Rochester Post-Bulletin 30 October 2007
Courtesy of Kevin K.

Janet Kubat Willette,

These five smokestacks are widely recognized, according to UMore Park historical information. The smokestacks are from a power plant that fueled the ordnance production line that went into operation. Another power plant never was finished.

New Vision for UMore Park

By Janet Kubat Willette

ROSEMOUNT, Minn.—The University of Minnesota is creating a vision for the future of UMore Park.

Under its plan, the former defense plant would become a university-planned, culturally rich and diverse community of 20,000 to 30,000 people.

The U of M wants to create a place where new school systems are designed, where health care delivery and traffic are studied, and where energy efficiency is part of daily life, said Charles Muscoplat, University of Minnesota vice president in charge of the development This will be done without putting people under a microscope, he said.

UMore Park is a 7,686-acre university-owned property 25 miles south of the Twin Cities in Dakota County.

Before World War II, the property was described as "the Garden Spot of Minnesota" by a farmer who was sent packing when the government acquired 11,500 acres for a government-owned, contractor-operated defense plant. In all, 84 farm families were displaced.

Construction of the plant, Gopher Ordnance Works, began in May 1942. Farm buildings were demolished or removed. Black-and-white photographs from the era show a busy place with railroads, roads and power lines crisscrossing the land. Nondescript buildings sit beside the roads, power lines and railroads.

There were to be six production lines, explains Greg Cuomo, who is director of operations at UMore Park, but only one line came into full production. Production began in January 1945 and ended that October.

In 1947 and 1948, title to the property was transferred to the University of Minnesota.

The university has used the property for a variety of research efforts through the years, beginning with public health and aeronautical projects in 1946. Most recently, the property has been home to agricultural research.

The university has a beef cow herd, crop production research and the state's only turkey production research facilities. Land also is rented to individual tenants, including a cabinet maker, Hmong farmers and airplane hobbyists.

Now, the university wants to clear the land again and start anew.

The development idea is in its infancy, with a series of public listening sessions recently concluded. The university also is in the middle of having the land assessed for gravel.

The blueprint must define what it means to be energy efficient, what housing density is desired and what water quality standards need to be met, while at the same time recognizing the development of the property won't happen overnight, Muscoplant said.

The U of M is trying to be innovative, thoughtful and systematic in its approach to planning for development, officials said.

Janet Kubat Willette,

These T-walls, visible from Minnesota Highway 46, are the ruins from solvent recovery houses at a former defense plant.