After 140 years as a career, a huge piece of Mankato is about to transform | Local News

Planners are set to provide the first high-level look at the potential future of a mined quarry in the heart of Mankato – a dramatic landscape of pools, limestone cliffs and Minnesota River views nearly equivalent in size to of 22 blocks.

The next life of Mankato’s unique piece known as Jefferson Quarry, which is being studied by a planning consultant in conjunction with the city and the quarry owner, is expected to focus on houses, townhouses and/or or apartments.

“Depending on location, surrounding land use and market demands, housing is currently at the center of new developments,” said Jim Voda of Pentagon Materials, who bought the property a year ago. . “We are also considering mixed commercial use such as small destination stores, a restaurant or perhaps a single office space.”

Redevelopment of the operated Jefferson Quarry, with its large pools and limestone cliffs in the heart of Mankato, is expected to begin within a year or two.

For more than a century, the Jefferson Quarry has provided stone for local buildings and across the country, performing its task in a way that has also contributed to noise, dust and – in a notable sequence of blasting infamous in 2017 – a city-wide quake that registered 2.8 on the Richter scale and flying rocks that flooded an adjacent neighborhood.

Following this difficult summer, the municipal authorities suspended the site’s operating permit. The quarry explosives were never detonated again and the site was sold in May 2021. Now city planners have the intriguing task of helping envision the next chapter for a truly singular property in Mankato.

“It’s about 54 acres, so it’s huge,” said Courtney Kramlinger, economic development specialist for the city. “It’s a pretty unique place. It has high limestone walls, and they are roughly hewn. And it’s really pretty — you can see the river in places.

Kramlinger, along with Director of Communications and Engagement Edell Fiedler, are the city’s representatives on a public/private team overseeing a career redevelopment study conducted by consulting firm Stantec.

Throughout the process, community feedback will be sought, including feedback on the general concepts envisioned for the site, which will be unveiled at an open house on Tuesday. A final land-use plan is expected to be presented to city council later this year, and Kramlinger believes the owners are eager to begin transforming the quarry.

“I feel like it would be in a year or two,” she said.

A private affair

Ideas from people in the Mankato area have been collected since mid-May, with suggestions so far dominated by supporters of a regional mountain bike park and other public facilities.

“Southern Minnesota lacks a mountain biking destination,” one person wrote on the city’s online public engagement site, “It could put Mankato on the map. There is a lot of potential in these abandoned quarries for outdoor recreation. Outdoor recreation tourism can bring significant dollars to the local economy and small businesses.

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The new owners of the Jefferson Quarry, which spans about 21 blocks, see housing as the main focus of its redevelopment.

Sixteen of the 29 reviews on the site mentioned mountain biking, with others suggesting a campground, auto race track, nature park, beach park with swimming and kayaking, and park for ATVs, dirt bikes and other off-road vehicles.

Those putting forward the most ambitious proposals seem to misunderstand the nature of the redevelopment, according to those involved in the planning process.

Although the site is physically capable of hosting most suggestions, the land is not a public good. City leaders therefore cannot decide that it should be used entirely for public purposes or order that it be transformed into a particular public facility.

Pentagon Materials, a sister company of Holtmeier Construction, paid $6 million for the various parcels making up the quarry and did not make the costly acquisition with the intention of donating the entire property as public park.

That doesn’t mean there won’t be substantial public benefits from the redevelopment, Voda said.

“To begin with, we are removing an industrial site from the existing residential neighborhood and converting it to a more acceptable use,” he said. “The current study aims to help determine the needs of the community.

Even as a largely private redevelopment, the project is still unusual and interesting due to the size of the plot, its central location, its distinctive appearance and its history, according to City Manager Susan Arntz.

“And we have a very willing owner who wants to work with the community to decide how to reuse the property,” she said.

Joint planning

Developers typically generate concepts for a property internally and only release them when applying for municipal permits or land use changes. Significant delays can also occur in finding a new use for a languishing industrial or commercial property while it is still in the hands of the original owner, who may not have the financial resources or the expertise to tackle the often daunting transformation.

