Five years ago, when funding was finally lined up for a new Hwy. 212 leading into town, the Chaska City Council came up with a wish list of the types of enterprises it hoped the new road would attract.

At the top of the list was a college or university.

By mid-November, a developer is expected to move forward with plans to bring dozens of colleges and universities to town.

That's when Metropolitan Lifelong Learning Center of Deephaven must come up with about $300,000 as a down payment on the purchase of 50 acres in Chaska for its new EdCampus Twin Cities at the intersection of Engler Boulevard and Hwy. 212. Groundbreaking would occur in fall 2009, and classes would start in 2010.

The campus is designed to house classes for dozens of colleges and universities from around the country as part of a new satellite-learning model called a "multiversity."

"We're building the world's largest education collaborative," said Tim Engen, founder of Metropolitan. "Our goal is to further democratize American higher education."

In a novel "Field of Dreams" approach ("If you build it they will come"), the company plans to erect classrooms as shells, sign up higher education institutions as tenants, then customize the rooms for satellite classes or lectures for as many colleges and universities as it can line up.

"We're just the host," Engen said of the $111 million project. "We're producing turn-key space."

The preliminary concept of the ambitious project -- described as a learning tree with interchangeable branches -- was approved by Chaska this summer.

After the down payment is made, the final design will come before the city in the spring. The plans are expected to be approved, in part because they dovetail so well with what city officials want to see there.

"Even before EdCampus was shopping for a home, setting that vision really spoke volumes to say that the city is committed to making a use like this happen there," interim City Administrator Matt Podhradsky said recently.

City officials said they are anxious to get the project going because EdCampus Twin Cities would also be the first development in the city's bioscience enterprise zone near the new $238 million Hwy. 212.

"Every report that I'm getting is that it is getting closer and closer to reality," said Chaska Mayor Gary Van Eyll.

As an incentive to lure the campus to Chaska -- Metropolitan also considered Maple Grove, Bloomington and Woodbury -- the city will provide the infrastructure around the campus.

The mayor said he has received several calls from schools and businesses that want to be part of the bioscience zone and EdCampus because of the partnerships that could develop.

"I feel more confident every day," Van Eyll said. "It's getting closer and closer."

Heron Marquez Estrada • 612-673-4280