Last summer I wrote about my skepticism that a Utopian community could be built on gravel pits, as the University of Minnesota promised for its giant UMore Park tract in Dakota County. I wasn't the only doubter. The U has now officially abandoned its ambitions for a model eco-friendly community, my colleague Emma Nelson reports. The U has already spent $3.5 million more planning the development of UMore Park than it has earned from grants and other revenue, although it does expect the gravel to pay big money for decades.
While U President Eric Kaler can dismiss the U's smart-growth vision as the pipe dream of his predecessor, Bob Bruininks, it's clear that the project always had internal contradictions: A university acting as a residential real estate developer; an urban campus planning an exurban community that exemplifies smart growth; and most of all, an academic mission supported directly by resource extraction.
The University of Minnesota has taken a step back to the reality-based world. It will now be up to the market to decide whether fish will frolic in a water-filled former gravel pit, to the delight of homeowners in the green houses sprouting all around it.