New Cottageville Park features such as a green roof pavilion and remade landscape could push the redesign cost up to $5.8 million, according to a draft master plan that a consultant presented to the City Council on Tuesday.
The Cuningham Group has been putting together the plan since the city hired the Minneapolis-based firm in June to come up with ideas on how to use the newly enlarged park.
It’s unlikely the city will be able to afford all the improvements in the plan at once, but early in the project a Cuningham landscape architect promised that “each phase of the project should look complete, intentional and fully functional.”
Consequently, Cuningham offered three levels of park improvements:
- A “basic park” ($2.4 million): Demolishing the existing buildings, stormwater management, a redesigned alley, pathways within the park, relocation of the basketball court, a canoe launch, a pavilion and other improvements that create a baseline park and build the framework for future improvements.
- A “signature park” ($3.3 million): The same as above but with a creek crossing, lookout box, pavilion plaza space, pavilion restrooms and storage, a picnic and seating area and plantings in the alley.
- An “awesome park!” ($5.8 million): The same as the two options above plus a play area for 2- to 5-year-olds, an “adventure” play area for 5- to 12-year-olds, enhanced entrances to the park, an interpretive walk to the creek, an amphitheater/learning space near the creek, a “green roof pavilion” that allows play both on top and beneath it, more public art and an enhanced creek crossing.
The plan is about more than just the individual amenities. It would radically change Cottageville Park’s topography.
- Dirt and sod mounds would break up the park’s existing flat plane. Park visitors would be able to walk on top of a green roof pavilion that is as much a hill as a park structure.
- By the basketball court, the adventure play area would have integrated seating for the basketball court and a slide going down the mound that seating area is built into.
- Ponds would be added as part of a system to clean water before it enters the creek.
The process of changing the park’s look actually began in April 2011, when Minnehaha Creek Watershed District tore down buildings on properties south of Cottageville that will now be part of the park. Hopkins lauded the demolition because it cleared obstacles that allowed criminal activity to occur out of sight.
Cuningham said the new Cottageville landscape would not prevent people from seeing into the park. Instead, it would invite them in. Park entrances could have entrance monuments, interpretive elements, enhanced plantings and plaza paving.
That invitation continues inside the park. Minnehaha Creek elements encourage visitors to venture down to the water. Stepping stones—with spaces for canoes and kayaks to pass through—would allow people to cross right at the creek.
The goal is to transform a 1.3-acre neighborhood park into a four-acre amenity that will attract a regional audience—particularly coupled with the proposed Southwest Light Rail Transit station and a redeveloped Cold Storage site just south of the park on Blake Road.
“We’ve got to develop it as a community asset, not just a neighborhood asset,” Mayor Gene Maxwell said.
The proposal’s price caused some “sticker shock” among the council, as Councilwoman Molly Cummings said.
That doesn’t mean Hopkins would need to put up $5.8 million. As mentioned earlier, it could phase in improvements over time. Planners also intend to find grants and work with partners like the Three Rivers Park District and Hennepin County to bring in money from other sources.
“It’s a lot of different sources of funding as we go forward,” City Engineer John Bradford said.
Overall, the project drew praise for its ambitious scope. Minnehaha Creek Watershed District Planner James Wisker said the plan did a good job of meeting both water quality goals and recreation desires.
“I think these guys kind of found the right balance,” he said.
Ann Beuch, a community organizer with the Blake Road Corridor Collaborative, called it “an exciting plan,” while Kersten Elverum, Hopkins’ director of economic development and planning, said it could be “a legacy for generations to come.”
Hopkins Community Development Coordinator Tara Beard had even more effusive praise: “I think it’s just going to blow people out of the water that they can have this piece of nature—this piece of peace and tranquility—right outside their front door.”
Master Plan Open House
The public is invited to view The Cuningham Group’s plan at an open house from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Dec. 18 at City Hall. Cuningham group will make a presentation about the plan at the City Council meeting right afterward. City staff will then start putting together a schedule and a funding plan to implement park improvements.