Updated: 01/07/2013 7:40 PM KSTP.com By: Mark Saxenmeyer
A sign the economy is picking up: developers in Brooklyn Park are looking to create an expansive business and housing center.
The area at Highway 169 and 109th Avenue is currently one of the last plots of farming land in the suburb. It's also home to a popular annual tradition that many don't want to lose: a corn maze!
"We are urban farmers," said Bert Bouwman, as he walked across the 272 acre lot. For the last four years, Bouwman has shared space on the lot with nothing more than wild, roaming turkeys.
"I have sweet corn, strawberries, pumpkins, " he said, rattling off a list of crops. He rents from the land owners, Harstad Hills, Inc. But perhaps his biggest impact comes every autumn, with his elaborate corn maze creations.
For two years, Bouwman carved out a Minnesota Twins logo motif in his corn crop, as part of his annual Twin Cities Harvest Festival and Maze event. Last year, there was an armed services theme. The mazes draw about 25,000 fascinated fans each fall.
"It's a wonderful family activity," Bouwman said.
But now, the land owners are looking to turn the lot into more than three million square feet of industrial, warehouse, office and retail space, as well as 600 units of residential housing.
According to Todd Larson, Brooklyn Park's senior planner, "This is a pretty big deal. It could bring a lot of jobs to town--not only the construction of it, but also through the businesses that locate here."
First, though, the project must pass an environmental review, including how it'll impact traffic and noise in the area. The public can weigh in on a recently-completed study through January 18th. The site of the development would also have to be re-zoned, and undergo water and sewage upgrades.
"The plan could take about ten years to implement fully," Larson predicted.
Until then, the land owners say they'll continue to find space for Bouwman and his maze. "Even if we have to move within this same area, we can be creative and still be the largest corn maze in the twin cities," Bouwman said.
Click here to see the environmental study.
Mark Saxenmeyer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org