant to offer insight into making health a factor in city planning and design.
"In the past, health has never had a place at the table," said Tannie Eshenaur, a community health educator with the state Health Department, which will be a partner in the process. "It's common sense; we know if you have to cross six lanes of traffic, you're never going take that on as a pedestrian. But if we can be more intentional about making health a priority, we can make these small design changes in our communities, so we can improve people's health."
The process is a collaboration among the city, the Department of Health, and Design for Health, a joint initiative of the University of Minnesota, Cornell University and the University of Colorado.
The huge parcel in the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) offers an unusual blank slate to consider.
With a grant from the national Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Arden Hills has scheduled an April training session that will bring together representatives from local and state government, parks and recreation, a gardening group, the Mounds View School District and others. They will discuss the findings of an environmental study that Eshenaur and her colleagues are undertaking, and will come up with recommendations that could influence future development.
None of the group's recommendations will be binding. But Arden Hills Community Development Director James Lehnhoff said the discussion couldn't come at a better time.
The city has not formally adopted any plan for use of the site. It is still using plans that were developed with Ryan Companies, but only as a framework. Ryan had been looking at developing the site, but is not at this point.
"We have a lot of flexibility now," Lehnhoff said. "The city's comprehensive plan does support a mixed use for the property, but there's a lot of flexibility in that for how that ultimately will be implemented."
The land is scheduled for auction in June. Any buyer will be subject to city zoning and land-use regulations.
Meanwhile, the health assessment will be a test run of sorts. It will give the city some ideas to consider as development proceeds for TCAAP and other areas, and will give the state and Design for Health a framework they hope to replicate.
"Sometimes there's a paradigm shift in the way we think about things, and I think now we're on the crest of that paradigm shift in the way that we plan for health," Eshenaur said.
"I cringe when I read all these plans for transit-oriented development. What if we designed our communities around people and their health, so it was people-oriented development?"
Maria Elena Baca • 612-673-4409