Even with a new four-lane highway, an influx of big-box retailers, a growing population and new housing developments, Chaska is doing its darnedest to keep its small-town appeal. The Carver County river town has a good foundation. Chaska, population 22,500, boasts a charming 19th-century historic downtown with a gazebo to stage outdoor concerts. There are two golf courses, Hazeltine National Golf Club and Chaska Town Course. In August, Money magazine named Chaska the nation's eighth-best place to live, citing reasonably priced homes, good schools and a beautiful setting.

"People in Chaska are involved in the community and many of them live and work here," said Dave Pokorney, city manager.

And the recent opening of Hwy. 212, which gives commuters a nonstop route from Chaska to Eden Prairie and to Interstate 494 (Chaska is 25 miles southwest of Minneapolis), is expected to attract more businesses, jobs and people, sparking a real estate recovery in the area.

Greg Anderson, broker and owner of Re/Max Advisors West in Chaska lives in Chaska's Hazeltine Woods, built in the early 1990s.

He said Chaska offers homes in every price range -- from townhouses under $100,000 to more than $2 million for single-family homes in the 300-acre Chevalle development.

"You also can buy a brand new home on the Town Course for up to a million, or an 1859 brick house off main street for $335,000," he said.

The average home sale price in Chaska so far this year is $281,304. There were 236 homes on the market in October, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors.

Even with all the changes, Anderson said, Chaska won't morph into every other run-of-the-mill Twin Cities suburb. "Sometimes you can't tell where a suburb begins and ends," he explained. "Chaska is about preserving its identity."

Lynn Underwood • 612-673-7619