A subsidiary of the University of Minnesota Foundation recently purchased multiple parcels of land in Stadium Village to build on their vision of a “gateway” from the University to the broader community.
The Foundation's Real Estate Advisors (UMFREA) recently purchased the Stadium Village Plaza buildings and the parcels for Stub and Herb’s Bar and Jimmy John’s. UMFREA, who is working with UMarq Investments under a partnership known as Visus, presented their ideas to the Prospect Park Association on Monday regarding their vision for the area, which they’ve called “Motley.”
One of the presenters, Visus Executive Director Brandon Champeau, said they picked the name Motley because it means “eclectic, diverse, mixed, mingled,” which encompasses the team’s desire for the commercial area.
“That’s our vision and goal going in,” Champeau said. “To make sure that this isn’t a place that feels exclusive. That it’s a place that really showcases what makes Minnesota, our region, University, different.”
UMFREA has been eyeing the area since their inception approximately five years ago, examining different ideas of what a gateway could look like, said Sarah Harris, managing director of UMFREA.
The University and UMFREA own a number of lots in the area, including Dinnaken House on the south side of Washington Avenue. The team is currently working on a master plan for the area and is communicating with different interest groups throughout the neighborhood.
“We’ve been working with a variety of people over the last five years,” Harris said. “Talking about what could or should be happening in this area, looking at what our peer institutions around the country have been doing so that we can bring back best practices and ideas.”
Current tenants are still protected by their leases and will not be forced to leave before the end of their duration. Harris said that UMFREA will be working with them as their landlords.
Monday’s presentation included comparisons to similar commercial districts that connect college campuses and neighborhoods. Champeau said Visus aims to create a more positive experience for pedestrians traveling the neighborhood.
Champeau said they plan to continue collaboration with community leaders and property owners in the 75-acre region throughout the process.
“We’re at the very beginning of a long process. It starts with understanding the community’s needs and kind of pulling that together with the University,” Champeau said.
Vince Netz, president of the Prospect Park Association, said UMFREA has worked closely with the PPA in the past and played a role in the formation of the Towerside Innovation District. He expressed some concerns but is excited to see the transformation of the entrance to Prospect Park from Huron Boulevard, which is currently home to a strip mall and an empty lot.
“I think it’s exciting. I mean, if they want to make it like a really urban landscape with the research and all that, that’s good,” Netz said. “But they are a little bit of a polar bear that could roll over and crush you if you don’t pay attention.”
Because the idea is in preliminary stages, plans are still up in the air. But Harris believes these will be important investments in the long-term.
“We aren’t just focusing on the properties that we are acquiring, we’re also saying how can we be helpful more broadly to the entire surrounding community, thinking [ambitiously] about what the future could hold,” Harris said.