2010 Honor Award Winner: Minnesota Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.
The Morris Elementary School was built in 1914 and served the community for decades. The school building sits on 18 acres at the edge of the town’s traditional gridded residential core.
For years, the City of Morris, through its very active School Redevelopment Committee, has been considering what to do with the school building and site. In 2008, the city asked Treeline and Stahl Architects to create a site plan for an affordable, sustainable residential neighborhood, and to develop prototypes for three housing types that could be built on the site. For this design process, the assumption was made that the school building would be removed, a difficult decision taken by the Committee due to the degraded nature of the structure and the difficulty of finding a suitable new use.
The redevelopment plan proposes a neighborhood that is environmentally and socially sustainable, and is affordable to construct and maintain. This is, by definition, the affordable green neighborhood. Earth moving (grading) is minimized, in order to save cost, maintain soil integrity, and reduce fossil fuel consumption during construction. The overall layout is designed as a logical extension of the surrounding neighborhoods, so that the new development will be embraced as part of the city, rather than noticed as a strange interloper. Lots are 50 feet wide, both to match the surrounding neighborhoods and to minimize infrastructure cost through urban density. Stormwater management is incorporated into the site planning, through permeable pavement in alleys and parking areas and stormwater bioswales in parkway medians. Open space and vegetation figure prominently in the plan, with two different park areas, extensive street tree plantings, and more than two acres of prairie restoration.
The plan strives to have little impact on the city’s stormwater system, by pre-treating all water and by possibly preventing a significant portion of it from entering existing sewers. At a minimum, the site will infiltrate and/or evapotranspire each "water quality" storm event. Permeable pavement (possibly recycled building brick) is proposed for all alleys, parking bays, and multi-family parking areas. Natural stormwater bioswales will occupy the medians of both the 6th Street Parkway and Arizona Boulevard.
Overall, the redevelopment plan envisions a new neighborhood that will slowly blend into the surrounding city fabric, while being even more environmentally sustainable than the existing town. Innovative projects like this one are rare in small rural communities, but they may be a path to the actual survival of such cities. Faced with migration of young people to cities and major changes in the farm economy, rural communities must offer forward thinking employment and housing options, in order to maintain their populations. The Morris Eco-Affordable Neighborhood will help to achieve this goal.
To receive a copy of the entire Morris Affordable Green Neighborhood Framework Document, contact Treeline.