The Heart of the City project grew from the Partnerships for Tomorrow community visioning project that identified the creation of a central meeting area as a community goal. “We had charrettes and focus groups,” reflects Mayor Kautz. The Heart of the City grew from a simple streetscape project in 1995 to a full-fledged redevelopment effort. In 1999, the Burnsville City Council adopted a framework design manual and zoning ordinance which outlines architectural guidelines to assure that future development is consistent with the community’s vision. The community-lead design framework is a development playbook with narratives and pictures describing the types of environments residents wish to have. “There are pictures to make sure that everybody understands this is what the space needs and what the landscape needs to look like,” explains Mayor Kautz.
Partnerships for Tomorrow Community Visioning Project
Burnsville believes in transparency figuratively and literally. As you walk through City Hall you can see into meeting rooms, offices, and chambers which are clad in glass facades. This intentional design conveys openness and ensures that “decisions aren’t being made in some back room out-of-sight of the public.” In the city chambers hang the community-defined values: a welcoming, caring, and compassionate city which offers respects to all and expects it in return. This reminds everyone, from residents to elected officials, of the city’s larger vision and that everything that is done in the city needs to work toward those values.
Transparency in City Hall
Photo credit: Marty Doll
The City of Burnsville boasts 79 parks, ranging from small parks in residential neighborhoods to large athletic fields for sporting events. Nicollet Commons Park is one of the first “town square” style parks to be developed in the Twin Cities and serves as the focal point of Burnsville’s Heart of the City. Currently, 30% of Burnsville residents identify as people of color, and close to 14% are foreign born as Burnsville has emerged among Minnesota’s top 10 destinations for many East African immigrants. The park features a 250-seat amphitheater, open green space, a water feature, and free wireless internet. “We made sure that we have places where our children can play, be healthy, be active and where families can come together and get to know one another,” explains Mayor Elizabeth B. Kautz. “When you know one another, you’re not going to be afraid.”
Parks, Parks, Parks!
Photo credit: http://www.burnsville.org/Facilities/Facility/Details/30