Proposal to build green, mid-priced homes in Eden Prairie has skeptics

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 23, 2013 - 8:41 PM

But the green, “midmarket” concept has skeptics, both at City Hall and in the neighborhood.

After an explosion of luxury home developments in Eden Prairie in the last few years, city leaders want to draw a project unlike anything else there: dense, medium-priced, single-family homes with lots of green, energy-efficient features.

From the early designs, leaders of the affluent southwestern suburb say the project would be one of the first in the region, if not the country, that combines green features with what the city calls “midmarket” homes selling for $240,000 to $360,000.

Others are skeptical that the project is even feasible and fear that the lower-priced homes could reduce the value of more expensive homes nearby.

In Minneapolis, a similar green initiative with homes that sold for no more than $200,000 is helping to revitalize the North Side, aided by a $1 million-a-year public subsidy.

While Eden Prairie’s initial plans don’t have a public subsidy, residents still worry that building moderate-income homes on 8 acres of land near Hwy. 212 won’t fit in with their more expensive neighborhood and that it will add traffic to a dead-end street.

“Do I think there needs to be lower-level housing out there? No. Eden Prairie is known for having money here,” said Jan Beck, whose back yard faces what is now a grassy field with deer and some trees. “It’s too bad. There’s no more prairie left in Eden Prairie.”

A developer who will meet with the neighborhood this month argues that the 36 homes off Eden Prairie and Scenic Heights roads would fill a demand for moderately priced housing that’s growing across the Twin Cities area, especially in the west metro.

Eden Prairie and Minnetonka are both trying to draw smaller homes on smaller lots — and, they hope, young families.

“Eden Prairie kind of led the way on [dense housing] years and years ago … but we’re still getting big houses on small lots,” Eden Prairie Mayor Nancy Tyra-Lukens said.

Many new homes under construction in Eden Prairie are being sold for $600,000. In fact, there’s a general shortage of entry-level houses on the market. Last month, for example, there were twice as many houses on the market priced from $456,000 and up than there were houses between $285,000 and $455,000, according to sales data from the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. Even fewer houses were priced at less than $285,000.

“As far as we know, we are unique in pursuing it,” Janet Jeremiah, the city’s community development director said of the green, moderately priced homes. “Hopefully, others will look at it and duplicate it.”

No formal approvals yet

Hopkins-based developer Homestead Partners and its Eden Gardens proposal have been informally selected by the Eden Prairie City Council, although no formal vote or developer’s agreement has been approved yet.

Homestead has four developments in progress in Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, almost all of which have homes selling for more than $600,000.

“We’re talking about the premier cities in the metro,” said Stephen Bona of Homestead. “There’s no doubt midmarket would sell really well. That’s difficult to achieve [unless there are] projects like this with a city getting involved.”

In Minneapolis, a subsidy

But going green isn’t cheap or easy.

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