$3.2 million plan will transform locations in Eden Prairie, Brooklyn Center
by Natalie Conrad and Katy Zillmer
Hennepin County plans to open two new satellite Human Services and Public Health Department offices in Eden Prairie and Brooklyn Center within the next year.
Last week, the County Board approved a $3.2 million plan to remodel the two Hennepin County properties. This plan will transform existing space in the Brookdale Regional Center and remodel vacant space in the Eden Prairie Service building.
The department will remodel 7,500 square feet at the former Hennepin County Service Center, 479 Prairie Center Drive in Eden Prairie, accounting for $1.3 million of the total project cost, according to County Board documents. When it is completed, the space will provide office space for Human Service and Public Health Department staff and a Women, Infants and Children (WIC) clinic facility.
The closest WIC clinic facility to Eden Prairie is in downtown Hopkins, said Hennepin County WIC Program Manager Karen Mayer.
“The Eden Prairie site will be more convenient and better exposure for residents of that area of Hennepin County,” she said.
WIC provides services for anyone from low-income people to working families, Mayer said. Those services include vouchers for nutritious foods at the grocery store and counseling about nutrition and parenting, she said.
“We’re not just a food program, we are much more than that. We really want to help families. We are a hand up, not a handout,” Mayer said.
This new service center and WIC clinic will not create any new jobs, but simply provides additional workspace for existing staff from the downtown Minneapolis facilities at the new Eden Prairie location.
“This will provide easier access for clients,” said Sharlene Shelton, an area manager for Hennepin County in regional development and community engagement. “It’s not a one-stop shop, but they will be better connected to the services they need.”
Prior to its use as the county service center, the Eden Prairie location served as the former public library. The service center opened in 2005, but closed down in 2012 because it wasn’t cost effective, according to Shelton. The other portion of the building currently houses the University of Minnesota Hennepin County Extension Office, which will remain at the facility during and after the remodel.
“It’s a very beautiful building and we’d like to maintain the beauty and integrity of it,” Shelton said.
The new offices will offer a modernized setting, with one workspace for every two employees. The new space will increase the office infrastructure and save money, according to Shelton. The office includes drop-in workspace for approximately 80 staff, including long term case management, eligibility support outreach and office support staff moving from various locations in the county. In addition, WIC clinic services will be provided from the space three days per week.
All remodeling and construction will be done internally, with no changes to the exterior of the building. The remodel will begin this fall and is expected to be finished by mid-March, according to Shelton.
A WIC clinic facility will also be opened at the Brookdale Regional Center, 6125 Shingle Creek Parkway. Hennepin County currently leases space for a WIC Clinic at 6601 Shingle Creek Parkway in an industrial park in Brooklyn Center. It is the largest WIC clinic location in Hennepin County, Shelton said.
The location is not easily accessible through Metro Transit buses and does not have room to accommodate an increased number of clients, she said.
Twenty-two staff members will work at the new Brookdale WIC clinic when the renovations are complete.
Services offered at WIC clinics could generate more exposure to residents who use the county’s service center in Brooklyn Center, Mayer said.
“We’re hoping that will increase the number of women and children we can serve,” she said.
The current WIC clinic location in Brooklyn Center is used by nearly 9,000 clients.
“Brookdale will be more conveniently located and (have) better exposure,” Mayer said. “The space is being designed for growth potential in coordination (with) other services that will be there too.”
The additional renovated workspace at Brookdale will be shared by approximately 90 staff members. Some work at the center already and some will relocate from their offices elsewhere in Hennepin County.
Child Protection Supervised Visitation services will be added at Brookdale, Shelton said. Those services are currently only available at the Health Services Building in downtown Minneapolis, she said. “(In) almost half of our child protection cases, the clients reside in north Minneapolis and the northwest regions,” Shelton said.
Renovations to the 14,000-square foot space at Brookdale Regional Center account for $1.9 million of the total project cost.
The Human Services and Public Health Offices in Brooklyn Center were closed to the public last week. Services, like appointments with child care assistance staff, will be available at the Northwest Family Service Center, 7051 Brooklyn Blvd., in Brooklyn Center, Shelton said.
Staff will continue working at Brookdale Regional Center through mid-September and then work at other offices in Hennepin County while the remainder of the Human Services and Public Health Department renovations are complete, Shelton said.
The goal is to open the offices again in March.
As part of its regionalization strategy, the Human Services and Public Health Department is making intake and case management services available in more locations across the county. Satellite locations will offer a limited set of services designed to complement services provided by community partners, provide work space for mobile staff and support specialized services.
They will also provide services and offices for staff when Century Plaza in downtown Minneapolis is vacated in 2014. Hennepin County is planning to open five additional regional service sites in addition to the existing Human Services and Public Health Department offices at the Northwest Family Service Center in Brooklyn Center.
“The staff is looking forward to being out in the communities,” Shelton said. “It’s been really exciting to be a part of this and so far it has been successful.”