Met Council data show strong growth ahead for Hennepin and Carver counties

  • Article by: MARY JANE SMETANKA and TOM MEERSMAN , Star Tribune staff writers
  • Updated: March 2, 2014 - 7:09 AM

Met Council forecasts population rebound for older cities in the metro.

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Centennial Lakes Park in Edina

Older, close-in suburbs are poised to reverse long-standing population losses and return to robust growth in coming decades, new Metropolitan Council projections show.

The most explosive growth up to 2040 is expected on the edges of the entire metro area. But older suburbs such as Bloomington, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley and St. Louis Park that lost or barely gained population between 2000 and 2010 will see a major bounceback over the next 25 years, according to council forecasts. Some mature suburbs could grow in size by a third.

The same is true in Ramsey County, where such suburbs as Arden Hills, New Brighton and Roseville that lost population in the last census are forecast to have strong growth.

“People are thinking about location, convenience and being near amenities, and I think these older suburbs do have a lot to offer,” said Julie Wischnack, Minnetonka’s community development director.

The predictions take into account the advent of the millennial generation as workers, homeowners and parents. Edina, for example, grew by 1 percent between 2000 and 2010 but is forecast to grow by 11 percent by 2040, to about 53,000.

Millennials, those born from the 1980s to about 2000, “will find advantages to living closer to the urban core, in more dense neighborhoods and having access to trails and transit,” said Edina City Manager Scott Neal, who has listened to Met Council officials describe their methodology. “We think those are advantages to places like Edina and St. Louis Park and Richfield.”

The Met Council’s projections in the seven-county metro area help cities with planning and are used to plot and coordinate sewage treatment lines, roads and highways, transit and water needs.

Libby Starling, council manager of regional policy and research, said populations in many inner-ring suburbs have not grown much in recent years because so many homes are still occupied by those who moved in 30 years ago. Those households, now often empty-nester couples, will soon be homes for a new generation of families.

“Our forecasts are indicating increased demand for the location and accessibility that these older suburbs offer — good proximity to employment, and good proximity to the urban center and the amenities that are offered there,” she said.

The inner circle

Neal said he considers the council’s forecast that Edina will gain about 5,400 people by 2040 to be “on the money.” In Hopkins, where the council predicts a gain of about 4,000 people — a 23 percent jump — Kersten Elverum, the city’s director of economic development and planning, said high-density residential developments are expected near three stations of the planned Southwest Corridor light-rail Line.

“It’s all largely related to Southwest LRT planning,” she said. “Outside of that, we don’t see an increase of densification. … We want to protect our single-family neighborhoods.”

Officials in other mature suburbs called the Met Council projections intriguing but said that they doubted their cities could absorb so many people.

In Wayzata, which is supposed to grow by nearly one-third with 1,200 more residents, city planner Bryan Gadow said he considers the council forecast “more planning tool than gospel.”

“I don’t know, based on land we have for development or redevelopment, that we have the land for almost 5,000 people by 2040,” he said.

The Promenade of Wayzata, which includes 410 units of senior housing and market-rate condos, will add people. That may free up more single-family homes for young families, Gadow said.

In Minnetonka, too, officials see the population projections as a planning tool more than a forecast. Wischnack said that while increased density is expected around Ridgedale, “the majority of the community is [single-family] residential, and it will stay residential.”

To absorb the Met Council’s predicted 13,000 new residents — a 27 percent jump in population — Minnetonka’s land use would have to change. One sign of the future is a planned development that includes not only single-family homes but less-common twin homes and ­condos or townhouses.

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