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U of M Rochester unveils master plan for pedestrian-only campus

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The University of Minnesota has ambitious plans for its small Rochester campus that include a pedestrian-only campus anchored by a 126,000-square-foot academic building nestled in southwest downtown.

The plan, unveiled at a Board of Regents facilities panel meeting Thursday, aims to "weave the campus into the fabric of downtown Rochester while creating and maintaining a distinctive identity for UMR that serves as a conduit and catalyst to leverage intellectual and economic resources in Rochester and southeastern Minnesota."

Check out the full 151-page plan here (a pdf that includes data and maps.)

Small school, big plans

Eight-year-old UMR is a small campus – just 750 or so undergraduates and grad students – currently housed in three downtown buildings. Conveniently located near Mayo Clinic, the school's primary focus is getting students ready for emerging jobs in health care, offering degrees in health sciences and biosciences.

The new master plan calls for a campus that eventually includes seven buildings, including the Rochester Area Family YMCA building, and enough space to double current enrollment, the Rochester Post-Bulletin reports.

"The long-term vision for the campus is that it would become a pedestrian-only space, but it would still have an urban feel," Jay Hesley, UMR's assistant vice chancellor for institutional advancement, told the Rochester Post-Bulletin.

The main building, which might not be constructed for another six to eight years, could be seven to eight stories, house classrooms, labs and meeting spaces and cost up to $60 million, KAAL reports. Funding sources have not yet been finalized, although the city of Rochester has committed $10 million, KAAL notes.

"This is trying to bring it all together in terms of how does UMR fit with the development of a campus in downtown Rochester for the long run," Hesley said. "And that's the thing to keep in mind. This is the long run."

A campus master planning process started in 2009, and Sasaki & Associates, which specializes in melding campuses into urban settings, began drawing up designs earlier this year.

The firm has also been involved in broader plans to re-imagine all of downtown Rochester as the city and its biggest employer, Mayo Clinic, aim to revitalize the city core. Last year, state lawmakers agreed to invest $327 million as part of a $5 billion Mayo plan to create a "destination medical center" in Rochester.

The full Board of Regents is expected to set the plan in motion with an approval at its October meeting.

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