Students and faculty on a field trip to a project site
Students and faculty on a field trip to a project site in Minnetonka

During the 2012–2013 academic year, RCP collaborated with the City of Minnetonka in Hennepin County to complete 14 projects that engaged 25 classes and more than 200 students across eight schools at the University of Minnesota. Summaries of the projects and links to final student reports and presentations (where available) are below.

Stormwater Management and Illicit Discharge Regulation

Project Description: In a community with abundant water resources, improving the landscape’s resilience to stormwater surge and reducing illicit discharge are essential. This project included an audit of City of Minnetonka ordinances related to stormwater discharge. Just weeks after receiving the audit results, the City successfully presented the audit to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency as evidence that its stormwater code met new illicit discharge standards. The audit also considered how the city could strengthen and integrate existing City stormwater management regulations, and streamline the stormwater permitting process to create a one-stop permit that satisfies both City and watershed district requirements. A second group of students conducted a design analysis of the Ridgedale Mall redevelopment site. The site presented unusual stormwater management issues, and the analysis identified specific interventions for reducing stormwater runoff and surface water pollution on the site.

Class: ARCH 8567: Building and Site Integration in Sustainable Design
Instructors: Richard Strong and Peter MacDonagh, School of Architecture
City Project Lead: Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report

Class: LAW 7012: Land, Environment, and Energy Law Clinic
Instructor: Jean Coleman, Law School
City Project Lead: Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka
Student Project
: Report

Density and Housing Options Study

Project Description: The City of Minnetonka was actively seeking opportunities and strategies to encourage development of a more diverse range of housing options for residents, with housing of various types, sizes, price points, and densities. Students researched local and national case studies, analyzed residential “market leakage” into neighboring communities, and evaluated alternatives such as smaller lots and new methods of subdivision. The project also included an audit of the City of Minnetonka’s zoning and subdivision codes, comprehensive plan, and other relevant policy documents to identify policies that might inhibit affordable and mid-priced housing, a broader range of housing types and sizes, and higher density/infill residential development in the community.

Class: PA 8203: Neighborhood Revitalization
Instructors: David Hollister and Lauren Martin, School of Social Work
City Project Lead: Loren Gordon, CIty Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student ProjectReport, Presentation + Poster

Class: PA 5212: Managing Urban Growth and Change
Instructor: Ed Goetz, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
City Project Lead: Loren Gordon, CIty Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report + Presentation

Post-Development Critique

Project Description: The Minnetonka Planning Division routinely works with developers and other stakeholders to manage development projects in the community, some of which are initially contentious with neighbors who live nearby.  Objections to the projects range from concerns about density and traffic to potential negative impacts on natural resources or community character.  This project revisited three past developments–the Glen Lake Redevelopment Project, the Crest Ridge Corporate Center, and the Goodwill Industries Development–that were contentious at the time the projects were under review.  The goal was to determine, several years after development, if community goals were met, neighborhood concerns addressed, and whether developments remain controversial. In addition to providing answers to these questions, students made recommendations for how the city can enhance the public input process for future developments to ensure that the needs and concerns of both developers and residents are being considered.

Class: OLPD 5501: Principles and Methods of Evaluation
Instructor: Jean King, Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development
City Project Lead: Susan Thomas, Principal Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Evaluation plan and data collection for OLPD 8595

Class: OLPD 8595: Evaluation Problems
Instructor: Jean King, Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development
City Project Lead: Susan Thomas, Principal Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report + Presentation

Water and Energy Conservation and Surface Water Education

Project Description: Many businesses and industries in Minnetonka use and discharge a significant amount of water and use large amounts of energy as part of their operations. This project developed education and outreach strategies that assist businesses in the community to address water and energy conservation, as well as surface water protection, through their operations and site management.  Students worked with Holaday Circuits, Inc., to develop a case study based upon a life cycle analysis of the business’ water and energy use, and identified conservation strategies that could improve the company’s bottom line. This case study was then used to develop a more general checklist for future business energy audits.  In collaboration with more than 10 Minnetonka-based businesses, the project also employed both ethnographic and survey methods to understand barriers and opportunities Minnetonka businesses face in pursuing strategies for improving water quality and conservation in their operations.

