Friday, June 13, 2008

MoreU Park - Muscoplat's Folly?

Or, MoreU Gopher Mountains?

In the MoreU Gopher Mountains there's a land that's fair and bright

Where the handouts grow on bushes and you sleep out every night

Where the boxcars are all empty and the sun shines every day

On the birds and the bees and the cigarette trees

Where the lemonade springs where the bluebird sings

In the MoreU Gopher Mountains

With apologies to Burl Ives:

From the Strib:
by Jeff Shelman

Ann Forsyth did some work on UMore Park planning when she was director of the U of M's Metropolitan Design Center. She left the university last year and now works at Cornell University.

"There are these huge contradictions about it, and there are these unrealistic ideas that it can both make money in the short run and be a model community," Forsyth said.

While generating money from the property is one of the university's priorities, officials say they want UMore Park to be much more than just another suburban subdivision. The university sees UMore Park as a place where cutting-edge ideas in areas ranging from energy to health care to education can be tested. Early ideas include a health and wellness complex, a futuristic library and other facilities powered by wind turbines and solar panels.

"It's expensive because you're putting all of this new innovative infrastructure in up-front and you don't recoup it in the long run," Forsyth said. "That kind of counteracts the quick money side of it."

Forsyth said a model community would be much more practical near the university's St. Paul campus rather than in Dakota County.

"It would have to be a fantastic development to counteract its location," she said. "There is no way you're not going to have a number of traffic concerns coming out of it. Unless it is highly designed and then it becomes very expensive."

Barbara Lukermann, a senior fellow emeritus in the U of M's Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, likes the idea of an innovative community and thinks UMore Park has potential for energy innovation.

"I was less clear, quite frankly, on what could be done with education and health, which are two other themes of research," Lukermann said. "That's my concern: Can we follow through with the imagination? Very evidently, the university sees this as a resource and sometimes those goals don't mesh -- trying to maximize the financial payback and the innovation that could be there. I'm in a wait-and-see position right now."

Let's keep our eye on the ball. The U should not be in the land development business. If the land is so valuable, sell it. If the gravel is so valuable, sell it. If our BrightBulbs believe that it will be worth a lot of money in the future, sit on it. But please don't spend a cent on this potential fiasco until we take care of more pressing priorities such as:

True to our land grant mission the primary responsibility of the university is education of the citizens of Minnesota. With the help of our state, we pledge to stabilize tuition and to be one of the top three public institutions in the Big Ten. Students at the University of Minnesota will be provided an educational opportunity that will allow them to compete with anyone.

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