Saturday, November 11, 2006

University of Minnesota Introduces Visionary Community Plan

Interesting development out of the University of Minnesota that sounds pretty green:
University of Minnesota officials Thursday unveiled an almost utopian vision for a community of 20,000 to 30,000 residents, to be built from scratch and serve as a laboratory for 21st-century living. ...

The latest in agricultural advances could be used to produce disease-preventing food for the community. Solar cells, wind and renewable fuels would provide the energy. Buildings would be constructed of materials that represent the cutting edge of energy efficiency. A "health and wellness center" would serve the community, and particular attention would be paid to controlling such diet-related conditions as obesity, heart disease and diabetes. A "futuristic" library and technology-based learning center would be at the center of the community.

Sounds idyllic! Apparently, the University has owned the land since the 40s (it acquired it through a land grant), and a portion has already been dedicated to a new football stadium. But, there's still 5000 acres that could be committed to this experiment in self-sustained living. This isn't virgin land: it served as as a site for a gunpowder-making operation for the Army prior to its transferal to the university. That presents one potential problem: the Regents wanted to know if contamination is an issue. While one way to fund the site seems pretty green (recycling concrete left at the site), the University would also mine gravel (I know little about the environmental impact of doing this), and sell development rights to builders to raise money. The administrators estimated the entire project would take 25-30 years to complete.

The vision for the space sounds fantastic -- I have to wonder about those last two methods of fundraising though -- would they ultimately conflict with the plan, either in terms of maintaining the vision for the community, or in completing it? I'm very glad to see universities thinking in these kinds of terms, though. I'm a big fan of the intentional community concept in general, and think one created for research could produce all sorts of useful information. It could show that this is a way of living that's not simply a throwback to an agrarian society, but a means of enjoying a modern, comfortable lifestyle while leaving a much lighter footprint. The Regents noted that such a plan could conflict with other development plans in the area, and I'm guessing this will be a much bigger impediment than some imagine -- I can just see exurbanites howling that the hippies are invading. Marketing will be everything...

Via gerg at Hugg

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