One thing remains certain: all land on the St. Olaf campus, including the natural lands, will not be touched. Any possible development will occur on land owned by the College lying to the north, west and south of campus. Were here to listen to you, said Paula Mitchell, one of the consultants from Boldt. She stressed that Boldt's presence does not mean [that St. Olaf is] selling or developing the land. Mitchell explained that St. Olaf would like to make a plan so that it is prepared when the city of Northfield asks about developing the lands around the College.
Jim Kleinfeldt said that Boldt Construction focuses on planning and feasibility, and he urged those gathered to look at the matter in a broader context. It is not just one piece of property, but how the community comes together, he said.
Because the forums were geared toward hearing opinions from the St. Olaf community, Mitchell and Kleinfeldt spent most of the hour-and-a-half-long session answering questions and addressing concerns. "We are here to listen to everyones opinion and report to the Board of Regents," Kleinfeldt said. "They want to be armed when people come to them [asking them to develop the land]."
One of the major issues with any sort of development is transportation, according to Kleinfeldt. Northfield has some serious transportation linkage issues, he said, naming unpaved roads and a lack of direct routes to the Twin Cities as major problems. Any sort of development that may occur on St. Olaf-owned land would need to take transportation issues into account. The city has a challenge in finding good land for economic development, he said.
Mitchell suggested that any development should mirror the goals of the College. "What uses of the land would provide a synergy with the College?" she asked, mentioning some previously-suggested developments such as bio-research or alternative fuel facilities.
Some students asked about the monetary worth of the land, a question which did not have an easy answer according to Mitchell and Kleinfeldt. The land is somewhat diverse, Kleinfeldt said. Mitchell explained that agricultural prices around Northfield are all over the board, ranging from $4,000 to $20,000 per acre. The Regents could get our report and decide not to sell, she said. There are a lot of ways to get money from the land without selling it.
Kleinfeldt stressed that the role of Boldt Consulting in the process was quite small. "We are just involved in concepts and thoughts," he said. "The College can make a decision and do what they wish."
Whether the College decides to sell the land or not, the compilation of raw data that explores the lands worth has incredible value. Were thinking about more than just the college itself, Kleinfeldt said. "We'd like our report to be the first step in thinking more globally," Mitchell agreed. "St. Olaf should not look at its land in isolation," she said.
Many of the students and faculty attending the meeting also shared their opinions. Mitchell and Kleinfeldt both urged those gathered to share their thoughts about the possible development.
"You know the land and the city and the College," Mitchell said. "We want to know what you recommend."
Amber Collett '07 would like any development to boost the image of the College as sustainable. She suggested an outdoor classroom or research facilities for students and professors to work together.
Day Burtness '07, while not in favor of development, would like to see more ambitious sustainable agriculture if any development occurs. "We could have an amazing educational center for sustainable agriculture," she said.
Alison Madison '07 stressed a need for stringent requirements for any purchasers of the land. "As landowners, we have an ethical responsibility," she said.
Kleinfeldt stressed again that the Board of Regents hiring of Boldt does not mean that the land will definitely be sold or developed. "To do something right, you have to plan," he said. "The Board of Regents is getting out of a reactionary mode and into a more proactive one."