Take It To Them - Inspiring Community Engagement

As part of their mission, vision, and goals, the City of Hopkins has developed a “Take It To Them” approach to outreach, which emphasizes the importance of involving diverse populations, engaging the rental community of Hopkins, and inspiring community engagement. 
Hopkins City Council provides many ways for residents to provide input through a variety of tools and approaches, which include public meetings at unique venues, meeting formats that invite a wider audience, and meeting people where they are. These creative techniques to engage local residents in planning has helped capture more voices of Hopkins residents. 

<div class='lb-heading'>Community Engagement Through the Artery Experiment – An Open Streets Demonstration Event</div><div class='lb-text'>The Hopkin’s Artery Experiment was a test run to introduce and get community feedback on the “Artery:  the reconstruction of 8th Avenue from Excelsior Boulevard to Mainstreet” to provide a pedestrian, art-infused, interactive corridor. The event provided many ways for participants to give their feedback on its final design. </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Artery Experiment – Experience and Provide Input on the Cycle Track </div><div class='lb-text'>The Artery, as proposed, includes construction of a two-way cycle track that connects Minnetonka Regional Trail with Cedar Lake Regional Trail, as well as more pedestrian space, and places to gather and experience art in various ways. One of the most prominent features of the Artery was the 0.2 mile cycle track.  During the Artery Experiment, people were able to try out a temporary installation of the Artery cycle track and provide feedback.</div> <div class='lb-heading'>Artery Experiment – Bike Lounge</div><div class='lb-text'>Bike Lounge, as part of the Artery Experiment, featured loaner bicycles, a place for repairs, and a place to recuperate from a long ride, all of which could potentially occupy space along the corridor.    </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Artery Experiment – Public Art </div><div class='lb-text'>As indicated from its name, public art is an important feature of the Artery.  Public art in various forms were incorporated into the Artery Event. Community Feedback was sought on preferences on different art forms, like this 3D sidewalk art installation.  </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Artery Experiment – Outdoor Seating, Art Rooms, and Games</div><div class='lb-text'>It is estimated that 1,500 people attended the Artery.  At the event, people were able to experience different installations and then rank what they preferred most, including: the cycle track, infrastructure elements, iconic art pieces/photo-ops, creative lighting elements, outdoor seating opportunities, water elements, green infrastructure, public art, Gateway elements, an historic theme, pop-up performances, and Wi-Fi.</div> <div class='lb-heading'>Cedar Lake Regional Trail</div><div class='lb-text'>The City Council got outside City Hall with its “Ride with the Council” event during National Bike Week, which included discussion of future Light Rail Transit stations and a ride on Cedar Lake Regional Trail.   </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Outside the Box Approach </div><div class='lb-text'>The City Council took a chance and held a well-attended open house at a local downtown business, LTD Brewery. </div> <div class='lb-heading'>On-street Parking to Sidewalk Expansion</div><div class='lb-text'>The City had National Park(ing) Day, which temporarily transformed a few on-street parking spaces into miniature parks, or parklets, on a $200 budget.   The pilot was a success and the City later adopted a policy to allow local businesses to use the on-street parking spaces as a sidewalk extension (as shown here) for additional seating areas in the summer.</div> <div class='lb-heading'>Engaging Raspberry Renters </div><div class='lb-text'>Over 60 percent of Hopkins residents are renters. So each year a new apartment is chosen and events and meetings with City officials and residents are held monthly at the apartment to engage renters.   </div> <div class='lb-heading'>Engaging Students in the Cottageville Park Expansion Project </div><div class='lb-text'>The City sought youth input on the Cottageville Park Expansion project and partnered with the local school to get feedback from students. The park is part of a large-scale restoration of Minnehaha Creek through one of the most urbanized areas of Hopkins. It will include a new playground, community garden, educational signage, and a restored shoreline.</div> <div class='lb-heading'>Collaborating and Engaging with Other Agencies to Reach Mutual Results</div><div class='lb-text'>The City works with other agencies, to understand goals and reach mutual results.  Cottageville Park Expansion was made possible through a joint partnership between the City of Hopkins and Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, and will benefit both the city and the creek. The City won a Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs - 2014 Local Government Innovation Award for the Cottageville Park Expansion project.   </div><div class='lb-link'><a href='http://www.hopkinsmn.com/development/current/blake/cottageville-park.php' target='_blank'>Link: Cottageville Park Expansion Project</a></div>
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What may help other communities?


