The Hopkins City Council has warmed up to a proposed Hennepin County social services hub in the Wells Fargo building.
Council members still had questions for county staff and Commissioner Jan Callison during a discussion about the hub before Tuesday’s council meeting. But the group came away feeling more comfortable about the idea—helped along by the county’s accommodating approach and efforts to get city buy-in.
“I think going through this was a worthwhile process,” City Manager Mike Mornson said during a recap after the council meeting. “I think positive improvements came out of it.”
Hennepin County's Human Services and Public Health Department wants to lease additional space in the building, located at 1011 First Street S., in order to create a one-stop-shopping center for those using the department’s services.
The proposal is part of a regionalization push to bring the full spectrum of services out to communities, particularly those with the greatest concentrations of people using the services. Under the current arrangement, clients often have to travel downtown. The services also tend to be isolated from one another.
Initially, Hopkins officials worried that such a hub could stretch local police and be a bad fit for the downtown.
See the map above for Hennepin County customer counts in areas that the proposed Hopkins hub will serve.
The officials’ reservations haven’t completely disappeared. On Tuesday, they continued to worry about what effects it could have on parking and asked whether the hub could balloon into a larger facility, with Hennepin County taking over space now occupied by private businesses.
“It would be disappointing to me to see the Wells Fargo building morph into the Hennepin County service center,” said Councilwoman Molly Cummings.
County leaders say that’s unlikely. They’re committed to a hub model that brings services to the communities where their customers live and don’t want to recreate the massive service center they’re trying to move away from.
“For us, the hub is a chance to improve the quality of life for the people we serve,” Callison said.
The hub should help the city as well as individuals. Hennepin County will put security cameras in the parking ramp, a longtime goal of city leaders, and county workers will shop in local stores and eat at local restaurants.
The hub will also keep the Wells Fargo building from becoming overrun with vacancies. The bank once occupied 40,000 square feet of the building. It’s now down to 13,000 square feet and will drop to 3,500 square feet in the summer. Mornson noted that vacant buildings can have their own ill effects on communities.
Mayor Gene Maxwell said the council should now focus on communicating the beneficial aspects of the hub to the community—portraying it as a positive and having a good attitude about it.
“It’s going to work,” Maxwell said. “It’s going to work out fine as long as we work on it together.”
Projected trafficTotal count On-site at any given time Staff on site daily 80 68 Staff on site intermittently 70 23 — Subtotal 150 91 Clients/visitors per day 176 39 — Grand Total 326 130