2016 finalist

This project has been selected as a finalist in the Community Action category:

Washburn center for Children

Project Summary

As a community mental health center with more than half of its clients coming from low-income families, Washburn Center for Children is a critical safety net for the community – no child or family is turned away for financial reasons. Washburn Center for Children had outgrown their prior facility due to fast growing demand for their services, and therefore built the new facility out of necessity.

The property has a history of residential, commercial and industrial uses dating back to 1885. Past uses/occupants at the property have included a private garage, auto repair shop, warehouse, bearing manufacturer, restaurant retail stores, radio repair business, offices and a pump distributor. Before the most recent redevelopment, the property was vacant, with all property buildings having been demolished and removed in April 2012.

The project faced a great deal of environmental challenges due to the presence of contaminated fill soils throughout the property. There was also lead-based paint and asbestos-containing materials related to the former building foundations which remained on-site. In addition to the contamination, the property had structurally poor soils that required extensive piling and deep foundation support work. A high water table and the proximity of Basset Creek necessitated intensive waterproofing design and construction dewatering considerations.

Environmental response actions completed during redevelopment included: removal of the remaining concrete slabs and foundations; stabilization of soils contaminated with hazardous levels of lead; disposal of excavated contaminated soil at a permitted landfill; excavation and disposal of asbestos pipe; removal of two hydraulic hoists and associated tank; disposal of over 100 treated wood and concrete-reinforced steel foundation piles associated with previous structures; and management of shallow groundwater which accumulated within the construction excavation. Due to the extensive presence of contaminated fill material across the property, full time environmental monitoring was needed during excavation activities to ensure that all contaminated soil was identified and properly managed.

The redevelopment of this property is part of the Basset Creek Redevelopment Plan and is helping to transform a distressed area of Minneapolis. The property sat vacant for years until Washburn Center for Children purchased and turned it into a vibrant, health-focused center for children and families.

Project Website 


Project Partners

  • Washburn Center for Children – Owner and Developer
  • Mohammed Lawal, Lawal Scott Erickson – Interior Architect
  • Hennepin County – Assessment and Cleanup Funding Through Environmental Response Fund (ERF)
  • Mortenson Construction – General Contractor
  • Department of Employment and Economic Development (DEED) – Environmental Cleanup Funding
  • Peer Engineering (now part of Braun Intertec) – Environmental Consultant
  • Twin Cities Community Land Bank (TCCLB) – Environmental Assessment Funding
  • Braun Intertec - Geotech and Special Testing and Inspection
  • Lee Meyer, DLR Group – Architect

How did the project partners work together?

The project vision was put forward through the Washburn Center for Children board of directors in 2010. The vision turned into reality in 2011 as the steering committee formulated the project parameters and brought in consultants to help with a capital campaign, concept design and property selection.

Environmental assessment activities were first made possible by TCCLB with funding through the Hennepin County ERF. The results of environmental assessment activities were used to estimate cleanup costs and secure grant funding to assist with cleanup during redevelopment. Key funders included Hennepin County and DEED. When the extent of contaminated fill soil encountered during construction was found to be much greater than previously thought, Hennepin County provided additional grant funds to defray the significant additional costs for cleanup. The environmental assessment and cleanup grant funding secured allowed existing project funds to be applied to operational programs designed to provide training and therapy services to children and their families.

The various different sources of funding came together to make this project possible. Without the collaboration of all the different financing partners, this project would not have been possible. Major funders of the facility included state bonding dollars, new market tax credits, Hennepin County, and DEED, as well as donations from local foundations, corporations and individuals who recognize the positive impact the new facility will have on the community.

How is the project groundbreaking?

The inspiration for the project occurred when the volunteer and organizational leadership at Washburn Center for Children asked the question: “What if we created a facility to address the mental health needs of our children as we have done with children’s hospitals to address the physical health needs? And, what if we designed and built the space to be a unique facility that would help create a healing environment that would support the therapeutic work that is done at Washburn Center for Children. Additionally, it would be used to enhance the training of the next generation of child clinicians.”

While the Twin Cities has several prominent hospitals devoted to children’s physical care, Washburn Center’s new facility is the first comparable children’s mental health clinic for youth struggling with social, emotional and behavioral problems. The design incorporates evidence-based research demonstrating the importance of nature in children’s healthy mental and physical development. The overall building, every space inside, and the outdoor play area were thoughtfully as well as intentionally designed to foster a child’s healing. Core design elements create an aesthetic environment that helps reduce stress and anxiety, increase patient satisfaction, and promote health and healing through natural daylight, plants, green space, and use of natural materials.

Additionally, the redevelopment of this property is helping to transform a distressed area of Minneapolis. Washburn Center for Children’s facility is one of the first redevelopment projects in this area, which will spur further development.

What are the project goals?

The goal for this project was to create a mental health facility for children that incorporated healing and therapeutic environment elements into the building's design. Mental, emotional and behavioral disorders of adults and children cost society $247 billion annually in treatment and lost productivity. More than 70% of youth in the juvenile justice system have a diagnosable mental health challenge that has remained untreated. When children with social, emotional and behavioral challenges receive early mental health intervention, they are less likely to fail academically, drop out of school, become involved in the juvenile justice system, or need other costly support services.

Strong, healthy children have a greater chance to grow into strong, productive adults. Washburn Center is part of the solution by providing early mental health intervention. Not just because it’s cost effective for the community, but because all children deserve the chance to grow into happy, healthy adults.

What are the project outcomes?

This project provides a social benefit by helping transform a distressed area along Glenwood Avenue in Minneapolis which currently holds many vacant buildings. The property had sat vacant for years until Washburn Center for Children purchased and re-envisioned it into a new community asset.

The project brought in over 100 new professional jobs to the area, added green space, and cleaned up environmental contamination in the sensitive Bassett Creek watershed, reducing the potential for community health exposure.

Washburn Center for Children’s mental health facility is environmentally sound, designed to LEED-GOLD certification standards, and incorporates many green attributes to provide an economically and environmentally sustainable building.

Washburn Center’s work helps Twin Cities children grow, thrive and achieve success in school and at home – a vision that strengthens the entire community. This facility provides the capacity to serve more families and better meet the mental health needs of the children in our community. Children, families, schools and communities struggling to address children’s mental health issues desperately need expert, family-centered interventions. The facility is little more than a year old and is already operating at near capacity, thereby validating the enormous need for, and success of, the project.

Event Details

Thursday, May 25, 2017
5:00 - 5:45 p.m. Registration & reception
5:45 - 8:00 p.m. Dinner & program
8:00 - 9:00 p.m. Dessert & reception 

Nicollet Island Pavilion
40 Power Street
Minneapolis, MN 55401

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Presenting Sponsors

Environmental Lay Group

Great River Energy

Reception sponsor

25th Anniversary Sponsors


Community Action

Critical Collaborator

Stoel Rives LLP

Emerging Leader


Energy and Climate

The Weidt Group

Natural Resources

Sustainable Business

Supporting Sponsors

Minnesota Power

partner SPONSORs

In-kind sponsors


CliftonLarsonAllen LLP

Consulate General of Canada

Rochester Public Utilities

Associate Sponsors

Bremer Bank
G & K Services
Nova Consulting
Smith Partners