Light rail inspires futuristic vision for U area
Article by: ERIC ROPER , Star Tribune
Updated: July 18, 2014 - 9:43 PM
The arrival of light rail to the University of Minnesota has conjured dreams of remaking a forgotten industrial area into a self-sustaining neighborhood, one that planners say would be unlike any other in the country.
A coalition of neighbors, development professionals and property owners is meeting regularly to outline a vision for “Prospect North.” The site is now a potholed section of SE. 4th Street, where auto shops operate in the shadow of the grain silos famously tagged with “United Crushers” graffiti. Many see it as the ideal location for a one-of-a-kind urban experiment.
The district would take shape around a green boulevard dominated by pedestrians and bicyclists, embedded with water pipes that melt snow and landscaped to absorb water runoff from nearby properties.
Buildings with apartments, offices and shops would rise along the boulevard, connected by a shared heating and cooling system. The new neighborhood would be bookended by TCF Bank Stadium and Surly Brewery’s future craft beer mecca, now under construction.
Trash would travel from buildings through pneumatic tubes to be converted into energy by an anaerobic digester. The district could also feature on-site water purification and hydroponic and aquaponic gardens for growing food. Abandoned grain elevators could be used as water towers and the grounds around them converted to parkland.
A nearby “innovation park” would allow university scientists to work side by side with research-intensive private companies to help commercialize academic research, akin to the University Research Park at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Tom Fisher, dean of the University of Minnesota’s College of Design, envisions Prospect North becoming home to the “new economy,” a place where thoughtful design encourages collaboration.
“The 21st-century model [of development] is one in which people will be increasingly living, working and making things, often in the same area,” Fisher said.