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WSB ranks #185 on the Engineering News Record’s (ENR) Top 500 Design Firms list.

WSB is proud to land on ENR’s nationally ranked list for the ninth year in a row, moving up 25 spots from last year’s position. The ENR’s top 500 design firms are chosen according to revenue for design services performed. ENR’s mission is to connect diverse sectors of the industry with coverage of issues that include business management, design, construction methods, technology, safety, law, legislation, environment and labor.

The past year has been a year of resilience and gratitude for all of us, and we are honored to be recognized amongst many notable organizations that have continued to serve our communities in these unprecedented times. 

WSB’s rapid growth and national expansion would not be possible without our talented staff and clients, who have been with us over the past 25 years, helping us to build what’s next in infrastructure.

Click to view this year’s full Top 500 Design Firm list.

WSB hires Kim Lindquist to lead the firm’s community planning and economic development efforts

Lindquist joins WSB after nearly 20 years with the city of Rosemount

Engineering and consulting firm WSB announced today that Kim Lindquist has joined the organization as their director of community planning and economic development. Lindquist joins the firm’s Golden Valley office where she will lead WSB’s community planning and economic development efforts and client activities.

Lindquist brings over 30 years of planning and economic development experience to the position. She has held positions in several communities throughout the Twin Cities metro including Rosemount, Cottage Grove, Minnetonka and Mounds View. 

“Kim is a well-known industry veteran whose experience and knowledge will be a benefit to our staff and clients,” said Monica Heil, vice president of municipal services at WSB. “Kim’s forward-thinking approach to land use planning and development, coupled with her sound understanding of zoning requirements will support WSB’s project delivery throughout many service areas.”

Most recently, Lindquist was the department director for the community development department at the city of Rosemount for over 17 years. Her role was responsible for the operations of the department, long-range planning, economic development, building permit inspections, Fire Marshal activities, code enforcement and GIS functions.

“I’ve always thrived in mission-driven organizations that support our communities,” said Lindquist. “I’ve had the opportunity to work with WSB several times throughout my career and I’m thrilled to join a team that is committed to actionable, realistic and unique solutions that achieve our client’s visions.”

WSB’s community planning and economic development services include comprehensive planning, zoning ordinance and development codes, economic development, capital improvement planning, small area plans, planning and zoning administration and code enforcement.

How the DNR’s flood risk review could affect Minnesota communities

By Earth Evans, Director of Water Resources, WSB

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in coordination with local watershed districts, has developed updated draft Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood risk maps and hydrologic and hydraulic analysis. The affected area includes the floodplains in the hydrologic unit code 8 (HUC8) subbasin. HUC8 includes portions of Ramsey, Washington, Anoka, and Hennepin Counties.

The updated hydrologic and hydraulic analysis is based on National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Atlas 14 precipitation events across the United States. The draft flood hazard maps may expand existing FEMA regulated floodplains within the Twin Cities metro due to the higher precipitation depth and frequency. The FEMA map updates will likely take effect in 2023. This is the first step in the process to develop updated FEMA Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

It is important that city officials pay close attention to these updates. The draft FEMA floodplain boundaries may increase with this analysis, which may reduce developable area in a municipality, increase the number of properties that are required to purchase flood insurance, and require property owners to change the type of flood insurance they possess. Additionally, the DNR is requiring that each community update their ordinance to require mitigation for fill in the modeled storage areas upstream of FEMA floodplains. 

Currently, the maps are for city officials only. City staff should cultivate a strong understanding of the implications now, before the maps become open for public comment. During the next month, there will be opportunities for city staff to connect with the DNR staff, review floodplain limits, and understand the implications on developable area and properties that will require flood insurance within the community. 

WSB can help navigate this process and facilitate meetings with DNR Floodplain Staff. City officials are encouraged to reach out to Earth Evans, WSB’s Director of Water Resources with questions.

Earth has 20 years of experience as a project engineer and project manager on technically diverse projects in water resources. She is a technical resource in hydrologic and hydraulic modeling, flood damage reduction and floodplain modeling, water quality modeling and evaluation of best management practices, permitting, and hydraulic design. She has has worked extensively with MnDOT and state aid requirements and coordinated with local, regional, and state permitting agencies.

[email protected] | 763.231.4877

5 ways Strategic Planning can improve your organization

By Bart Fischer, Sr. Public Administrator, WSB

As organizations evolve and change over time, it is important for leadership to reflect on the past, evaluate the present, and prepare for the future. This can be done through a regular strategic planning process. The following are five important reasons to conduct a routine strategic planning process.

