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UMR focuses on land near Soldiers Field

MINNEAPOLIS — The University of Minnesota Rochester is focusing on 10.5 acres next to Soldiers Field Memorial Park as "a preferred site" for its downtown campus, Chancellor Stephen Lehmkuhle on Thursday told a Board of Regents committee.

The presentation to the regents' facilities committee marked the most detailed public discussion to date about where UMR's permanent campus will develop over the next 20 years. UMR officials have repeatedly declined to discuss the location of their preferred site, saying that they need regents' approval before making a formal announcement.

No vote was taken at Thursday's meeting, where Lehmkuhle had been scheduled to give an informational presentation on UMR real estate transactions. "We're not buying anything today, but we're reviewing," committee chairman Steven Hunter said.

The area bordering Soldiers Field west of South Broadway and south of Sixth Street Southwest is large enough to accommodate the four- to five-block campus that was called for in a campus master plan that regents approved last year, Lehmkuhle said.

The site on downtown's south side is close to the downtown Mayo Clinic campus and also "dovetails nicely" with Mayo's expansion plans, he said. It's also convenient that it sits next to Soldiers Field Memorial Park, which in addition to remaining a public park could be used by UMR staff and students for recreation, he said. The campus location would also minimize impacts on residential neighborhoods, he said.


UMR has signed a $1.025 million purchase agreement for its first property in the preferred campus area, the former China Dynasty property at 701 S. Broadway, according to Susan Carlson Weinberg, the University of Minnesota's director of real estate. The deal still needs to be approved by the Board of Regents.

Negotiations also are under way on the former Rico Mex restaurant property at 617 S. Broadway, also within the preferred campus area, Weinberg said. Final terms of a purchase could be presented for regents to consider either in March or May, she said. The initial offer for that property had been $1.06 million, according to a regents document.

In response to a question about flooding concerns from the nearby Zumbro River, Lehmkuhle told regents that a city flood control project, which was completed in the mid-1990s, has alleviated those concerns in the preferred campus area.

Weinberg responded to another question about downtown Rochester land prices by saying that costs in the $1 million range for the properties along Broadway are in line with what's expected in the area.

The regents are expected to re-visit the possible purchases of 617 and 701 S. Broadway in March.

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