University of Minnesota Rochester senior Trenton Kanitz talks with faculty members Teresa Henderson Vazquez, middle, and Rachel Olson at the Just Ask Desk in this file photo from 2018. (Andrew Link/

Almost 10 years after beginning the process to acquire downtown land for a proposed campus, the University of Minnesota, along with Rochester's YMCA, are looking for partners to build a 157,000-square-foot student housing and classroom complex, plus a YMCA "Wellbeing Center."

UMR and the Rochester Area YMCA posted a request for proposal document on Friday, asking interested developers to submit plans for downtown buildings with a timeline of launching by May 2022.

The overall concept is that a private developer will propose and build a campus, which the UMR will then lease.

"The proposed project will provide first-year student housing and learning spaces, faculty and student success staff offices and collaborative spaces, as well as recreational and wellbeing space," according to Friday's announcement.

UMR Chancellor Lori Carrell explained this RFP was posted now as a follow-up to the university’s “Bold” stage of its strategic growth plan.

The university has 859 students today, a number the Bold plan forecasts will grow to 1,000.

The general concept being mapped out today is different from the early proposals for a UMR campus, she acknowledged.

“The early plans were the best work that could be imagined with things as they were at that time,” said Carrell. “The heart of the matter in terms of space that serves students and is a community asset is the same, but some of the details are not the same.”

While a downtown UMR campus by Soldiers Field Park has long been part of Destination Medical Center plans, this latest announcement expands on that original plan by adding a replacement YMCA facility to the campus proposal.

"The YMCA Health and Wellbeing Center within the UMR Campus will replace our aging facility and allow the YMCA to better deliver on its mission to provide programming to all people ...," according to the request for proposal document. "Some components may be shared with UMR, for example lobby spaces and parking ..."

Carrell said the university and the YMCA are “quite mission-aligned and both ready for something new.”

Some of the other features listed in the planning documents include:

* "First-year student rooms for 230 students in  learning community living. Rooms intended for sleeping and quiet study with shared bathrooms. Each community to include kitchen and dining area for 35 students."

* “First and ongoing costs must be sustainable for the institution. Housing rates must be affordable for students, with a goal to be equal to or less expensive than the rate currently paid by UMR students in the apartment-style living of 318 Commons …”

* "Five active learning classrooms accommodating 36-60 students. Faculty offices and collaboration space, Just Ask space: To accommodate 50 faculty adjacent to conferencing and collaboration spaces (7 conference rooms/collaboration spaces, with varying capacity from 3 to 20 people) and Just Ask space (2,000-square-feet) ..."

* "Street level UMR and partner-identified entrance (possible highly flexible gathering space, including seating and standing space for 150 people)."

The documents call for the proposals to be focused on the First Avenue Southwest and Sixth Street Southwest area, where the DMC's Learning and Recreation Zone is based and UMR has purchased land over the years.

However, ... "Proposers may also offer additional proposals within specified downtown Rochester locations, including the DMC sub-districts of Discovery Square, Heart of the City, and the Downtown Waterfront," according to the document released Friday.

Carrell explained that they want the nest options, so they didn’t want to limit developers.

The proposed UMR campus first gained momentum in 2012, when Rochester residents voted to extend the city's half-cent sales tax to raise $139.5 million for 10 projects. That included $14 million for a campus.

Since 2010, the university has been slowly acquiring and clearing properties in the area near the YMCA including the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1215 at 16 Sixth St. SW and the adjacent 24 Sixth St. ex-drive-in building, two former fast food restaurants, the 4th Street Boxing Gym, the former KTTC-TV station building, small office buildings and a halal grocery store.

The university still has several properties to acquire, including Scharf Auto Supply at 620 First Ave. S.W., the former Hentges Glass Co., the Running Room store and the Point of View condominiums at 728 First Ave. SW.

Unlike nearly all universities, the properties that UMR occupies are leased, not owned. That includes space in the One Discovery Square, the top two floors of the Shops at University Square in downtown Rochester, most of 318 Commons in southwest Rochester and the top floor of the former Paine Furniture building.

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