Meetings at Alternative Locations

For City Council meetings, the City has been open to thinking outside the box, so that Council meetings are not only held at City Hall, but also in other parts of the community. Over 60 percent of Hopkins residents are renters, so each year a different apartment is chosen and events and meetings with City officials and residents are held monthly at the apartment to engage renters. The meetings discuss topics important to the renters and have included fun events like “Grilling with the Council,” where renters can meet with Council Members in a comfortable, relaxed setting.
The City of Hopkins isn’t afraid to take a chance and move meetings from traditional locations. One recent City Council open house was held at a local downtown business, LTD Brewery. The well-attended open house gathered positive responses with new residents involved. The City Council also got outside City Hall with its “Ride with the Council” event during National Bike Week, which included discussion of future Light Rail Transit (LRT) stations and a ride on Cedar Lake Regional Trail.  

New Approaches and Formats that Invite a Wider Audience 

The City has found that a change in format can bring a wider audience to City events. They hosted a Visioning Hopkins Mainstreet event using the Pecha Kucha formatPecha Kucha is a fast-paced, presentation format, where a presenter has 20 slides and 20 seconds for each slide. Each presentation was concise, fast-paced, and offered a low-pressure opportunity to share thoughts and visions for Mainstreet. City Council meetings can be intimidating to residents, and this event was viewed as a “fun, high-energy” event that got many people involved and could be easily replicated.

Another format that has been successful for the City, is its annual State of the City/Taste of Hopkins event. The event provides citizens and business owners with the opportunity to learn more about the City in a relaxed setting. The event starts with a “Taste of Hopkins,” which features free tasting of appetizers, entrees, and desserts from local Hopkins businesses. It gathers a wide audience and is followed by a “State of the City” overview with the Mayor, Council members, and City staff, and has even included a game show format. 

Meeting Them Where They Are

The City’s “Take it To Them” policy includes meeting people where they are, and bringing the meeting to them.  To gather community input, the City of Hopkins sometimes piggybacks on local events, such as outdoor movie nights or the City’s week-long Raspberry Festival, to engage more people and increase the visibility of upcoming projects. For example, the City’s Artery Experiment kicked off the 2015 Raspberry Festival and introduced the community to the Artery project, an Open Streets event that demonstrated a pedestrian/cycle track connecting Mainstreet with the Downtown Hopkins Southwest LRT Station to get public feedback on its final design. The event was in partnership with others agencies, and featured temporary installations, including a protected bikeway, art exhibits, live music, food trucks, games, a 3D chalk artist, and free bike tune ups. The event had many opportunities for community feedback. It even included the offer of a free ice cream sundae for anyone who weighed in on the project! Following the event, the City shared the results in a report, which included a summary of the installations, lessons learned for planning similar events, and a summary of the community feedback provided. 

Inspiring Community Engagement

Inspiring community engagement in a variety of ways is important to the City. The City offers a free Citizens Academy Program for residents who want to learn more about how their City works. Participants in the five-week program go behind the scenes to learn more about the City’s departments, programs, and operations. The Academy has been in place for ten years and can involve up to 20 participants per session. The program helps in developing relationships, understanding of staff responsibilities, and building personal connections. It has been a successful program with a strong alumni base, and even Academy alumni reunions.   
The City involves a diverse range of community members. For example, while the City was working on the Cottageville Park Redesign, they partnered with the nearby school to gather youth input into the park’s redesign. The City has also partnered with the school district for the use of school buses in providing rides to community members to meetings that are not held near a project site. 

Small, Low Cost, Low Risk Programs Can Support Larger Policy Changesquote from the planning director

The City understands that starting small can result in larger changes. Hopkins had a pilot program to temporarily transform a few on-street parking spaces into miniature parks, or parklets, on a $200 budget. The pilot was a success and the City later adopted a policy to allow local businesses to use the on-street parking spaces as a sidewalk extension for seating areas in the summer.
The City of Hopkins is always thinking of new, innovative ways to engage its residents. Luckily, the City is not afraid to take chances and has strong support from the City Council. The City has maintained a diverse public input base by thinking outside the box, collaborating with others to achieve mutual results, and inspiring community engagement.


Awards and Recognitions

  • 2014 Local Government Innovation Award from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs (Cottageville Park Expansion Project)

  • 2015 Minnesota National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO) Conference Presentation (Kersten Elverum)

Contact the City of Hopkins

Kersten Elverum – Director of Economic Development & Planning, (952548-6340[email protected]


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