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Reconstruction Awards: Reinvesting in a neighborhood’s future

The reconstruction of a near-century-old derelict public works facility in Minneapolis earns LEED Platinum—and the hearts and minds of the neighboring community.

March 01, 2012 |
The buildings rugged history of service is captured in the reused building mate

Noise, odor, and visual pollution don’t usually come to mind when picturing a pleasant residential neighborhood in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. But for a tight-knit community in Minneapolis that has abutted the city’s Hiawatha Maintenance Facility for nearly a century, pollution in many forms was a daily reality.

The public works site was “a real eyesore,” said Marc Partridge, AIA, CID, LEED AP, a senior associate at local design firm RSP Architects. According to Steve Maurelli, a project manager at RSP, the buildings on the 10-acre site were sorely in need of repair and maintenance. The sense of irony—that a facility devoted to maintenance could itself be so ill-kempt—added to the long-simmering tension between the city and the residents of the adjacent neighborhood, who for decades felt that the city was exploiting them by allowing this blot on their visual landscape.


Hiawatha Maintenance Facility, Minneapolis, Minn.

Building Team

  • Owner/developer: City of Minneapolis
  • Architect: RSP Architects (submitting firm)
  • Structural engineer: Palanisami and Associates
  • MEP engineer: Paulson & Clarke Engineering Inc.
  • General contractor: Knutson Construction

General Information

  • Size: 33,0000-sf office space; 28,000-sf maintenance bay, 20,500-sf storage area
  • Construction cost: $10.8 million
  • Completion date: June 2010
  • Delivery method: Design-bid-build

Built in 1914 as a single brick warehouse and garage, the original building served as a horse infirmary for the local fire department. Population growth spurred the city to erect 18 more facilities, and for more than 90 years the Hiawatha facility has been home to the city’s streets and sewers department.

Tearing down the buildings and starting anew would have been a swift, albeit expensive solution, but the city wanted to preserve the rich history of the facility while also paying respect to the sensitivities of its neighbors.

“When we started this project, one of the goals was to recycle and reuse as much as we could,” said Greg Goeke, director of property services for the city of Minneapolis. The city’s Public Works Department has a “rich tradition” of public service, and repurposing the existing facilities was part of preserving that tradition. The result: about 98% of construction demolition waste from the project was reused.

Click here to view profiles of other reconstruction projects that have been recognized as part of BD+C's 28th Annual Reconstruction Awards.

New construction added space where needed without inflating the mass of the original structures. The original brick building was renovated to complement the surrounding community, while industrial materials were stored on the side of the building facing the highway, out of view of the neighbors.

A new circulating glass curtain wall brought light deep into the facility and made the exteriors more aesthetically pleasing. Recycled materials—metal beams, concrete slabs forming an exterior patio, and wood and bricks salvaged from the original blacksmith shop—lent an elegant but still understated feel to the façade.

According to RSP’s Partridge, an important goal of the renovation was to keep the building functional, not precious. “Public works is raw stuff, and we wanted the building to reflect that,” he said. “In terms of maintainability and the honesty of the materials, everything had a purpose. We wanted to make sure the palette was true to the work being done there.”

Effecting cultural change through design

Before the reconstruction began, city workers were isolated in their respective departments in various parts of the building, each group with its own lunchroom, kitchen, and equipment collection—a layout that lent itself to communication breakdowns and resulting inefficiencies.


Hiawatha Maintenance Facility, Minneapolis, Minn.

Structural Steel: MacSteel

Overhead Door Aluminum: Haas

Structural Deck: Vulcraft-Nucor

Corrugated Metal: CMI Inc.

Lockers: The Locker Guy

Precast Concrete: FabCon

Aluminum Storefront Curtainwall: Old Castle

Ready-mix: Cemstone

Hollow Core Planks: Molin

Remix P/6473 Carpet: Milliken

Windows DH: Pella

Aluminum Storefront Entrances and Doors: Old Castle

Light Gauge Metal Items: Clarkwestern

Louvera: Nystrom

Linoleum: Forbo

Metal Stairs: Lapeyer

Una-Clad: C Firestone

VCT Tile: Daltile

Thermal Batt Insulation: Owens Corning

Insulation: Johns Manville

Gypcrete Green 2000: Maxxom

Alucobond: Alcan

Modular Carpet: Lee's Carpet

Gypsum Board: National Gypsum

Flagpoles: Poletech

Vinyle Tile: Daltile

Gymspum Board: USG

Vinyl Tile: Daltile

Tread Riser: Nora

Rubber Base: Roppe

Rubber Tiles: Nora

Translucent Panel: Kalwall

Misc. Metal Shapes: Nucor

Structural Steel Joists: Vulcraft-Nucor

Overhead Steel Doors: DoorLink

The Building Team—which, in addition to RSP Architects, included Palanisami and Associates (structural engineer), Paulson & Clark Engineering (MEP engineer), and Knutson Construction (GC)—set to work with the municipal administration to find ways to maximize workflow by opening up the floor plan. “We did a lot of programming to see what resources and tasks could be shared between groups, and then designed the space so that the groups were thrown together in shared experiences,” said Partridge. 

Today, the Hiawatha facility takes in 33,000 sf of office space over two floors, a 28,000-sf maintenance bay, and 20,500 sf of storage. It is home to five public works departments whose workforce has experienced something of a collective cultural change as a result of the new space adjacencies. “Making the building more open brought everyone together,” said RSP’s Partridge. Daily task work has improved, response times have quickened, and overall functionality has been streamlined.

“They now realize how much more collaborative their work really is,” he said.

A tough building complex that reflects the hardy work being performed inside—this is what the Building Team envisioned. And it works. “On a day-to-day basis, our employees have an environment that works much better for them without compromising [individual departmental] goals,” said the city’s Greg Goeke—and a great justification for the project to earn Gold honors from BD+C’s Reconstruction Awards jury.

EXCEEDING EXPECTATIONS a commitment to the community

During the planning of the Hiawatha Maintenance Facility, a directive from the city of Minneapolis required the Building Team—RSP Architects, Palanisami and Associates (SE), Paulson & Clark Engineering (MEP), and Knutson Construction (GC)—to achieve LEED Gold certification. But with the high level of reused materials—nearly 98%—the team was able to reach even higher.

“Not only does a public works facility need to protect the city, it also needs to protect the environment,” said Greg Goeke, the city’s director of property services. “We have high recycled content that made achieving environmental goals fairly easy.”

Old timber repurposed for millwork, recycled switchboards and crane rails, and salvaged metal beams supporting the site’s fueling station helped earn the project LEED Platinum for new construction, the city’s first municipal building to earn this rating. An old open-grate bridge that used to cross the Mississippi River was converted into a perimeter fence.

Artifacts of the building’s past are now displayed along the walls, paying homage to the building’s nearly century-long history. Old photographs, remnants of an old asphalt plant, and materials from the infirmary were reincorporated into the building construct.

The project’s high level of sustainability demonstrated the city’s commitment to the local community’s welfare, said Goeke. By the end of the process, residents who had started out mistrusting the project became its strongest advocates. “People now see that something built nearly a century ago still has value today,” he said. +

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