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Building for the Future

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Designing a New Interpretive Center at Westwood Hills Nature Center

Located south of I-394 and east of Hwy. 169, the 160-acre Westwood Hills Nature Center is a treasured gem in St. Louis Park. However, at almost 40 years old, the current Interpretive Center does not adequately meet the needs of its tens of thousands of nature-loving visitors each year, from preschoolers to seniors.

In keeping with its commitment to being a leader in environmental stewardship, the City of St. Louis Park is in the middle of designing a new $12 million Interpretive Center at Westwood Hills Nature Center. 

Why build a new Interpretive Center?

At nearly 40 years old, the current Interpretive Center does not meet the needs of visitors in the following ways:
  • Spaces are too small to accommodate programming, staff operations and public needs.
  • Building systems and exterior are aging and inefficient.
  • Maintenance needs are not cost effective due to the condition of the building.
  • Public access to the building is distant from parking and not accessible.

Westwood Hills Nature Center Master PlanAbout the new interpretive center

Goals for the new Interpretive Center include connecting people to nature through building design and site; supporting first-class programming while welcoming the public to a fully accessible facility; reducing energy use and using resources wisely; and blending in with nature through location site and building design.

Features of the new Interpretive Center will include:

  • Right-sized program spaces
  • A building location closer to parking
  • New multi-purpose rooms that can be combined for larger groups or events
  • Separate exhibit and lounge spaces that welcome the public and don't compete with classroom programs
  • Main vestibule open after building hours to provide drinking fountain and restroom access for site visitors

Cost

The project cost is currently $12 million, with a tax impact currently estimated at $32-$35 per year on a median-value home in St. Louis Park ($240,100 in 2017).

Project Timeline

2015-2016: Master Plan addresses facility development and programming goals
Miller Dunwiddie Architecture created a Master Plan for Westwood Hills Nature Center using a collaborative approach that focused the creativity of the team and community on a shared strategic vision that outlines how the facility should function, how the facility should and does engage and fit within the community, and how the facility maintains a legacy for future generations.

The material presented in the Westwood Hills Nature Center Master Plan is based on visual inspections, a review of existing site and facility conditions, field verifications and oral or written comments from an online website throughout the process, community events and two onsite stakeholder input meetings/workshops open to the public.

Recommended improvements include access, wayfinding, parking, outdoor program space, interpretive features, building upgrades and other appropriate improvements.

2017-18: Public input and design development; construction plans

2019: Construction

2020: Completion of new Interpretive Center

In the News

St. Louis Park hires firm to design new nature center building (Sun Sailor, June 26, 2017)
St. Louis Park plans $12M nature center (Finance and Commerce, March 28, 2017)
St. Louis Park considers building new nature center (Sun Sailor, Nov. 30, 2016)