Set a Clear Direction & Priorities

As organizations change over time, it is essential that leadership, stakeholders, and new staff joining the organization understand where the organization is headed and how it is getting there.  This direction and priorities will serve as a road map for future success.

Build Trust & Relationships

For the prolonged success of any organization, there needs to be trusting relationships.  Bringing leadership and stakeholders together regularly to truly listen and understand one another, helps lead an organization to consensus on their vision, mission, and priorities for the future.  Consensus does not always mean 100% agreement; however, it means a spirit of understanding and collaboration around the culture and direction of the organization.  This process allows for teams to be on the same page and drives alignment.

Set Agendas & Simplify Decision-Making

Refocusing on the long-term view can be beneficial as short-term gains often slow long-term growth.  Having a strategic plan means that despite hardships, the focus is on the end goal and not changing course to avoid short-term hurdles.

Focus & Budget Limited Resources

A strategic plan helps focus limited resources such as staff, time, and money.  It prioritizes where the organization can be most effective in creating a sustainable community for the future.

Communicate the Message

With a strategic plan, each leader has a consistent message and is better able to communicate that message across stakeholder groups.  Everyone is “singing the same tune.”  Those in charge of individual parts of an organization, know roughly the direction other departments are heading without needing to know the details of how they are accomplishing it.

Bart Fischer has over two decades of experience in public administration. Throughout his tenure, he’s worked in five Minnesota communities as the city or assistant city administrator.  Bart joined our firm in 2019 as a senior public administrator and focuses on lending his public service expertise to our clients.

[email protected] | 651.286.8484

Defining Sustainability at WSB

Amy Fredregill, WSB’s senior director of sustainability shares WSB’s approach to sustainability.

At WSB, as well as for many other thought leaders, sustainability simultaneously advances economic, social, and environmental outcomes, thereby meeting the needs of current and future generations. Each aspect – economic, social and environmental – is like a leg on a three-legged stool. If one leg is shorter or weaker than another, the stool is not stable. No part of the stool exists in a silo, but instead is connected as a system to serve any number of purposes.

Modern sustainability is key to finding opportunities in 21st-century challenges like waste generation, soil, air, and water pollution, and a limited supply of resources. Stakeholders are working on each challenge by designing and piloting new approaches. Community needs constantly change and often involve complex infrastructure challenges that span many systems. For example, every community requires transportation systems, sewage, water, and electric systems for quality of life.

Communities can start or scale up today, toppling the barriers to sustainability and reaping the benefits, which include cost and risk reduction, access to new markets, providing cost-effective products and services to meet consumer demand, attracting businesses and top talent to your region or company, keeping communities healthy and creating economic development. Through innovation and collaboration, maintaining each leg of sustainability- economic, social and environmental- communities are prepared to meet the needs of people now, and people tomorrow.

Sustainable solutions are realistic, cost-effective and already being used by WSB clients across the country. In the city of Hugo, Minn., a northeast Twin Cities suburb, a citywide stormwater reuse program is saving tens of millions of gallons of water a year by irrigating land with stormwater instead of water pumped from a local aquifer. The municipality and its residents save money on water and power bills, effectively turning what was once a waste stream into a revenue stream. On the heels of a one-in-100-year weather event that knocked out the power grid across all of Texas, Fort Bend County is building solar power infrastructure on over 3,200 acres of property, minimizing energy consumption and maximizing energy efficiency. In these and many other communities, we are delivering sustainable solutions, such as water reuse, stormwater and flood management, municipal resiliency and comprehensive planning, native landscaping, and renewable energy.

Sustainability enhances regional competitiveness and furthers economic development. Today, businesses and people are seeking out communities with a smaller, lighter footprint, eager to pump money into sustainable economies. Investing in solar energy can lower energy costs and improve environmental outcomes. Prairie restoration in a community park can increase ecological diversity and create a welcoming recreational area. Economic, social and environmental benefits are co-benefits, and businesses and people see them. By improving the outcomes of one, you improve the outcome of another. 

Sustainable approaches build strength into the infrastructure that supports our lives as community needs change. Through innovation and collaboration, maintaining each leg of sustainability- the economy, society and the environment – communities are prepared to meet the needs of people now and people tomorrow.

Amy has nearly 25 years of experience across many industries, particularly energy and agriculture, in the public, private and nonprofit sectors. This experience has provided Amy with a broad background that enables her to meet community and business needs based on the business case for sustainability. By working across intersecting systems to simultaneously advance environmental, economic and social goals, she is able to uncover creative solutions.

