UMore Park: a SUStainable
MaSter Planned CoMMUn i t y
PurP o s e o f t h e P r o j e c t
Suburban development surrounds this Brownfield site that has been nearly vacant since the University of
Minnesota obtained it from the U.S. War Department 60 years ago. With declining state funding, universities
are turning to the monetization of their land assets to fund their mission. University officials now seek to
maximize and monetize the real estate value of the property in order to fund the endowments. The UMore Park
Concept Master Plan creates the framework for a community of 30,000 residents with an equal balance of job
opportunities — a substantial development in Minnesota history. It will serve as a national model for how to
plan for a sustainable new community and hold the development accountable to meet high aspirations.
r o l e o f t h e landscaP e a r c h i t e c t
The client initially sought a development partner through an RFP process to undertake the pre-development
phase on behalf of the University. The landscape architect alternatively proposed to take on the role of advising
the University. The landscape architect’s leadership and collaboration provided three considerable advantages to
the University: 1) greater leveraging of the real estate development to fund its academic mission; 2) education
and preparation for the University to act as developer; and 3) retention of development oversight to ensure
the highest integrity and adherence to University principles. This approach represents a groundbreaking effort
on the part of a major educational institution in planning a new community and significantly advances the
role of landscape architects in large-scale planning and development efforts. Site development obstacles and
the University’s complex decision-making process posed significant challenges for the landscape architect team.
Within eight months of beginning the project, the landscape architects led University officials through a process to
determine the importance of developing the property and the feasibility of creating a for-profit development entity.
s i g n i f i c a n c e
The UMore Park master plan addresses a broad range of sustainability elements in a comprehensive and holistic
manner, providing a national model for new communities. The plan emphasizes that in order to seek sustainability
it is necessary to stretch beyond the highest green-building and neighborhood design standards and specifically
ensure the following:
1) Alternative Transit: The creation of the master plan induced the regional transportation authority in the Twin
Cities to consider extending a planned light rail line by approximately ten miles to service the site and to add
three additional light rail stops to serve the future community with BRT.
2) Energy and Carbon: The UMore Park project provides the first known example in the United States of a new
community creating an energy and carbon budget and a comprehensive strategy for reducing energy use
and carbon generation from the outset of the development. Key features of the system include the on-site
generation of all of the community’s electrical needs through clean and renewable energy technologies. This
strategy seeks to reduce to zero the carbon footprint for commercial and residential uses. At build-out, the
new community will generate overall carbon emissions representing only three percent of levels produced
using traditional practices.
3) Community Amenities: The community is organized into interconnected, walkable neighborhoods. Each
neighborhood locates residents within convenient walking distance of amenities. The plan provides an
extensive park and open space system that exceeds the standards of local jurisdictions and national guidelines.
4) Water Management: The development plan provides the first known example of a new community that has
established a comprehensive water budget. The new community will use innovations in rainwater harvesting,
stormwater management and groundwater recharge, innovative irrigation, and native plant use to ensure that
total water use is equal to the amount of water naturally falling on the property in the form of precipitation.
5) Urban Wildlife Plan: From the outset the master plan established an urban wildlife plan and specific
measurable targets for increasing the presence of native species, including the re-introduction of species
no longer found as a result of the past century’s conversion of the region to agricultural land and suburban
6) Landscape Renewal and Interpretation: Contamination requiring substantial cleanup efforts exists on roughly
a third of the site. The phasing of development calls for initial new construction on non-contaminated lands
to provide sufficient time for the cleanup of other areas of the property. The master plan retains visually
significant structures and incorporates them into the landscape narrative of the project.
7) Regional Contributions: One overarching principle that guided the planning of this site was the aspiration to
contribute not only to the well-being of the future residents of this new community, but also to contribute
to the neighboring communities and the larger metropolitan area. A financial analysis concluded that the job
creation, tax generation and significant gravel resources would provide financial benefits to the region that
far surpassed the costs that would be incurred by local governments.
a s l a c o l o r a d o P r o f e s s i o n a l
d e s i g n a w a r d s P r o g r a m
Asheville Aspen Austin Denver sAlt lAke City tAhoe
2 0 0 9
P l a n n i n g a n d u r b a n d e s i g n a w a r d w i n n e r
DW Legacy Design ®
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