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Column: Changes are occurring all over

For many parts of life, the pace tends to slow down over the holidays. But there was a lot of activity around the first of the year that anyone driving down South Robert could see. Demolition crews were clearing the way for new economic development opportunities in Rosemount.

The crews tore down the buildings on property the city bought five years ago from the Genz-Ryan plumbing business. For a few years the city leased out part of the space. But the cost to keep the old structures heated and safe became too much. So a demolition company took care to remove hazardous wastes like asbestos in the buildings, some of which dated back several decades. And then the walls came down.

After the snow goes away, grass will be planted at the site. But it's too valuable to remain empty. The city plans to hire a commercial real estate broker to market the property for new development to continue the revitalization of downtown. The commercial real estate industry is climbing out of a deep slump. The city wants to be prepared to take advantage of the recovery when it comes to add a quality development.

That's one of several areas where residents will see activity in the years ahead. Federal funding has been provided to build a transit park and ride on land beside the railroad tracks across 145th Street from city hall. The federal money won't be available until 2013, but the city's staff is working with the Met Council to see if a way can be found to start sooner so the MVTA can continue its enhancement of service to Rosemount. Engineers are already working on a design for the MVTA's project.

And there's a longer term effort that began with the demolition crews this month. As part of the contract to remove the Genz-Ryan buildings, the city removed an old garage beside the former St. Joe's school building. That will provide additional parking for our Steeple Center (the former church building). But it's also the first step toward a better use for the site.

One idea under discussion is to use the property for senior housing. The need is clearly growing, and fortunately the Dakota County Community Development Agency has a study under way to project the particulars. The city hopes to hear back soon about its application for a grant to help redevelop the area just north of the Steeple Center.

It may be a public-private partnership, and it could include a center for all the seniors in the community. Still, it's very early, and more work needs to be done to determine whether a project like this is feasible. Any large-scale redevelopment project may require removal of the vacant school building.

The Rosemount City Council always welcomes public input on issues like these, and the next opportunity is coming soon. The council will hold an open house to introduce to the public Matthew Kearney, whom the council plans to appoint later that evening as its newest member. The open house will also include a brief overview of issues like the developments described here and others such as plans for UMore Park. The open house is set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 1 in city hall. If you can't attend to give us your views, e-mail us at We want you to have your say about our goals for Rosemount.