Return to Case Study Briefs

Hennepin County Medical Center Whittier Clinic

Landscape Performance Benefits


  • Manages 2,300,000 gallons or 88% of annual stormwater on-site. This represents an 86% reduction in stormwater runoff as compared to the former brownfield site.
  • Saves approximately 554,600 gallons of potable water annually with the use of a weather-based sensor controller for irrigation, saving $2,617 annually.
  • Sequesters approximately 14,600 lbs of atmospheric carbon annually in newly-planted trees. The tree canopies also intercept approximately 64,700 gallons of stormwater annually.


  • Improves satisfaction with their work environment through engagement with nature for 100% of 13 interviewed staff members.
  • Provides a significant level of restorativeness for users, achieving a GATE score for nature engagement of 7.9 for the Community Park, 8.4 for the Native Prairie, and 7.2 for the Pocket Park, based on a 10-point scale.


  • Created an estimated 138 jobs associated with project construction, about 6 of which were directly associated with landscape construction.

At a Glance

  • Designer

    HGA Architects and Engineers

  • Project Type

    Healthcare facility

  • Former Land Use


  • Location

    2810 Nicollet Ave.
    Minneapolis, Minnesota 55408
    Map it

  • Climate Zone

    Humid continental

  • Size

    3.5 acres

  • Budget

    $765,382 - Landscape; $17,332,800 - Total Project

  • Completion Date


Hennepin County Medical Center Whittier Clinic provides important community medical services while connecting residential neighborhoods to the surrounding commercial district in the heart of Minneapolis, Minnesota. The 3.5-acre site was transformed from an abandoned and derelict urban brownfield into a community asset that encompasses a city block with lush parks and gardens surrounding the new clinic. The healing spaces support patient self-care and a collaborative healing environment by providing easy access to therapeutic nature on-site and from within the clinic building. The design also embraces the surrounding neighborhood and invites people in with design features like seating, flowering native plants, and overhead trellises tie. Durable materials and vegetation are used throughout, supporting the project’s aim to become a lasting urban landscape and important amenity for the community.


The Whittier neighborhood is the most populated neighborhood in Minneapolis. Designers were challenged to create a space for this highly-populated area that primarily serves the clinic building but also fucntions as a new public space on the previously inaccessible brownfield site. The 3.5-acre site needed to accommodate the building and its necessary parking facilities, city requirements for planting and screening, and stormwater management for runoff associated with the development. With a projected parking space count of 174, the area available to create an outdoor amenity for the community was limited. However, the client still wanted the landscape to have a meaningful and lasting legacy. The project team needed to find creative ways to incorporate green space both for stormwater management and to create a recreational and educational amenity. Otherwise, a large volume of stormwater ruonff would need to be stored under the parking lot to meet local requirements.


The solutions came out of extensive research and better understanding of how the community moves through this part of the Whittier neighborhood. Through mapping analysis and site observations, it was found that many people use public transit and walk. This created a compelling reason to reduce the amount of parking from 174 to 100 surface lot spaces, leaving more room for the civil engineer and landscape architect to collaborate to make a stormwater feature the driving experiential part of the site. The extra open space made it easier to incorporate the mandatory city site regulations related to stormwater management and plantings.

  • 29,500 tons of contaminated soil were removed from the brownfield site and properly treated before construction.
  • As a community-oriented project, a series of green open spaces were created to be accessible to the public. A pedestrian-scale entry plaza creates an extension of the building, using planter walls to define the streetscape edge and provide seating options while introducing simple architectural planting masses.
  • A community park at the southeast corner of the site features natural views for the administration and faculty wing and a space to relax for passersby. The community park features open turf areas, stone slab bench seating, and shade trees and is ideal for passive leisure or recreation.
  • The pocket park at the northwest corner of the site is a more intimate garden room ideal for individual relaxation or small gatherings. Both the community park and pocket park are connected to the public sidewalk with paths that create multiple potential routes. 
  • Over 80 trees representing 10 species, 500 shrubs representing 15 species, and 900 perennials are used to define spaces, screen views, and announce entries. Native and stress-tolerant species were used, such as Autumn Blaze maple (Acer x freemannii ‘Jeffersred’), swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor), dwarf bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera), and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica). City planting and screening requirements were exceeded by over 40% in order to create a lush urban landscape.
  • Architectural screen walls and planting panels are installed along the northwest edge of the site to screen the mechanical equipment from neighboring residences. A combination of vine species are planted there, such as flamenco trumpet vine (Campsis radicans ‘Flamenco’), ‘Nugget’ hops (Humulus lupulus ‘Nugget’), and Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia ‘Engelmanii’).
  • A rain garden called the Native Prairie is located directly adjacent to the parking lot and defines the western site boundary. It collects, filters, and infiltrates runoff from the parking lot. The Native Prairie showcases a planting palette of 17 perennial species, 4 ornamental grass species, and 4 vine species. Structural species include geranium and various daylilies (Hemerocallis).
  • Locally-sourced materials with high recycled content and products made from rapidly renewable materials, such as linoleum and wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, were used throughout the site.
  • A bus stop, 4 bike racks and a bikeshare station were incorporated into the design, encouraging sustainable transportation and reducing the number of ground-level parking spaces needed.
  • Improving accessibility of certain garden areas and having green spaces adjacent to the clinic entrances seems to increase the usage of those spaces by staff, patients, and visitors.
  • Adding curbs to the infiltration islands on the parking lot may contribute to healthier tree growth and reducing the impact of snowmelt and runoff that contains road salt in the winter.

Paving: Wausau Tile, Inc.
Structural Materials: GreenScreen
Lighting: Mcgraw Edison, Lumec, Sterner Exec
Furniture: Landscape Forms
Signage and Graphics for Native Prairie Sign: Vacker Inc.

Project Team

Landscape Architecture, Architecture, Structural Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Civil Engineering: HGA Architects and Engineers
General Contractor: McGough Construction Co., Inc.
Environmental Consultant: American Engineering and Testing
Environmental Assessment: Wenck Construction, Inc.
Pollution Control Agency: Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
Community Group: Whittier Alliance

Role of the Landscape Architect

The landscape architect was responsible for visioning and guiding the project toward design solutions that not only fulfilled the needs of the owner and building program, but also established a landscape that would be an amenity for the community. The landscape architects worked with stakeholders and community groups for a 10-month period, providing services that included construction documentation, construction administration, and holding integrated team meetings to discuss design.


Stormwater management, Water conservation, Carbon sequestration & avoidance, Health & well-being, Job creation, Native plants, Efficient irrigation, Health care, Placemaking

The LPS Case Study Briefs are produced by the Landscape Architecture Foundation (LAF), working in conjunction with designers and/or academic research teams to assess performance and document each project. LAF has no involvement in the design, construction, operation, or maintenance of the projects. See the Project Team tab for details. If you have questions or comments on the case study itself, contact us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Help build the LPS: Find out how to submit a case study and other ways to contribute.