The City of Palo Alto sought to build a visitor facility on its 522-acre preserve. Acterra, a local environmental group, asked to partner with the City to develop an environmental education facility near the park entrance. Area residents opposed the plan and the City Council stipulated that broad, cross-interest support would be a condition of project approval. The City retained Bluhon Group and Arkin Tilt Architects to build community consensus around an acceptable design and program.
The city appointed a ten-member task force of diverse community, property owner, and environmental group representatives as a recommending body. The task force agreed to a set of consensus decision-making rules to develop program goals, an architectural design, an ecologically sensitive site plan, facility management protocols, and a funding strategy. Bluhon Group facilitated 7 plenary task force meetings and 3 community participatory workshops to solicit create ideas from the community and build broad support.
The task force ratified a comprehensive development plan, design, and program policy document. The City Council unanimously approved the plan and Acterra, the City, and community members collaborated to build an innovative project completed in 2006. The facility hosts numerous habitat restoration and education programs throughout the year.