Design center may get $30,000

Brett Martin

The Hennepin County Board of Commissioners will vote next week on a resolution that could see the University’s Design Center for American Urban Landscape receive $30,120.
The design center studies urban planning issues and determines what work needs to be done, said Dan Marcker, research fellow with the center.
“We anticipate issues that are going to be critical in the design process,” Marcker said. “It is a way to look at issues that don’t fall into anyone else’s plate.”
The center only does the planning and research, Marcker said. Other firms do the actual design.
The money in the resolution, which is to be used from June 4 through Dec. 31, will provide resources to undertake and complete planning studies as identified by the Hennepin County Community Works Planning Committee.
The design center is currently gathering information for a project that would link Hopkins and its surrounding communities to the St. Paul campus with a bike trail. Marcker said the idea came from proposals made by city officials and planning committees to provide trails that would connect neighborhoods with one another.
The design center will analyze the physical and problematic relationships between the parties involved, Marcker said, and submit its research to the Hennepin Community Works Program, which will then decide whether to move forward with the project.
“They look at what’s going on in a physical environment and relate that to growth and change,” said Larry Blackstad, project manager for Hennepin Community Works Program.
Blackstad said he has been happy with the information the design center provides and has used its services for the last three years.
The design center, a research unit within the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, was established in 1988 with a grant from the Dayton Hudson Foundation, support from federal, state and local government agencies and grants from nonprofit organizations to address environmental and social issues through design.
The center develops interactive educational projects in neighborhoods and projects that affect national urban design and planning.
The mission of the design center “is to educate public and private decision makers, professionals and citizens about the value of design as a strategic partner with economic and human interests in the making of community-based development strategies and sustainable urban landscapes,” according to a design center publication. It also seeks to expand the definition and field of urban design study and provide training to civic leaders and design professionals.
Kathryn Firth, a project urban designer with the Boston-based firm of Chan, Krieger and Associates, said the design center “provides a good foundation for the work we are doing.”
“We use the design center as a resource,” said Firth, “and they are good for providing the community’s political background, as politics always come into play when working in a community.”