In the case of the Jefferson Quarry, the new owners purchased the property from Coughlan Quarries LLC, a company spun off from the original stonemasons who began selling limestone in 1885.

Pentagon Materials almost immediately sought to work with residents of the city and region to explore possible uses, according to Kramlinger.

“They wanted help, advice on what those land uses might look like,” Kramlinger said, noting that the cooperation strategy is one that can also be used to build municipal and community support.

But she said the public needs to be realistic about how many of the 54 acres will be made available to the general community: “The site will end up being a mix of uses.”

A park is definitely a possibility for part of the site, as well as cycle paths and public sidewalks.

“The scenarios we’re working out include areas of green space,” Kramlinger said, withholding details ahead of Tuesday night’s meeting.

A very likely item is a trail connection for residents of the Germania Park neighborhood. The residential area at the east end of the quarry is approximately 600 feet, as the crow flies, from the city’s Minnesota River Trail and its connection to the larger regional trail system. But the quarry, along with industrial properties on the other side of the neighborhood, has left Germania Park residents without easy access to the trail system and state, county, and municipal parks to which bike paths lead.

Even without detailing the planned amenities, Voda pointed out that the public and private elements of the redevelopment are intertwined – the features that make the site attractive to the general public and attract visitors will also appeal to investors, tenants and customers.

“We continue to plan to showcase the site’s unique natural features that are not currently available anywhere else in Mankato,” Voda said. “We are excited to create a plan with a mix of public and private spaces that will appeal to developers and investors while meeting public needs, making it a place people will want to live and enjoy outdoor amenities.”

The good and the bad

The Stantec study, funded by a brownfields grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, began investigating the Mankato site and market in March. Early findings include a determination that the quarry is protected from river flooding by the berm that supports the bike path, which sits approximately 8 feet above the 100-year floodplain, but that the flood protection will still need to be carefully considered as the site develops. .

Stantec also noted the challenge of expanding utilities such as water, sewer, and stormwater drainage in the area.

And access to the site is currently limited to an entrance from Cleveland Street, an east-west road that runs from Third Avenue to the quarry through an industrial area just south of Highway 14. This lack of visibility from the traffic makes the quarry a poor location for a traditional shopping district, although it could accommodate destination-type retail businesses such as restaurants or a micro-brewery.

The consultant cited the “quality of place” as well as the volume and density of nearby housing as the keys to the success of any restaurant or brasserie type business.

Stantec’s preliminary development plan revealed that demand for office space is “extremely low in the short term” in the Mankato market, although this may change in the longer term.

“The strongest demand is for housing of all kinds,” according to the study.

These different types could include apartments for the working class, luxury market, or senior housing, and the residential units could be anything from apartment buildings to low-density townhouses.

As for community amenities, possibilities include a “public plaza connected to a retail/restaurant”, a water feature, a “unique natural or open space”, “river access” and more. again, according to Stantec.

Unsurprisingly, the consultant came to a very basic conclusion about redesigning a quarry: “Surveying is both a challenge and an opportunity.”

For people looking to see some initial concepts and have their say, Tuesday night offers the first widespread opportunity. The open house is at Columbia Park in the Germania Park neighborhood, but it’s not just for the neighborhood, Fiedler said.

“This meeting will be wide open for the community,” she said. “It will be back and forth, although there will be a brief presentation at 5:30 p.m..”

After the meeting, the concepts will be added to the project page on the city’s Every Voice Mankato website where comments will be accepted.

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The new owners of a 54-acre quarry, which saw the arrival of more than a century of mining in 2017, are working with the town of Mankato to consider the site’s future use.

Feedback will be incorporated into a more detailed plan in July with a follow-up public meeting tentatively scheduled for August 4.

A more refined draft development plan will be drawn up in the fall and presented as a land use plan to the Planning Commission and city council in the fall, Kramlinger said.

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