Discovery Gardens – University of Minnesota

CFANS-02-260Rosemount, Minnesota, for University of Minnesota, College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS)

The University of Minnesota Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC) is embarking on the design and development of a new teaching, research and outreach garden to be known as the CFANS Discovery Gardens.

The Discovery Gardens will be a destination where visitors are engaged in horticulture education that fosters a “Come-Discover-Adopt” philosophy about horticulture in Minnesota: historical aspects of the land, healthy food, and sustainable and environmentally responsible horticultural practices for Minnesota landscapes and gardens. It will also serve as a setting for volunteer Master Gardeners to hold educational tours, workshops, and other gardening/landscape programs.  these will help to foster an increase in public knowledge of horticultural plants and practices applicable to their own properties.

After a public RFP process in 2013, the Kestrel Design Group (Kestrel) was retained to help develop an overall concept design for the Discovery Gardens. Kestrel proceeded to work with the RROC Garden Program Director and the Design Selection Committee (DSC) to ensure the concept would exemplify the vision and goals of the RROC and other stakeholders.

Kestrel developed one detailed concept plan for the Discovery Gardens – combining landscape architectural principles, detailed site analysis, precedent studies, and overall project goals.

This design for the Discovery Gardens provides the framework for CFANS and RROC to develop specific learning experiences for individual garden spaces. The garden landscape and natural areas of the Discovery Gardens will focus on three key themes that will recur throughout the site: LEARNING & TEACHING, SUSTAINABILITY, and FOOD & HEALTH.

Significant connections and collaboration at the gardens will be encouraged with CFANS programs, staff and faculty, U of MN Extension programs, staff, faculty and volunteers, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Dakota County.


Graphic by John Koepke

CFANS has since retained Kestrel to continue with the project design and detailing through costing and continuation into Design Development.


+ Project Visioning & Facilitation

+ Sustainable Master Planning

+ Trails, Parks & Open Space Planning


“The Kestrel Design Group has provided exceptional leadership and design skill in helping bring to life a vision…Their ease of accessibility and enthusiastic willingness to discuss and review project issues and ideas throughout the design process has been most appreciated.”
Bob Mugaas, Horticulturist and Garden Program Director, U of MN Rosemount Research and Outreach Center
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17th Avenue Residence Hall

University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota


Image by Marcy Bean

The area available for landscaping and open space was minimal at the 17th Avenue Residence Hall. The University of Minnesota’s urban site required a maximized building footprint while still providing landscaping and stormwater management. Innovative stormwater management and treatment options were integrated with native plantings to provide a sustainable urban landscape.

Kestrel utilized the public right-of-way to provide street trees to meet City landscape requirements, complement adjacent landscaping, and work well within the University Campus Master Plan. Stormwater management techniques were incorporated within the at-grade landscape. Through both at-grade landscape and green roof, plant material helped soften this urban site, reduce heat-island effect and provide a sustainable base on which to site an innovative student housing structure.

Working collaboratively with building and civil design, the landscape provides credits toward LEED Silver and B3 Sustainable Building Guidelines.


Image by Marcy Bean

The residence Hall incorporates a gray-water recycling system to take water from sinks within the facility, treat it with ozone, and reuse it for irrigation of the landscape.

All stormwater is captured on site through the landscaping and porous pavements, collected in a large subsurface cistern and reused.


Design Architect: Mackey Mitchell Architects
Architect of Record: SJA Architects/TKDA
Civil Engineer: Larson Engineering
Structural Engineer: Ericksen Roed & Associates
Interior Design: Studio Hive


Image by Marcy Bean

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal’s Best in Real Estate, Student Housing or Redevelopment, April 2013


+ Sustainable Landscape Design

+ Stormwater Management Consulting

+ Construction Documents

+ Construction Observation


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2nd Avenue Urban Streetscape

Finished Project

Image courtesy City of Calgary

Calgary, Alberta, Canada

for City of Calgary

2nd Avenue NW in Calgary, Alberta, is a mixed use area that runs through the Kensington neighborhood in the city. One section, between 10th Street NW and 9a Street NW, across the river from central downtown Calgary, is in the process of becoming a model site demonstrating how a dense, commercial street can actually manage stormwater directly on-site using trees and soil as green infrastructure. This prototype project – which started as an urban design project more narrowly focused on walkability issues like expanded sidewalks and lighting and seating components — will now demonstrate what truly green streets throughout the city can be. The project was installed in summer of 2013.

Construction 1

Image courtesy City of Calgary

Most of the rainwater that falls in the City of Calgary drains directly in to the Bow River. But before it does, it flows across city streets, sidewalks, and parking lots, picking up dirt, pollutants, and heat from paved surfaces. The city has no sumps in their catch basins, so all of these pollutants are deposited directly in to the river without any treatment, impairing the quality of this central and iconic body of water. The 2nd Avenue Streetscape project took an ordinary street and use vast quantities of soil beneath the sidewalk to turn it in to a green workhorse. It is the first project in the city to integrate tree growth and stormwater management in same site. The design of the site itself is clean and simple. The sidewalk will be wider, and Kestrel has taken advantage of more space to plant as many trees as possible. Contemporary detailing and high quality concrete paving will update the streetscape, providing a stepping stone for design improvements for future projects in the city.

By using just trees and soil, this small stretch of downtown Calgary will be able to manage the region’s 100-year storm event, thereby reducing flooding, Pollution, and attendant damage downstream. A blue ribbon of decorative concrete adorns the new stretch of sidewalk to represent the goal of a cleaner Bow River

Project Engineer: Larson Engineering

Construction 2

Image courtesy City of Calgary


+ Urban Landscape Design

+ Urban Stormwater Management

+ Best Management Practices

Before and After

Before & After At left, image by Peter MacDonagh At right, image courtesy City of Calgary



Site Plan graphic by Studio-360


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