University Baptist Church Rain Gardens

Raingardens at the University Baptist Church solve a basement flooding issue while creating beauty and pollinator habitat.

Project Details

City: Minneapolis

Type: Community Grant (formerly Mini Grant), Planning Grant, Action Grant

Status: Completed

Timeline: 2019-2021

MWMO Funding: $10,000 Planning, $50,000 Action

Partners: First Congregational Church of Minnesota; Gaia Democratic School; Hennepin County; Marcy Holmes Neighborhood Association; St. Lawrence Newman Center; Twin Cities Shape Note Singers; University Baptist Church; University Lutheran Church of Hope

Contractors: Helping Hand Companies; Metro Blooms

Staff Contact:

Adam Flett
Communications and Outreach Specialist
Email Adam Flett
View Bio

The University Baptist Church (UBC) installed a series of rock swales and channel drains that divert stormwater runoff away from its century-old foundation to rain gardens, letting the water absorb naturally into the soil. MWMO Action Grant funding supported construction of the rain gardens and education and outreach associated with the project, including site interpretation, activities for children, and tours.

Located on a main thoroughfare adjacent to the University of Minnesota campus in Dinkytown, UBC houses faith communities, schools, and offices. The historic church was built on property purchased in 1921 at the corner of 13th Avenue SE and University. Over the years, the site experienced a number of water management issues, including water seepage near the front portico and water draining into the gym basement through the window wells on the courtyard side of the sanctuary.

A Minnesota Water Steward worked with UBC to apply for MWMO funding and received a Stewardship Fund Planning Grant in 2019 to evaluate existing conditions, develop a concept plan, and complete the technical drawings in collaboration with Metro Blooms. Soil analyses indicated good capacity for capture and infiltration of runoff into the ground. The plans called for four rain gardens, ranging from 92 to 285 square feet and from 4 to 9 inches deep. The rain gardens capture and infiltrate roof, walkway, and lawn runoff from a portion of the church property. Metro Blooms designed the project and constructed the rain gardens in collaboration with Helping Hand Companies. Outreach conducted as part of the Planning Grant included education on chloride reduction and stormwater runoff, storm drain cleanups and enrollment in the Adopt-a-Drain program, and youth water education and activities.

Because of the many peaks on the UBC roof, directing runoff to many different locations on the property, it was necessary to employ the use of many small rain gardens to intercept as much runoff as possible while preserving the limited parking area, ADA access, existing walkways, and large trees. River rock swales, channel drains, and drain tiles direct water away from the church exterior to the rain gardens. The Twin Cities Shape Note Singers designed a channel drain cover with a musical motif. The church garden team gave away some plants from the previous landscaping that were within the construction areas and dug up and replanted some plants like Blue Wild Indigo (Baptisia australis) that were suitable for the rain gardens. Plants selected for the rain gardens are drought- and salt-tolerant and once established, provide habitat for pollinators and birds, and add year-round beauty to the neighborhood.

A $6,900 Good Steward Grant awarded by Hennepin County in 2021 went toward stormwater conveyance improvements outside the church. UBC also paid for new, lightweight eyebrow rain awnings. Collectively, rain gardens and other conservation practices on the church’s property will treat an estimated 133,000 gallons of water per year and will annually keep an estimated 179 pounds of sediment and 0.64 pounds of phosphorus out of the Mississippi River.

This project serves as a highly visible demonstration of effective stormwater management practices while helping green the neighborhood. Educational signs will explain the purpose and function of the rain gardens and tours and educational activities will be planned. The UBC garden team will take on long-term management of the rain gardens.

See more photos of this project on Flickr.

University Baptist Church