University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Stewardship on a Land Grant University

“What is special about this place?” asked Andrew Caddock, senior planner at the University’s Capital Planning and Project Management department. Standing outside of Elliot Hall with spacious views of the University’s historical knoll area, Water Walkers began spouting out answers—“We’re at a bend in the river, right downstream from the only natural falls on the length of the Mississippi”, “There’s good views of downtown”, “The historical buildings and old trees”.  It’s obvious to anyone who has been on campus that we have an exceptional location full of historical landscapes and great architecture right along the Mississippi River, but how did we get so lucky?

The truth is it has nothing to do with luck and everything to do with stewardship. On May 13th we gathered for a Water Walk with Andrew Caddock to discuss how the University’s roots as a land grant institution relates to the River, and how ongoing stewardship and management can help preserve both the historical and natural legacy on campus.

As a Land Grant institution, Caddock explained that the University was given federal land for a public college to expand higher education to the industrial classes as part of the Morrill act of 1862. Impressed by the landscape architect designing Minneapolis’ park system, the University’s first president, William Folwell hired Horace W.S. Cleveland to create a comprehensive plan for campus development. With a passion to secure land around natural resources, Cleveland pursued his vision of a park-like campus where buildings fit in with the landscape. Taking the strengths of the bluffs along the river and eclectic array of historical buildings, Cleveland’s concept was used to guide the development of campus until Northrop Mall was planned in the 1920s.

Developing land with landscapes in mind is at the heart of the University’s most recent master plan for development. Under the 2009 plan, the University is working to take advantage of its location on the Mississippi by maximizing the views of the river when appropriate. Everything from roads, water management infrastructure, buildings, and construction plans must first be evaluated against the master plan to determine whether the project aligns with the plan’s goals.

Building and operating along the river has an environmental impact. So what is the University doing to care for water that comes off its campuses? —A lot actually. The University’s precise storm water practices are implemented into the larger design of campus.  From permeable surfaces of parking lots, roads, and roofs, to a substantial treatment system underground that infiltrates into the river at water level, the University’s system has a sophisticated cleaning capacity.

Preserving the historical and natural legacy on campus is a deliberate and thoughtful process. Like the U’s storm water practices, “Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not happening”.

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One Comment

  1. Miranda MoenMay 22, 2014 at 4:41 pm

    Thank you for this post, its a thoughtful representation of all of the intricacies that are involved in place-making – as I see it – important to know about and important to remember when creating projects in school. As an undergrad in Architecture, it is easy to leave out small but very important details. These posts help me remember that we need to include things outside design,etc.

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