Class: ESPM 5606: Pollution Prevention: Principles, Technologies, and Practices
Instructor: Cindy McComas, Bioproducts & Biosystems Engineering
City Project Lead: Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka
Student ProjectEnergy Efficiency Checklist + Poster

Class: COMM 5110 Environmental Communication
Instructor: Mark Pedelty, Communication Studies
City Project Lead: Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report

Conservation Development Standards

Project Description: Conservation development approaches encourage sustainable developments that protect natural environmental features, preserve open space, protect natural habitats for wildlife, and maintain rural character.  This project examined the City of Minnetonka’s conservation development scorecard to assess its effectiveness in evaluating previous and proposed conservation developments.  The analysis found that the scorecard was influential in encouraging conservation strategies as part of development projects, and recommended strategies for using the scorecard to increase social acceptability of conservation development, as well as implementing the tool through the city’s Planned Unit Development ordinance.

Class: ESPM 5242: Methods for Natural Resource and Environmental Policy
Instructor: Dennis Becker and Michael Kilgore, Forest Resources
City Project Lead: Susan Thomas, Principal Planner, and Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report

Water Resources Prioritization Plan

Project DescriptionThe City of Minnetonka contains a large number of lakes, creeks, and wetlands.  However, the city has only limited financial resources to support preservation and restoration projects. This project developed a prioritization plan to guide such investment.  The project created and verified estimates of leaf litter nutrient inputs and nutrient and chloride surface transport within four priority watersheds in Minnetonka. These estimates of nutrient mass, flux, and transport were then used to model the feasibility and cost of mitigation actions for reducing nutrient levels in water bodies.  Several models indicated increasing the frequency of street sweeping would be the most cost-effective measure. As a result, the city is now considering how to direct resources to support  more frequent street sweeping along key roadways, and has added a requirement for regular street sweeping by the owner to the development agreement for a major redevelopment project at the Ridgedale Mall.

Class: ESPM 5295: GIS in Environmental Science and Management
Instructor: Paul Bolstad, Forest Resources
City Project Lead: Liz Stout, Water Resources Engineer, City of Minnetonka
Student ProjectReport + Presentation

Class: CE 5511: Urban Hydrology and Land Development
Instructor: John Gulliver, Civil Engineering
City Project Lead: Liz Stout, Water Resources Engineer, City of Minnetonka
Student Project:

Neighborhood Identities and Resident Engagement

Project DescriptionMinnetonka has many residential neighborhoods, but neighborhood representation and participation varies widely–from a few formal neighborhood organizations to numerous informal associations and, in many cases, no organizational representation at all.  This project surveyed existing neighborhood associations in Minnetonka to help the city understand what they do and how they function, and researched local and national models for facilitating and supporting the creation of neighborhood organizations. The project also used design thinking to examine how residents currently envision community in Minnetonka.  This approach suggested that, because residents socially engage based on mutual interests and activities–such as clubs, schools, and recreational activities–strengthening social ties and community by creating geographically-defined neighborhoods might not be as effective as enhancing or augmenting existing social networks.

Class: LS 5100: Design Thinking for Action
Instructor: Virajita Singh, College of Design
City Project Lead: Jeff Thomson, Associate Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project:

Class: PA 8203: Neighborhood Revitalization
Instructors: David Hollister and Lauren Martin, College of Education and Human Development
City Project Lead: Jeff Thomson, Associate Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student ProjectReport, Presentation, and Poster

Housing and Aging in Place

Project Description: Like many cities in Minnesota, Minnetonka’s population is rapidly aging. Many residents have lived in Minnetonka for all or the majority of their lives, and wish to remain in their homes–or at least in the city–as they age. Students investigated opportunities for the city to assist residents to age in place through a broader range of housing options, more compact urban design, better transportation options, and improved access to social services and other assistance.

Class: HSG 5463/PA 5261: Housing Policy
City Project Lead: Loren Gordon, Planner, City of Minnetonka
Instructor: Jeff Crump, Design, Housing and Apparel

Parking and Land Use

Project DescriptionThe City of Minnetonka’s zoning ordinance establishes minimum parking standards for land uses, which can often result in excess parking that reduces land values, creates increased stormwater runoff, and inhibits infill and compact development. This project reviewed the city’s existing parking regulations, explored innovative parking management strategies in the literature, reviewed local and national best practices, computed average parking demand, and recommended updates to the city’s parking ordinance. The project also included a GIS analysis for Minnetonka of the number of jobs vs. number of parking spaces provided by businesses in several key employment/village center locations and calculated the peak parking demand in these locations to inform updates to the parking code.

