City officials in St Louis Park, Minnesota are planning to build a new $12m facility for the Westwood Hills Nature Center.
Westwood Hills Nature Center is a 65-hectare natural area featuring marsh, woods and restored prairie. It is homes to many animals, including deer, turtles, fox, mink and owls. The interpretive centre at Westwood Hills hosts exhibits and activities for school classes as well as summer and winter camps.
City leaders believe the current facility to be outdated at 40-years-old with not enough space to accommodate visitors, staff and the programme of events. The building’s systems and exterior are said to be aging and inefficient with the maintenance needs no longer cost effective.
The new facility, scheduled to open in 2020, would be five times larger than the current interpretive center at 1,250sqm. It will include multi-purpose rooms that can be combined for larger events as well as separate lounge and exhibition spaces. There would also be a separate vestibule with a drinking fountain and restrooms that would remain open after hours.
The new building would be more accessible for those with disabilities, moving the location closer to parking, which is also to be expanded. Energy efficiency would be priorities in the upgrade, with rooftop solar panels to be installed along with lights that automatically dim depending on the time of day.
“We currently operate out of a … one-room schoolhouse,” Jason West, the city’s recreation superintendent, told the Star Tribune. “It’s just not efficient for our programming needs.”
The city council is expected to vote on the building in late April or early May. Bids to work on the project could be accepted later in the year with construction expected to begin in 2019.
Images: c. City of St Louis Park.