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Viewpoint: Development plans looking solid for UMore site

By Logan Martin, Rosemount city administrator

For 75 years, one of the biggest features of Rosemount has been the site of the former ammunition factory that became UMore Park. This month there were giant steps toward a better use for that property that could benefit residents of today and the future.

The University of Minnesota's Board of Regents approved the sale of 440 acres at UMore for residential and commercial development. It's the area southwest of Akron and County Road 42, beside Dakota County Technical College. It will signify the first of many residential developments at UMore.

The purchaser would be Newland Communities, a national developer with experience creating highly regarded projects. Newland took a slightly larger site in Woodbury and created Stone Mill Farms, with 1,200 housing units and other projects.

In Rosemount, Newland's early planning envisions a mix of housing types, plus a few commercial sites along 42. Designs are still underway, but the first phase of work could include more than 1,000 housing units. Newland is a great partner for a project of this magnitude, and the city is thrilled that they've chosen to significantly invest in our community by completing this important project.

Once the developer finishes its research and the land sale is complete, the design will be completed and brought to the city for approval. It's possible grading of the land will begin next year, but the first new homes will take longer than that. In fact, it may be in 2020 or later before the first new homes go on the market.

Market momentum

Let me pause here, because I suspect some people may be saying they're skeptical because they've heard it all before. Others may be questioning the need for more housing and development. It's true that city government has been working on this for more than a decade, and that there have been several stops and starts and frustrations along the way.

The reason we are confident this time is different is because of the momentum in the actions by the university to transition UMore to new, productive uses. Already, an earlier agreement with OPUS has generated a lot of interest by commercial and light industrial developers for a 160-acre site east of DCTC. The city is working with the state economic development agency DEED and the regional partnership Greater MSP to get this opportunity in front of major users selecting a site.

Mitigating any negative effects of increased traffic in and around these areas is of major importance. That's why it's crucial to note that Dakota County has a plan to install traffic signals on 42 at Akron and Biscayne (among others) to help control traffic. These lights will be installed as traffic counts and construction dictate, but they'll be very helpful once installed.

As for whether more subdivisions are needed, the market is giving many signals that they are. Housing starts have been on the upswing in Rosemount, and real estate professionals report that demand is hot. Almost certainly, the market will move up and down in the years to come, but the long-term trends show that Rosemount will be a desirable location for many. Planners at School District 196 agree: they are interested in sites in and near UMore for potential future schools to serve families who will move there without crowding students already here.

Success at UMore can have a positive impact on the future of our community. It would provide additional employment and housing choices. It could enhance retailing options for our residents. It would add to our tax base to share the costs of services that our residents need and want.

Before it happens, there will be many steps to the public review of these plans, and many opportunities for input from our residents. By drawing on the wisdom of people who've already picked Rosemount as their home, we can protect our quality of life, enhance it and share it with more people who want to join us.

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