The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District began work on the centerpiece of its largest-ever creek-restoration project earlier this month.
A contractor for the agency began demolishing a cold-storage warehouse off Blake Road in Hopkins on Aug. 13. The agency plans on restoring over 1,000 feet of stream channel at the 17-acre site, on which the firm Kraus-Anderson also plans to build a mixed-use apartment building.
The project is the latest in a years-long effort by the Watershed District to restore the stretch of creek between Hopkins and St. Louis Park. That segment has the highest pollutant load per unit area of any along the creek, said Michael Hayman, project planning manager for the district.
Hayman said the creek had been ditched and straightened along the stretch in the years after World War II and that adjacent wetlands had been drained. That left the stretch more prone to pollution and flooding, he said.
The district began work to restore the area about eight years ago, when it worked with Park Nicollet Methodist Hospital in St. Louis Park to restore 1,500 feet of creek and 15 acres of wetland vegetation. It has since worked on a second project in St. Louis Park, called the Minnehaha Creek Preserve, and also completed a project at Cottageville Park in Hopkins. Another phase of the project will include improvements to the creek as it travels through Meadowbrook Golf Course.
The Watershed District had purchased the Blake Road property in 2011 with the intention of treating polluted stormwater from surrounding neighborhoods and restoring the creek channel. The site will treat stormwater from 270 acres once the project is completed, according to the agency.
All told, the entire series of projects will include 1.5 miles of restored stream, 450 acres of additional stormwater management, 12 acres of restored wetlands and 50 acres of newly accessible green space. The Watershed District calls the entire series of projects the Minnehaha Creek Greenway.
Hayman said the agency is making sure the improvements help residents of the area access the Southwest Light Rail Transit line, which is planned to run adjacent to the Blake Road project site and through the greenway area. He said the projects would result in lower pollutant loads in stretches of the creek downstream from Hopkins and St. Louis Park, including Southwest Minneapolis.
“The work that goes on upstream directly impacts in a positive manner what residents and others experience downstream,” he said.
Hayman said the Blake Road site will be cleared by the end of the year. He said the agency is preparing to start the stormwater work in 2019 and is aiming for the site to be treating water in 2020.
Earlier this year, the watershed district’s board of managers selected Kraus-Anderson to be the master developer for the Blake Road site. The company’s initial plans call for 465 units on the site, including 84 affordable units, and neighborhood retail/community space at two corners of the development.