How the demolition of a cold store facility will lead to a cleaner Minnehaha Creek

The creek will be safer for all for all the animals that use it.

Jared Goyette
August 10, 2018 - 6:49 pm

Edgar Linares, WCCO Radio

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What was for decades essentially a giant freezer complex in Hopkins will soon take on a new purpose as a tool to restore one of the most polluted stretches of Minnehaha Creek.

Next week, The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District will start demolishing the large cold storage warehouse at 325 Blake Road, part of the process of turning the 17-acre site into a mixed-use development, with apartments, townhomes and retail. But the plan also has an environmental component: a project to divert stormwater that currently flows directly into the creek, bringing with it chemicals and bacteria, into an area where it will be naturally filtered and treated.

According to project manager Mike Hayman, that means that the creek, which flows from Lake Minnetonka, over Minnehaha Falls and into the Mississippi River, will be safer for all the animals that use it.

“In broad terms, the biggest thing is it's sort of cleaning the water before it delivers it to  a variety of areas that are important for not only humans…. but also ecology, as well for fishing macroinvertebrates and other animals that used the stream.”

Courtesy of The Minnehaha Creek Watershed District

Hayman says the 270 acres of stormwater will come from the cities of Hopkins, St. Louis Park and Edina, and the MCWD has already done work to capture it via underground piping. The exact way in which it will be filtered has yet to be decided, but one possibility includes a pond.  

“It runs the water through the soil median that there are plants and vegetation and everything in and that allows that water to slowly work its way to the creek or down to groundwater,” Hayman explained.

Other options include a wetland area or an underground facility. Hayman says they are waiting for the plans for the rest of the development to come into place before deciding on which approach to take.

“We want to design that in coordination with the development because we really do want it to be integrated… so it becomes an amenity where people can go and enjoy the water and there are a variety of ways,” he said.

The cold storage facility has been on the site since 1950. The MCWD purchased the property in 2011, and the in coordination with the City of Hopkins, the district has been working with the master developer, Minneapolis-based Kraus-Anderson.

Hayman says there are hundreds of spots where the creek takes it unfiltered stormwater, and that the 325 Blake Road property is part of a particularly bad stretch that goes from Highway 169 to Meadow Brook Lake.

“It provides the highest pollutant load per unit area of anywhere on the creek. So that means coming off the landscape into the creek in this particular geography was the highest nutrient load, which is then delivered downstream into Lake Hiawatha and make its way obviously over the Falls and into the Mississippi River,” he said.

The 325 Blake Road development is part of larger plan to restore that section of the creek called the Minnehaha Creek Greenway, which the MCWD is working on in conjunction with Hopkins, Edina and St. Louis Park.

The demolition of the cold storage facilityu is expected to be complete by mid-September, and the entire site is expected to be cleared by the end of the year, with development expected to occur next year.