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Developer shares vision for industrial projects in UMore

Opus Development has purchased 160 acres in the northeast corner of the UMore Park property in Rosemount. This rendering shows the location of the property that will likely be turned into an industrial or business development. (University of Minnesota Board of Regents)

The first private development at UMore Park may be coming soon, following the sale of about 160 acres at the northeast corner of the site to a Twin Cities-based development company in October.

On Tuesday, Dec. 20, Phil Cattanach, director of real estate at Opus Development, gave a presentation to the city of Rosemount Port Authority on the company's background and some of their preliminary visions for industrial and business development on the site.

The company purchased the site from the University of Minnesota for about $14 million over a period of up to 10 years. The property is located west of Blaine Avenue and south of County Road 42, just east of Dakota County Technical College.

Opus Development employs more than 400 people in offices across the county. The company has three divisions that cover purchasing, designing, building, leasing and marketing real estate projects, said Cattanach.

Having a 160-acre site with a single owner could make the area appealing to a single large user. One of Opus' clients is Conagra Foods, which recently built a large facility in Indiana, Cattanach said.

Or, the site could be home to several smaller industrial or business clients. A preliminary concept plan, which Cattanach cautioned is still flexible, showed two facilities along Blaine Avenue as part of a potential first phase of development.

"We want to be as ready as we can to respond to the first customer," said Cattanach. "That first deal is always the most challenging ... but once you get that in, it's pretty powerful to see how the balance of the site can come in."

Cattanach said the site may appeal to a light industrial user — anything from a medical device manufacturer to an e-commerce distributor. The proximity to the Twin Cities, as well as the Highway 52 corridor to Rochester, are both appealing parts of the location of the site.

In the sale agreement, the university and the developer identified about $6.3 million in road, water and sewer utility improvements to make the site ready for construction.

Community Development Director Kim Lindquist said the city of Rosemount will be involved with helping to install "regional infrastructure" that connects city services to the proposed development. The city has discussed splitting the cost of that infrastructure with the university, said Lindquist.

"Utilities and services to that area are part of our long-term plan, but until development occurs we don't install them because of the cost to do that," Lindquist said.

The city charges "area fees" to developers completing projects in the city. Those fees are used to help pay for the cost of extending infrastructure throughout the city.

The sale to Opus Development is part of a larger shift in university strategy for the development in UMore Park that began last year.

In 2006, the university developed a long-term vision for a sustainable community of 20,000 to 30,000 residents in conjunction with businesses, academic research and green space on the site over 25 to 30 years. At the time, the Board of Regents also authorized gravel mining on the site.

In February 2015, a team of administrators assigned to study the site by President Eric Kaler said they still like that vision, but wanted to leave development in the hands of municipalities and private developers.

"If the market allows that to occur, it will occur. But it will be market driven and market sensitive," Richard Pfutzenreuter, the university's chief financial officer, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press at the time.

In August 2015, the university issued a request for proposals for an industrial business park on the site, but didn't initially get any acceptable responses. The property remained up for sale until the sale to Opus Development was approved in October.

Josh Verges of the St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this story. The Pioneer Press is a media partner with Forum News Service.