St. Louis Park receives 2021 Sustainable City Award from League of Minnesota Cities

(Oct. 4, 2021 – St. Paul, MN) The city of St. Louis Park is the winner of the 2021 Sustainable City Award for the net-zero design of Westwood Hills Nature Center Interpretive Center, which opened to the public in July 2020. It replaces a 40-year-old building that was hindered by space and accessibility issues.

The new interpretive center was designed to achieve net-zero energy, one of the first commercial buildings in Minnesota to do so, and will welcome more visitors than ever before to learn about Minnesota’s ecosystems and how to protect them. The net-zero design is part of the city’s effort to reach its 2030 Climate Action Plan goals.

“It was exciting to work with the architects to create one of the first net-zero energy buildings in the state,” said Cindy Walsh, operations and recreation director. “We are elated with the number of visitors who are learning all about sustainability while enjoying this amazing facility.”

A 122-kilowatt rooftop solar array, high-performing building envelope, 32 geothermal wells, passive heating and cooling design elements, stormwater management features, and more are part of the visitor experience. “The building is home to interactive learning displays and is itself an interactive teaching tool,” said Walsh.

The project incorporated sustainable best practices into every step of the process, including purchasing, deconstruction, and tree species selection. The city also underwent a robust community engagement process, connecting with over 700 residents to affirm the value and guide the direction of the facility. Visits have since increased dramatically, with many citing public outreach as the reason for their visit.

GreenStep Cities is a voluntary recognition and assistance program that helps local governments reach their sustainability goals. Sustainability Manager Emily Ziring describes the program as “a key network for sharing our sustainability journey, as a resource for measuring progress, and as inspiration for the city’s Climate Action Plan.” Cities participating in the program are eligible for the Sustainable City Award.

The 2021 League awards were judged by panels of city officials including representatives from League boards and committees. Winners were announced at city council meeting presentations this fall.

About the League

The League of Minnesota Cities is a membership association dedicated to promoting excellence in local government. The League, governed by a Board of Directors consisting of local elected and appointed city officials, serves its more than 800 member cities through advocacy, education and training, policy development, risk management, and other services.