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A more cosmo feel for St. Paul campus?

  • Article by: Jean Hopfensperger
  • Star Tribune
  • November 14, 2007 - 10:03 PM

From most windows in their home, Susan and William Sands can see the lush corn and soy fields on the University of Minnesota St. Paul campus that drew them to their suburban townhouse in Falcon Heights.

So when they learned the U was updating its master plan for the St. Paul campus, they had some questions. Does the U plan to retain those eye-pleasing corn fields? What about its golf course? And where does the new Bell Museum slated for construction nearby fit in?

These are among the questions being asked by Falcon Heights leaders as the university prepares to hold a "listening session" at 6:30 tonight at City Hall, 2077 W. Larpenteur Av., to gather input on the St. Paul campus of the future.

Falcon Heights has a particular stake in the university's plans because the campus comprises about half of the city, said Mayor Deb Gehrz, who is on the university working group. And the agricultural fields on either side of Larpenteur define the city, she said.

The campus is home to public facilities such as the Raptor Center and the university golf course, as well as 50,000 students taking classes in areas such as agriculture, forest products and biotechnology.

The university has no plans to cement over the 100-year-old agricultural research fields, officials said. But it is drafting "guiding principals" for campus development for the decade ahead. An important one is making the St. Paul campus more of a community, including adding bike paths and pedestrian trails to better link it to surrounding communities.

"The campus needs to function as a village," said Professor Kate VandenBosch, co-leader of a working group on the future St. Paul campus. "It needs to have good connections to the community. That includes transit and other amenities.

"On the Minneapolis campus, there's Dinkytown, Stadium Village, University Avenue -- all with restaurants that support people on campus," she said. "We don't have that in St. Paul. We think by appropriate planning with neighbors, such as Falcon Heights and St. Paul, we can plan for this kind of development ... as well as advance the goals that communities have for themselves."

Every 10 years, the university updates its master plan for the entire campus, looking at space utilization, land use and building facilities. But the St. Paul campus also is the focus of another working group, co-chaired by VandenBosch, which will define the campus' broad future mission and mesh it with research, classroom space and community outreach.

That group issued a draft report in August and has started holding public meetings on several broad themes, such as:

• The St. Paul campus should attract diverse Minnesotans for everything from its agricultural extension programs to the new Equine Center and the new Bell Museum in the works.

• It will be the hub for green technologies such as wind, solar power and bioenergy, as well as water conservation. That includes creating demonstrations sites for "green buildings."

• Biotechnology and molecular biology space should be increased to support cutting-edge research.

• The campus must function as a village with frequent and rapid transportation links to the Minneapolis campus and surrounding communities.

The Sands said they are particularly interested in the continued presence of open spaces on the campus.

VandenBosch says maintaining open spaces is also a university priority.

Susan Sands, like many others, likes to walk the tractor roads tucked inside the corn fields.

"I just was outside," she said this week. "Everything is plowed. It's just beautiful." Jean Hopfensperger • 651-298-1553

Jean Hopfensperger • hopfen@startribune.com

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