[email protected] | 612.965.1489

Landscape Architecture Month | Q&A

To celebrate World Landscape Architecture Month, members of our Landscape Architecture team reflect on their time in the profession.  

JA: Jason Amberg – Director of Landscape Architecture

CA: Candace Amberg – Senior Landscape Architect

SN: Shaunna Newton – Landscape Architectural Designer

JG: Jordan Gedrose – Landscape Architect

What led you to a career in landscape architecture?

JA: I truly ‘found’ landscape architecture during my second year of exploring both architecture and engineering in college. I was intrigued by the opportunity to utilize my creativity to design outdoor spaces through grading design, colors, textures, site elements, circulation, and other systems to meet the unique needs of users.

SN: I was first inspired by the idea of becoming a “steward of the land” as originally coined by Frederick Law Olmsted’s iconic work and establishment of the field. It was through painting landscapes and studying horticulture that I then became inspired by the possibilities of the landscape becoming its own canvas. I then went on to pursue a Master of Landscape Architecture degree.

JG: Growing up I loved being outdoors, playing sports in my neighborhood parks, and spending time along the Missouri River. I also enjoyed sketching and admiring all the different styles of architecture while traveling on family vacations. I found landscape architecture to be a wonderful blend of natural environments and built architectural features.

Why are you passionate about landscape architecture?

JA: Growing up on my family’s multi-generation farm gave me a strong appreciation for land and nature. My parents encouraged me to find a career path that I enjoyed and luckily, I found landscape architecture to blend form and function in an artistic way that the users will enjoy for years into the future.

CA: It’s hard to not be passionate about projects that truly improve the health and overall well-being for people of all ages and abilities.  

JG: I am passionate about partnering with clients to create parks, trails, and outdoor amenities that provide recreational opportunities for communities. Designing spaces that reflect the existing landscape and honor natural features provide unique opportunities that inspire and challenge me.

Which project are you most proud of?

CA: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park playground project. This was truly a community led project from its initial inspiration to create a playground that would commemorate the efforts of Dr. King, the American Civil Rights Movement and the contributions of so many African Americans that were not previously acknowledged. Working with public artists and residents highlighted how a community came together to create a fun and meaningful playground project that also started the process of healing previous wounds.

SN: The Ohuta Beach Project in Lake City, MN. It was true team collaboration that pushed the limits of creative design solutions.

JG: Woodhaven Park in Eagan, MN. The park includes a large inclusive playground and a Bankshot basketball course. The inclusive playground provides a safe and inviting space for kids of all abilities to play and interact with one another. The Bankshot basketball course is a play feature that has a series of stations (think of a mini golf course, but with basketball hoops) that is fun for many ages. I am grateful that I could be a part of a project that will provide so many opportunities for the community!

How does landscape architecture benefit our communities?

JA: Landscape architecture is a profession that focuses on creating outdoor spaces, which shapes the look and feel of the world we live in through principals of design and sustainability. Some of our most cherished memories are created in places designed by landscape architects.

CA: How does it not? We work to mediate or correct damages that others have inflicted on our environment; we create meaningful places for reflection and healing; we create opportunities to improve our physical and mental health; we create places to play and have fun; and most importantly, we bring people together.

SN: Landscape architecture responds to social needs, creates social connectivity and gathering spaces, increases the health and wellbeing of our environments for not only for ourselves but wildlife and natural resources. Landscape architecture is adaptive and continually leading to opportunities in our ever-changing environment.

What is something most people don’t know about landscape architecture?

JA: This question makes me laugh because most people falsely think that a landscape architect’s main role is to tell them what kind of tree they should plant in their yard. Realistically, the selection of plant materials represents just a small fraction of the time we spend designing spaces.

CA: Thankfully people’s knowledge of Landscape Architecture has come a long way since I first began. Most of my career was spent trying to get people to understand that yes, I do in fact work during the winter months, and no, I don’t just do planting plans for people’s yards. I explain that architects design structures and Landscape Architects design sites. It’s a mixture of planning and design with a solid understanding of engineering, science and math combined.

SN: I still find myself explaining that landscape architecture is not just garden design, it’s so much more. Landscape architecture originally started as a painting term and has now become a unique skillset to improve built and natural environments.

JG: Landscape architecture has a wide variety of project types and scales. Projects types can vary from residential landscape design to a wildlife land bridge over a busy highway. The profession also requires an understanding of large-scale systems, such as pedestrian circulation patterns throughout an entire park while also needing an understanding of small scale detail, such as how to construct a retaining wall within the park.