Carleton College Invests…in Downtown Northfield

Carleton College has invested in downtown Northfield for many years.  The college has supported groups and events that contribute to the downtown’s vitality, college staff and students have given of their time and talent through volunteering for organizations and initiatives that work for the downtown’s vibrancy, and the entire college community has significantly and positively impacted the downtown economy since its founding in 1866.  Now the college is taking their investment to a new level.

On May 8, Carleton announced that it had purchased the building at 200 Division Street, formerly known as the Medical Arts Building.  The College has been a major tenant in the building since 2005 when the Science Education Resource Center (SERC) relocated there.  The acquisition will allow Carleton to use a portion of the building to expand much-needed space for SERC operations, as well as relocate some additional administrative functions out of core academic buildings on campus.

SERC’s presence in downtown generates its own excitement.  The Science Education Resource Center of Carleton College, founded in 2002,  works to improve science education through projects that support educators.  The office has special expertise in effective pedagogies, geoscience education, science community organization, workshop leadership, digital libraries, website development, and program and website evaluation.

On August 10, 2011, the National Science Foundation awarded SERC a $10 million, five-year grant in support of the project InTeGrate: Interdisciplinary Teaching of Geoscience for a Sustainable Future.  The grant is one of two funded that year through NSF’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Talent Expansion Program (STEP);  the other at Stanford Universitywith an engineering focus.  The STEP initiative aims to create a unique opportunity for faculty in a science discipline to address a national challenge or opportunity in undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education through a comprehensive and coordinated set of activities.

There are some people in our community who believe the future of our economy will be built on knowledge workers, workers who create economic value with their minds.  Scientists, educators, and web-crafters are all important segments of the knowledge worker labor force.  The presence of these workers in downtown Northfield, particularly with their commitment to an interdisciplinary approach, generates the type of knowledge spillovers that can not only nurture existing knowledge-based businesses but attract new knowledge-based businesses.  In fact, the type of interdisciplinary knowledge spillovers that such an enterprise generates can have an impact on the local economy that is not merely incremental but truly transformational.

Carleton intends to honor leases currently in place with non-College tenants, and to keep the building on the tax rolls at this time.  The three-story, 20,400-square foot building was constructed in 1948. The building lot is about a third of an acre and includes 15 parking spaces.  The College expects renovation work at the building to begin early this summer and be concluded before the end of the year.