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

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

Minneapolis’ Green Homes North project has lagged behind schedule and cost more than expected because it took longer to get through the city approval process and some sites had poor soil.

Each home will cost about $90,000 to $100,000 more to build than what it will sell for to keep the price tag under $200,000 and to include green features, said Cherie Shoquist, project coordinator.

By Nov. 1, the city says, 27 of 100 homes in the five-year project will be under construction, aiming to revitalize the foreclosure-hit, tornado-torn North Side.

The project is subsidized by $1 million a year from the city, the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency and the Family Housing Fund; Green Homes North offers $2 million in interim construction loans.

As for subsidies in Eden Prairie, “We’re trying to avoid that,” Mayor Tyra-Lukens said.

Eden Prairie City Council Member Brad Aho argues that it’s not possible to do this project at this pricepoint. While he said he supports green and midmarket housing, putting the two together is “conflicting.”

He also worries it will set a precedent with the city as a facilitator, buying land owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation for $950,000 and selling it to a developer.

“I don’t like the city stepping into a role that I think is a private issue,” Aho said.

Jeremiah, the community development director, said the city isn’t at risk of being stuck with the land because the sale would happen on the same day. If the city weren’t involved and MnDOT just sold the land to a developer, it likely would not be both moderately priced and green.

A formal plan with cost estimates is expected in November, to be followed by public hearings. If the city approves the project, work could start as soon as next spring.

‘Who’s going to lose?’

In the adjacent Fairfield neighborhood, residents off Thatcher Road still aren’t keen on the idea. The project would extend their dead-end road, adding traffic in the quiet neighborhood where kids bike and play in the grassy field.

“In an ideal world, we’d love to keep it undeveloped; it’s why we bought the house we bought,” said Kathryn Atterberry, whose back yard is next to the site. If it’s developed, she said, she’d like it to be less dense and higher-priced. “Anything lower is just putting our housing in a worse light.”

Beck, who has lived there for more than 20 years, agrees. She said new housing should reflect their neighborhood, with home prices from $300,000 to $550,000 — not lower-priced starter homes.

“If you’re putting a $100,000 less [priced] home next to higher ones, who’s going to lose?” she said.

There’s one possible solution. To offset the expense of green, midpriced housing and to alleviate concerns over property values, Homestead’s Bona said the developer could build 12 higher-end market-rate homes (to be sold for more than $360,000) along the perimeter of the development. The other 24 would still would sell for $240,000 to $360,000.

That would help, Beck said, but she’s still leery of the plan.

“They’re recognizing that cheaper homes and green don’t really go together because of the cost of green,” Beck said. “Eden Prairie is always trying to keep up with the Joneses. But I’m not sure enough research was done.”

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