The parking lot at Masjid Al Huda – the Islamic Cultural Community Center (ICCC) at 2534 Central Avenue NE – has a new look and an additional function. Not only does it provide a place for members of the religious community to park their cars, it protects the environment as well.
A dedication in the parking lot on Oct.11 marked the culmination of a year of negotiating, planning and creating a greener space on the Central Avenue Corridor. The two dozen people who attended heard Council Member Kevin Reich and members of the non-profits and state agencies involved in the project talk about its creation.
In the summer of 2018, Laura Scholl, associate director at Metro Blooms, a local nonprofit that promotes environmentally- friendly gardening, approached members of the ICCC about a possible rain garden project at the Center’s building. They discussed the availability of funds from Hennepin County and the Minnesota Clean Water Fund through the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR). The ICCC was asked to reply within a certain period and notified that there would be a requirement for a partial matching of funds.
Scholl pitched the project as pollinator-friendly landscaping that would reduce rainwater runoff and support clean water. She said, “They were interested and excited about the potential right away. In addition to wanting to beautify their parking lot and the Central commercial corridor, they were very supportive of the environmental benefits of the project.”
Metro Bloom’s landscape architect Rich Harrison and landscape designer Jennifer Ehlert designed and managed the project, which includes four rain gardens, native plants, a combination rock and vegetated swale, downspout water recovery and permeable pavement around the building. Metro Blooms also helped the ICCC apply for an action grant from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization for additional funding to support the project, solicit bids, select a contractor and oversee the work. Scholl said that the building is eligible for a stormwater credit from the City of Minneapolis to reduce the monthly water bill now that it’s capturing runoff that previously flowed into the City’s storm sewer. She added, “The City was very supportive of the project both from an environmental and social aspect. They’ve done everything they can to see to its successful installation.”
The project was financed by a $150,000 Clean Water Fund Grant from BWSR, a state agency which assists landowners and local governments to reduce sediment and nutrients entering lakes, rivers and streams and promotes the slowing of wetland losses. The grant went to the MWMO and was combined with a $50,000 Natural Resources Grant from Hennepin County, for a total of $200,000 for all of the Northeast Business Corridor projects, one of which was the ICCC rain gardens. The ICCC contributed $50,000.
MWMO Executive Director Doug Snyder said, “This project is a great example of a diverse set of partners coming together to achieve a common purpose. It involved state and local governments, a nonprofit, and a community of faith, all of whom worked together to create a landscape that will help protect water quality and improve habitat. Building green infrastructure in a highly urban area like ours requires collaborative efforts like this one.”
Reich said the project is a significant one on many levels in that it demonstrates the potential for sustainable and responsible water management in highly developed urban commercial centers, adding, “ICCC leadership and the project partners are already successfully engaging with youth through this very tangible and visible example of how to protect and improve our water systems, and that is one of the most promising aspects of the project moving forward.”
The ICCC’s Mounir El Hmamsi said he personally enjoyed meeting and working with the MWMO and Metro Blooms teams, adding, “This was a great partnership with great organizations really committed to improving the stormwater management practices. In addition to these improvements, the project presented a good education opportunity for the community and neighborhood that can also be practiced at home, and contributes to the beautification of this stretch of Central Avenue.”
BWSR’s Assistant Director Angie Becker Kudelka, Metro Bloom’s Harrison, ICCC Board Chairman Abdulwahab Asamarai, and ICCC Managing Director Ahmed Abuatieh were also present.
Below: Doug Snyder, MWMO Executive Director, Kevin Reich, Ward 1 City Council member, Abdulwahab Asamarai, ICCC board chair, Ahmed Abuatieh, ICCC managing director, Rich Harrison, Metro Blooms, Mounir El Hmamsi, ICCC ceremonially watered the new rain garden outside the ICCC. (Photo courtesy Mississippi Watershed Management Organization, photo below by Marak Peterson)