Friday, November 19, 2010
The $30 million Coborn Plaza is redefining the town-and-gown relationship that is the heartbeat of St. Cloud.
Coborn Plaza is two, four-story buildings on Fifth Avenue adjacent to campus. The upper floors of the north and south buildings are Coborn Plaza Apartments, a 453-student housing complex leased by St. Cloud State.
The ground floor of the south building is the University’s new Welcome Center, a 12,000 square-foot facility managed by the Center for Continuing Studies. The north building’s main floor has 20,000 square-feet of retail along Fifth Avenue, including a book store, hair salon, coffee shop and tanning salon.
“This is an exceptional step forward in the life of this university and this community,” President Earl H. Potter told a crowd of nearly 250 at the Sept. 23 grand opening of the Welcome Center.
Potter calls the Welcome Center the university’s “new front door” and “the place where community and university meet.” It is, according to Potter, part of an effort to “turn the university inside out,” so that Central Minnesota can take greater advantage of university offerings.
The Welcome Center, which the university leases, has information kiosks, a way-finding system, a gear store, campus event tickets, professional development classrooms, a small business center, meeting spaces, an outdoor entertainment venue and an exhibit area.
The meeting spaces, including the Husky Conference Room, are used by students, staff and faculty when the meeting purpose has a community connection.
The exhibit area, called The Intersection, opened with history graduate student Alex Ames’ “Paths to the Future: Building New Connections in Historic St. Cloud.” Ames’ 10-part exhibit chronicles St. Cloud’s signature boulevard from early settlement through Fifth Avenue Live!
Fifth Avenue Live! broadly describes public and private development taking place along Fifth Avenue. In a narrower sense Fifth Avenue Live! refers to efforts by 5th Avenue Development, LLC, to remake both sides of the avenue from Ramsey Place north to Minnesota Highway 23.
“This is just magnificent,” business leader Dan Coborn said at the Welcome Center grand opening. “This is going to be Main Street St. Cloud.”
Rich Kelly ’92, a University-South Side neighborhood leader, echoed Coborn’s sentiments.
“This neighborhood is on the way up,” Kelly said. “We have just begun.”
The 5th Avenue Development partnership includes the Coborn family, Cornerstone Construction of
Public projects under the Fifth Avenue Live! umbrella include the Civic Center expansion on the north end of Fifth Avenue and the National Hockey and Event Center (NHEC) renovation/expansion near the south end of the boulevard. The Civic Center project broke ground Sept. 14.
Coborn Plaza honors the Coborn family and Coborn’s, Inc., which annually donates more than $2 million and thousands of volunteer hours to the Midwest communities where it operates grocery, convenience and liquor stores. Coborn Plaza stands on the site of former Coborn’s grocery and
Coborn Plaza is owned by J.A. Wedum, a Minneapolis-based foundation which has developed senior and student housing in Minnesota communities such as Buffalo, Rochester, Minneapolis, Fridley and Mankato. The foundation’s president is Jay Portz ’91.
Welcome Center tenants and amenities