Community Impact Project Finalists: HCMC Whittier Clinic

Project Location:  Minneapolis

Project Summary

The Hennepin County Medical Center’s (HCMC) Whittier Clinic project transforms a former brownfield site into a LEED-certified, pedestrian-friendly neighborhood clinic that reinvigorates the multi-cultural core of Minneapolis.  Located near the intersection of Lake Street and Nicollet Avenue in Minneapolis, the flagship clinic is a dynamic, colorful and “green” destination that encourages public interaction and celebrates the neighborhood’s rich ethnic and cultural diversity.

The 60,000-square-foot outpatient medical clinic replaces several abandoned industrial structures, which were anomalies in the otherwise pedestrian-oriented retail, commercial and residential district. Services include primary and specialty care, urgent care, physical therapy and pharmacy services.

The redeveloped site is a full 3.11 acre city block.  In addition to the clinic, the site includes urban plazas, public park spaces and rain gardens for storm water management.  Future mixed-use development, adding to the vibrancy and character of the neighborhood, is also planned.

To make this project possible, an extensive remediation of existing site contaminants was required.   Site investigations revealed the presence of PAHs (polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons), PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), cadmium, lead and mercury.  The site contamination was remediated by removing contaminated soils – 29,500 tons of soil – from the site.  Excavated soil samples were screened for the presence of organic vapors using photoionization detector (PID) equipment and observation of odors, debris and staining.  Approximately 1/3 of the site – or one acre – required remediation.

The project reflects the collaboration of numerous stakeholders – including HCMC leadership, neighborhood organizations and government agencies – working together to revitalize an important Minneapolis neighborhood.  The project replaces abandoned industrial buildings with a service that enhances community health.  Urban plazas, community parks and rain gardens have replaced the dilapidated structures, crumbling concrete and rusting chain link of the previous development.  The project provides a safer, pedestrian-friendly environment that encourages social interaction.

The Whittier Clinic project also aims to serve as a catalyst for future community development.  This area of Minneapolis has suffered for several decades from the closing of Nicollet Avenue just short of Lake Street to accommodate a 70s-era Kmart building.  Work continues on the anticipated re-opening of Nicollet Avenue, which – in the words of the neighborhood representatives – will make Whittier Clinic a “gateway” to their community.  The Whittier project was an important milestone in the Nicollet re-opening initiative, which promises to further invigorate the area by re-linking several important commercial districts.

Project Submitted by:  HGA Architects and Engineers

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