University of Minnesota wants a say in Minneapolis development, some in City Hall are skeptical of the U's interest in development

University of Minnesota administrators say it’s time to strengthen the institution’s role in nearby development.

Minneapolis City Council members and University administrators say that increasing the University’s involvement could benefit neighborhood areas, but some city leaders caution that there are boundaries the University needs to respect.

“I hope the University wants to be careful in not trying to dictate, ‘We need this or that to happen in your neighborhood, whether you like it or not,’” said Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who represents areas around the University.

The Board of Regents will review the plan this summer, which outlines the University collaborating with the city in a “different way,” said University Community Relations director Jan Morlock.

“For too long, we at the University have seemed not to care about development surrounding our Minneapolis campus,” University President Eric Kaler said in his annual State of the University address Thursday.

Changing demographics in Minneapolis, and especially population growth in the neighborhoods near the University, bring changes to pedestrian and crime patterns that should be carefully addressed, Morlock said.

For more than six years, the University has worked with the city and neighborhood leaders through the University District Alliance, Morlock said. The group has tackled property enforcement and helped develop an urban design framework for the University district.

Gordon, a member of the alliance, said it’s important that the University stays within bounds as the partnership evolves.

“The alliance wants to be careful. The city wants to be careful,” he said.

Last year, developers built nearly 500 apartment units in the University area, according to May data from real estate consulting firm Marquette Advisors, and predictions estimate that more than 1,500 units are coming in the next three years.

Ward 3 City Councilman Jacob Frey also sits on the UDA and represents neighborhoods in the University area. He said greater collaboration with the University in development decisions is “long overdue.”

Besides increasing the city’s partnership with University administrators to draft development policies, Ward 12 City Councilman Andrew Johnson said Minneapolis leaders should tap into the school’s “wealth of talent” to help further city goals. For example, Johnson said he’s working with a University professor to promote rooftop greenhouses for large residential units.

“We must be a more proactive, engaged and thoughtful neighbor,” Kaler said in the address.

In January, the University entered a joint partnership to purchase the property that currently houses the Days Inn hotel near TCF Bank Stadium. Morlock said the University’s motivation behind the move was to be more proactive in guiding development patterns around campus.

“It was an opportunity to make sure that whatever happens on that site in the long term will be something that is complementary to the community and to the University,” she said.

Gordon said it’s important for the University to play a role in development decisions, but there could be concerns surrounding its motives.

“At this point, I’ve got to believe that [Kaler is] earnest and sincere about wanting to be a better partner,” he said.

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