Hotel, research, maybe a brew pub? UMN unveils vision for St. Paul campus

University of Minnesota leaders want to inject some life into their sleepy St. Paul campus with a hotel and retail space, new student union and a research center built in partnership with the private sector.

After a year of planning, U administrators on Thursday sketched out a long-term vision for a facilities overhaul at the old “farm campus.”

There are no cost estimates yet and no construction plans in the next four years. But administrators have identified five areas for investment.

Buford Avenue, which runs east-west through the campus, could get a pedestrian-friendly redesign that would bring “a certain energy” to the grounds, said Mike Berthelsen, vice president of university services.

Along that route, Berthelsen wants to build a new student center that attaches to a library and food service.

In the northeast quadrant, officials see potential for a research complex funded in part by companies interested in the U’s work on food, agriculture, water and the environment.

To the south, the U wants to someday replace its Commonwealth Terrace Cooperative, an aging housing complex aimed at students with families and those pursuing advanced degrees. Such a project could include a hotel and retail space along Como Avenue, which President Eric Kaler suggested might include a pub selling student-brewed beer.

“That land absolutely is worth more than what it is being valued at right now,” Kaler said.

“We’re also losing, I think, a great retail opportunity along that Como boundary.”

The plan also calls for several new or renovated research spaces to better fit program needs.

The campus, which is home to the College of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resource Sciences, would see minimal programmatic changes under the plan. Any remaining College of Design programs would move to the Minneapolis campus, with graduate teacher-education programs and a research center taking their place.

Some want to see the U’s golf course developed but the plan leaves that alone.

The U also will keep Bailey Hall, its least popular freshman dormitory, but will look to place more students there who have an academic reason for living on the campus.

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