Chanhassen: Growing, with a small-town feel

From new housing to new highways, Chanhassen is experiencing rapid growth. But with 11 lakes and 35 miles of trails and sidewalks, open space remains.

For years, Maureen and Greg Grazzini admired the Hesse Farm housing development in Chanhassen. They were drawn to its large, private home sites — a minimum of 4 acres — and its easy commuting distance — a 30-minute drive to Greg’s job in the Twin Cities. The Grazzinis were finally able to buy a house in Hesse Farm in 2004 and are now among the few in Chanhassen who can claim a front yard big enough for a mammoth sledding hill.

“The house is on a hill and the front yard itself is an acre,” said Maureen. “We can see one other house on a hill off in the distance.”

The Grazzinis have Harold Hesse to thank for their privacy. Hesse was born on the farm in 1923 and still lives there. In the late 1970s, he and his wife Mary subdivided the land and sold the individual parcels, some of which are 15 acres.

Although there is lots of open space in the form of hobby farms, parks and lakes, Chanhassen is one of the fastest growing cities in the metro area. Once a sparsely populated farm community, Chanhassen’s population is estimated at 23,864, up from 20,321 in 2000 and 11,732 in 1990. Growth isn’t expected to slow down. In 2010, the population is forecast at 27,500.

Most homes are being built in small developments such as Highcrest Meadows and Settlers West.

Jonathan Zabrocki, a sales agent with Zabrocki Real Estate Group in Chanhassen, said developable land is getting hard to come by.

“Within the next few years, it’s going to look a lot more like Bloomington or Edina,” Zabrocki said. “But like most cities, there are little pockets with interesting neighborhoods where the homes are a lot more spread apart.” Zabrocki is also hearing that the expansion of State Hwy. 212/312 will drive construction of an additional 12,000 single-family homes by 2009.

Last month, the average sale price in Chanhassen was $386,161, a 28.8 percent increase compared with the same period last year. In contrast, the average sale price in the 13-county Twin Cities metro area was $283,583.

“That means that appreciation rates in Chanhassen are good and that the homes being built and sold are perhaps larger and more expensive,” Zabrocki said.

What surprises Maureen Grazzini is the rate of growth. She said that every time she turns around she sees another housing development in progress and another farmhouse being torn down. “It bums me out. It’s the sprawl, it’s just spreading,” she said.

Even so, Grazzini said Chanhassen still feels small. Downtown Chanhassen, the primary retail and service area, has had a lot of new development that blends with the older part of town.

City manager Todd Gerhardt said that downtown Chanhassen has been in redevelopment for 15 to 20 years. “It allows for both automobiles, but is pedestrian-oriented, too,” he said. “You can go to the bank, pick up your dry cleaning, see a movie and shop at the farmer’s market on Saturday mornings.”

A new library, Lifetime Fitness, Walgreens and CVS Pharmacy have helped the city employ more than 9,500 people since 1995, according to the city’s website.

Although the Grazzinis expect more change in coming years and have a big lot that sometimes requires lots of maintenance, they have no plans to move. “We have lots of yard work,” she said. “But it’s a great tradeoff for what we get.”

Aimee Blanchette • 612-673-1712

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