Class: GEOG 5564: Urban GIS
Instructor: Jeff Matson, Geography
City Project Lead: Susan Thomas, Principal Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report + Poster

Class: PA 8202: Networks and Places
Instructor: Jason Cao, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
City Project Lead: Susan Thomas, Principal Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project:

Transportation Demand Management Policy

Project DescriptionMinnetonka has required transportation demand management (TDM) plans for large development projects within the I-394 corridor for many years. However, these plans are not required in other areas of the city. This project evaluated the city’s existing TDM ordinance requirements and reviewed TDM ordinances and best practices in comparable suburban communities nationwide. To understand the considerations involved with implementing TDM plans, students also interviewed key stakeholders, including city planners and engineers in neighboring communities, businesses in Minnetonka that currently have TDM plans, and 494 Commuter Services. The students then recommended an innovative two-phase TDM policy for the city of Minnetonka to reduce peak-hour demand.

Class: PA 8081: Land Use and Transportation Capstone Workshop
Instructor: Mike Greco, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
City Project Lead: Jeff Thomson, Associate Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report + Presentation

Mid-Priced Housing

Project Description: According to a recent Opportunity Cities study of Minnetonka conducted by the Urban Land Institute/Regional Council of Mayors (ULI/RCM), Minnetonka does well meeting its regional affordable housing targets and has an adequate supply of higher-end housing. However, the city also has an aging housing stock and a lack of mid-priced housing that might appeal to empty-nesters looking to downsize or young families and professionals interested in move-up housing. City staff wanted to better understand the market for mid-priced housing in Minnetonka and neighboring communities to inform future efforts to increase the amount of mid-priced housing in the city.  Using American Community Survey data, foreclosure data, market price decline data, and other available data, student teams conducted a GIS housing market analysis of Minnetonka and surrounding communities where residential “market leakage” from Minnetonka is occurring.

Class: HSG 5464: Understanding Housing Assessment and Analysis
Instructor: Jessica Deegan, Design, Housing and Apparel
City Project Lead: Elise Durbin, Community Development Supervisor, City of Minnetonka
Student Project:

Green Roofs and Rooftop Gardens

Project Description: Minnetonka is interested in promoting green roof or rooftop garden projects, but staff wanted to understand perceptions and attitudes among Minnetonka residents, developers, and community leaders that might facilitate or hinder such efforts. This project evaluated options for encouraging rooftop gardens and green roofs in residential and commercial developments.  Students in one course identified innovative best practices for implementing green roofs in the context of a suburban community located in a northern climate through both policy changes and city or private initiatives. Students in another course examined the biophysical aspects of implementing green roofs in Minnetonka, and undertook an ethnographic analysis to understand the social context around green roofs in the community.

Class: AGRO 5321: Ecology of Agricultural Systems
Instructor: Nick Jordan, Agroecology, Agronomy, & Plant Genetics
City Project Lead: Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka

Class: PA 5242: Environmental Planning, Policy, and Decision Making
Instructor: Carissa Schively Slotterback, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
City Project Lead: Jo Colleran, Natural Resources Manager, City of Minnetonka

Student Project: AGRO 5321 + PA 5242 Combined Final Report + Presentation + Poster

Transit-Oriented Zoning

Project Description: Minnetonka is beginning station-area planning efforts for two proposed stations along the Southwest Light-Rail Transit Line and has just participated a sector analysis of public transit in the city, and was interested in developing transit‐oriented zoning district models for the major station areas and future transit hubs in the community. Students developed detailed policy-oriented case studies of TOD districts in similar cities, including how the municipality was involved in (re)development projects; recommended model districts for station areas and transit hubs in Minnetonka, including appropriate transportation connections, land-use mixes, zoning regulations, and parking requirements; and recommended guidelines for the city’s financial and policy role in future redevelopment projects in these locations.

Class: PA 8081: Land Use and Transportation Capstone Workshop
Instructor: Mike Greco, Humphrey School of Public Affairs
City Project Lead: Loren Gordon, Planner, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report + Presentation + Poster

Housing Program Evaluation

Project Description: The Minnetonka Home Enhancement Program (MHEP) is a housing rehabilitation program that was established in 2011 to assist low- to medium-income residents to make improvements to their homes. Since the beginning of MHEP, only one housing rehabilitation loan has been executed. Students used a program evaluation approach that included surveys and phone interviews with MHEP applicants to determine why the program was not being fully utilized. Based on this analysis, the students provided recommendations related to program promotion, administration, and logistics.

Class: OLPD 8595: Evaluation Problems
Instructor: Jean King; Organizational Leadership, Policy and Development
City Project Lead: Elise Durbin, Community Development Supervisor, City of Minnetonka
Student Project: Report