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Minnesota Science Park aims to house 21st-century researchers on 32 urban acres

Just don't call it a corporate campus.

That might send prospective tenants of the Minnesota Science Park--a million square feet of research facilities on 32 acres near the University of Minnesota campus and the border between Minneapolis and St. Paul--running in the opposite direction.  

Inventors, research scientists and biotech entrepreneurs want spare, efficient, functional spaces to do their work, says architect John Cuningham, whose Minneapolis-based Cuningham Group Architecture will design the dozen or so buildings on what's now industrial land nestled up against the edge of the U of M's East Bank campus.

"They don't want ostentatious display," Cuningham says. "They actively dislike it." They want shared spaces where researchers in different areas can interact, but beyond that they tend to be hostile to what they regard as wasteful niceties.

It's "a very demanding project," he says, requiring Cuningham's designers to be "very economical with very advanced technology."

The project breaks the mold of most research parks located near university campuses, Cuningham says. Like the U of M itself, the Minnesota Science Park will be crammed into the urban core rather than sprawled across farmland on a rural, land-grant campus. The nonprofit team behind the project (no state dollars involved) announced it at the annual gathering of the national Association of University Research Parks held in Minneapolis last week.

Cuningham's firm had already been involved for a decade or so with urban design and planning in the Southeast Minneapolis Industrial (SEMI) Area at the western end of the Midway, a linear industrial district that stretches for miles through St. Paul and Minneapolis.

Once renowned as having the world's highest concentration of grain elevators, the area will instead be home to "21st-century American discoveries," Cuningham says, such as alternative fuels and nanotechnology.

"This is not manufacturing farm implements," Cuningham says.

Source: John Cuningham, Cuningham Group Architecture, P.A.
Writer: Chris Steller
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