After Kevin Reich was elected to the Minneapolis City Council in 2009 for Ward 1 (Northeast), he noticed while walking his dog that there were four different lawn care services and four jurisdictions maintaining, in isolation, adjacent youth-oriented properties: Hennepin County Library, YMCA, Edison High School, and some open green park area.
He was also struck by the fact that while these areas had received improvements in infrastructure and public art, they had received little in terms of environmental sustainability upgrades.
Making a Plan
Step 1: In 2011, Reich convened a group of stakeholders from the various jurisdictions that oversaw this area. With the assistance of a grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, they identified an area to be termed the “Green Campus” and collaborated with Preventing Harm Minnesota on a stormwater feasibility study.
Step 2: Reich then helped gather partnerships (see below) to implement a series of projects to improve water quality and environmental sustainability, enhance a sense of community, and create greater maintenance efficiencies. These elements would be central features guiding the Neighborhood Small Area Plan that would be adopted by the City.
Renovations at Edison High School
Step 3: The first Green Campus project to be undertaken was a complete renovation of the Edison High School parking lot. Through the installation of a Swedish tree trench system, bio-swales, rain gardens and permeable pavers, the parking lot was redesigned so that it could manage the water generated by a 4” rain event and keep it from entering the storm sewer and, ultimately, the Mississippi River.
Step 4: After the parking lot project was completed in 2013, the stakeholders moved on to Edison High School’s athletic field, which had last received attention in the 1980s. The field was re-graded and sodded, thanks to several key partnerships. Goal posts, new drain tile and an innovative irrigation system was installed.
Specifically, the area east of the field was excavated to install large storage tanks that will hold stormwater runoff captured from the gymnasium roof and nearby areas. This stored water will be used to irrigate the field through a system of pumps.
Flash forward to today and Reich – an enthusiastic visual communicator – envisions continuing synergy around Edison High School.
- What if its youth, already under the tutelage of a forward-thinking science teacher, could be anchored in the neighborhood to local outdoor labs?
- What if Metro Blooms could help create a raingarden, used as a demonstration site? And art installations educated visitors about greening?
- What if a community garden was closer to students, who otherwise walked six blocks tending to basil for a local Thai restaurant? Edison had an enterprising special needs teacher who Reich felt deserved his own greenhouse for hands-on teaching.
- What if solar power was used to reduce the school’s carbon footprint, while also teaching the school’s Green Council students about renewable energy for the future?
Not everyone assembled for the brainstorming process had the same passion for the ideas. “I think some thought I was a nuisance, asking for too much detail,” he said. “But I wanted this to be not only sustainable, but beautiful, educational, a public space to be proud of.”
Step 5: In the next few months this project area will see the installation of a community plaza, concessions building, greenhouse and solar canopy.
But it hasn’t been easy. Importantly, the budget for this next phase of the Green Campus package was more than Reich had access to through various grant programs. [Grantors include Mississippi Watershed Management Organization and NFL Grassroots program, a partnership between the National Football League Foundation, the Minnesota Vikings and Local Initiatives Support Corporation].
The project was beginning to stall.
Enter Alex Haecker, AWH Architects, who teamed with colleague Charlie Lazor to tweak the design and not only make it feasible, but potentially within budget and aesthetically unique and attractive.
“Their thoughtful, creative, integrative design got us back on track,” said Reich.
Perseverance, vision, partnerships and grants are making Edison High School — originally built in 1922 — a step closer to having a sustainable campus with unique environmental education opportunities, with minimal cost to Minneapolis Public Schools.
In This Series
- The Minneapolis Climate Action Plan
- Do you know what your home energy costs are?
- Where are the Minneapolis LEED homes?
- The LEED commercial buildings in Minneapolis
- School costs: energy use and air quality
- What is a carbon price and why should I support it?
- Portland, Oregon: Catching up to our older and wiser sibling
- Q&A: Ron Fergle, Solart – the future of green for Minneapolis homes
- The state of carbon emissions today
- The cost impact of LEED and Minnesota Green Star
- What you can do to shore up an older home
- Typical Minneapolis household expenses for gasoline, oil, electricity
- Why plants and trees matter
- Progressive multifamily and affordable housing
- Creative use of garbage
- Re-use in construction & demolition
- How does Minneapolis become zero waste?
• Green architect Alex Haecker, AWH Architects
• Energy efficient landlord Timothy Springer
• MetroBlooms raingarden expert Rich Harrison
• COMING: Q&A With Solart President Ron Fergle
• COMING: Q&A With Developers: Sustainable Homes