Limbo might be over for Richfield homeowners

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 15, 2013 - 12:39 PM

After years of waiting, the City Council will decide next week whether to buy 17th Avenue homes.

Twelve Richfield homeowners who have been in limbo for more than a decade may get an answer next week about the future of their homes.

On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to take up whether to buy out homeowners on two blocks of 17th Avenue South to make room for a parkway and biking and walking trail.

The houses face the Target and Home Depot at Hwy. 77 and E. 66th St. While 17th Avenue was once a peaceful cul-de-sac, the street is now busy with store traffic. Some restless homeowners there have been waiting years for the city to buy them out.

The city already owns one home that was in foreclosure. Verbal agreements to buy properties have been reached with 11 of the remaining 12 homeowners, and most of those have signed agreements to sell, said Mike Eastling, Richfield's director of public works.

"Nobody is saying, 'There's no way I want this done,'" Eastling said. "One person is not responding."

The people who have verbally agreed to sell their home include a couple who has lived on 17th for 60 years. Though they initially resisted moving, after a private conversation with city officials they said are willing to go if they are allowed to stay in their home until mid-2014, Eastling said.

While the city originally had hoped to begin construction before then, much of the work on the street probably couldn't occur until next year anyway, Eastling said. That's because three of the properties are under water on mortgages and the city will have to negotiate with banks to buy the properties, which usually takes time.

From street to parkway

Houses on the east side of 17th were razed in 2004 for the shopping center. The city had hoped to build senior apartments on the other side of the street, but those plans crumbled when the recession hit.

The city still hopes to eventually build a senior complex as a sort of buffer between the big-box stores and nearby airport and the neighborhood of low-slung residential homes to the west. But for now, the plan is to take about 25 feet of right-of-way along 17th Avenue to build a link of the Intercity Regional Trail that will connect Minneapolis biking and walking trails to the Minnesota River in Bloomington.

Eventually, 17th Avenue will be converted to Richfield Parkway, with a 25-mph speed limit. Near the Home Depot, the parkway will bend to the west to make a connection with Bloomington Avenue. That part of the project, which includes storm water work, will be done before any parkway or trail work on the other two blocks.

Eastling said it is up to the council to decide whether to proceed with the home buyout. Purchase agreements signed so far are good through March. In the past, some council members have expressed reservations about approving the program without unanimous resident approval.

If the buyouts are approved, homes would likely be moved or razed soon after the sales are complete, Eastling said. Moving homes is cheaper than demolishing them, he said. In the past, Richfield homes have been hauled away and resold by dealers, sometimes for use as cabins.

Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan

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