The SITES Silver-certified Minneapolis Convention Center Plaza is the first SITES project in Minnesota, and the first SITES-certified project at a convention center. Located on the south side of downtown and designed by Damon Farber Landscape Architects to prioritize sustainability, the 2.5-acre MCC Plaza features an urban meadow planted with native trees, wildflowers, and prairie grass species to create downtown’s largest pollinator refuge. In addition, irrigation at the Plaza utilizes the Convention Center’s rooftop stormwater capture system. In 2022, the MCC partnered with Alvéole to install a honeybee hive within the MCC Plaza’s wildflowers.
The redesigned Plaza was officially revealed to the public on Sept. 30, 2021, after two years of creative problem-solving to achieve their certification during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With the redesign of our plaza, the Minneapolis Convention Center is proud to continue its leadership in sustainability and green building by being the site of the first project at a convention center to earn SITES certification in the United States,” said Jeff Johnson, MCC Executive Director in their press release. “This space, just outside our doors, better connects us to our downtown community with a welcoming and sustainable outdoor area that improves the quality of life for our environment, as well as our visitors and residents.”
SITES certification was used to help the convention center and the City of Minneapolis pursue their ambitious sustainability and community goals, which included the following:
City by Nature
The Plaza was redesigned to live up to Minneapolis’ “City by Nature” moniker, which is the official slogan for all destination marketing material for the Minneapolis Convention Center. The original Plaza was mostly turf grass with limited ornamental planting that did little to convey a sense that visitors were in a City by Nature. We were able to dramatically increase native plantings through the installation of urban meadows and native gardens while maintaining a central lawn, which is required for the convention center’s programming needs. Now the plaza is teeming with bees, butterflies, migrating birds and wildflowers.
Land of 10,000 Lakes
Minnesota is proud to be known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes,” and with that pride came a determination to incorporate responsible water management across all conceivable project elements. As previously mentioned, the central lawn is a programming requirement for the convention center and it must stay green throughout the growing season, even during times of drought. For this reason, rainwater from the convention center building’s roof is collected, stored and reused to irrigate the plaza’s green. All irrigation is captured from greywater onsite. In addition, the plaza removes 70% total suspended solids and manages the 93rd percentile precipitation event onsite, far exceeding SITES requirements. This ensures that the Minneapolis Convention Center is being a good steward of our water.
The third goal relates to the City of Minneapolis’ 2019 resolution declaring a climate emergency which demands a massive-scale mobilization to halt, reverse, and address the consequences and causes of climate change. The plaza is located on top of a city parking garage and is a green, vegetated roof. The plaza helps to mitigate Minneapolis’ urban heat island effects with high-reflectance surfaces and vegetation. Notably, 100% of the energy is offset with renewable energy, and we converted all lighting to use energy-efficient LED bulbs. Our long-term goal is to reduce and ultimately eliminate fossil-fuel derived maintenance equipment when technology advances.
- 93% reduction in stormwater leaving the site
- 100% avoidance of potable water for irrigation
- 100% of energy offset with renewable energy
- Drastic reduction in urban heat island effect
- Promotion of native plants and pollinator habitat
- Public park open 24/7
- Historic objects on display
- Mental restoration
- Physical activity
- Social connection
- Allow MCC to use the Plaza for programming
- Improves marketing “City By Nature,” making the convention center a more attractive destination
- Public amenity for area residents and businesses to support the tax base
The project team
- Damon Farber Landscape Architects (lead consultant, landscape architecture) www.damonfarber.com
- Green Your Bottom Line (SITES/sustainability lead) www.greenyourbottomline.com
- Urban Ecosystems (SITES technical consulting/meadow design) www.urbanecosystemsinc.com
- Pierce Pini Associates (civil engineering) www.piercepini.com
- Mattson Macdonald Young, Inc (structural engineering) www.mattsonmacdonald.com
- Ayres Associates (electrical engineering) www.ayresassociates.com
- Schuler Shook (lighting design) www.schulershook.com
- MLC irrigation Consultants (irrigation design) www.mlcconsultantscoza.wordpress.com