The last working farm in Bloomington could become the site of the 2023 World’s Fair.
The Minnesota World’s Fair Bid Committee announced Wednesday that if the state wins Expo 2023, it will be held on a 59-acre property nestled between the Mall of America and the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge that has been owned by the same family since 1932.
During a joint meeting Tuesday of the Bloomington City Council and the city’s Port Authority, officials voted to buy the Kelley farm property, also known as the Spruce Shadows Farm, for $32.3 million as a possible Expo site.
Developer Ryan Cos. has been selected to consult on the property’s potential to host the Expo. To buy the property, the city will use mostly liquor and lodging tax revenue designated for development of the South Loop district where the Kelley farm is located.
The family decided in 2015 to put the land up for sale.
“The Port Authority and council are excited about the project,” said Port Authority Administrator Schane Rudlang, who noted that Tuesday’s vote was unanimous.
The Twin Cities is one of three finalists to host the World’s Fair, along with Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Lodz, Poland. The winning city will be chosen on Nov. 15.
Organizers said that the event, to be held May 13 to Aug. 13, 2023, will draw 150,000 visitors per day and generate an economic impact of $4 billion. By comparison, this year’s Minnesota State Fair had an average daily attendance of 166,400 people.
Along with the city, the Mall of America is a site partner for the local bid committee. The mall owns property north of the farmland, mainly used for overflow parking, that would likely be needed for the event.
“Expo 2023 USA-Minnesota is another opportunity for worldwide exposure for all of Minnesota,” the mall’s management said in a statement.
This year’s World’s Fair, Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, ended on Sept. 10. The last U.S. city to host a World’s Fair was New Orleans in 1984.
Whether floor space for the Expo (expected to run 1 million to 1.5 million square feet) would be temporary or permanent, and how the fair’s structures will be designed, remains open, Rudlang said.
In addition to the Mall of America and the Minnesota River Valley, the Kelley farm is close to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the light-rail Blue Line and thousands of hotel rooms. “That was one of the largest pieces of property available near light rail,” said Mark Ritchie, president and CEO of Minnesota’s World’s Fair Bid Committee.
The theme for the local bid is “Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” which would showcase innovative efforts to improve human health. The 2023 Expo will be more specialized than full-blown world’s fairs, which occur every five years.
The local bid committee will present the theme at a symposium in Paris in early October, Ritchie said, and a group of ambassadors from Washington, D.C., will tour the Twin Cities and the bid site at the end of that month.
The city’s last piece of farmland, mostly used for grazing, has been on the city’s radar for a decade, said Bloomington Mayor Gene Winstead. “That is one heck of a special piece of property that warrants and deserves a high level of development,” he said.
Outside of the World’s Fair, there have been discussions on whether parts of the South Loop could be a good site for Amazon.com’s second headquarters. The Seattle-based company sent economic developers across the country into a frenzy this month when it announced that it was looking for a second home.
“Frankly, that district ticks all of the advantages that Amazon wants,” Rudlang said.