Plans for a new housing development that aims to draw more empty nesters and young families to Eden Prairie is moving forward this week.

The city is holding the last scheduled open house Monday to discuss plans for Eden Gardens — an energy-efficient, high-density development on 8 acres near Hwy. 212. Officials hope to get more community input and alleviate nearby residents’ concerns before the City Council is expected to vote on plans in April.

While the development has drawn criticism from nearby residents, city leaders say it’s needed to counter the explosion of luxury houses in Eden Prairie the last few years and to fill a growing demand metrowide for moderately priced homes and smaller lot sizes.

“There’s a lot of energy [for the project],” said Molly Koivumaki, the city’s housing and community services manager who has fielded nearly a dozen phone calls from homeowners and area Realtors already interested in the proposed homes. “It’s more than I expected.”

Other suburbs such as Minnetonka and Lakeville also are seeing the increase in demand for smaller home lots. But in Eden Prairie, nearby residents worry that squeezing 36 homes on what is now a grassy, wooded 8-acre lot with a dead-end street will add traffic and noise and maybe decrease their property values by putting lower-priced homes next to their more-expensive ones.

“It’s a night-and-day thing to basically have nothing behind you to having homes right behind you on a hill,” said Chris Atterberry, who bought a house in the Fairfield neighborhood with his wife about eight years ago because it was next to the wooded lot. “Ideally, what we’re hoping we’d have is a similar setup as this neighborhood.”

Revised plans

That’s why Hopkins-based developer Homestead Partners has reworked plans to try to alleviate concerns like Atterberry’s and meet the city’s goals.

The developer added “green” features such as solar-powered LED street lamps and solar panels on a common area pavilion. More public access to a common area has been added. And the neighborhood layout has been reworked, aligning back yards to those of Fairfield houses and building higher-priced houses — $375,000 to more than $400,000 — on the perimeter to blend in with the higher-priced Fairfield houses.

The remaining 21 homes will be “midmarket,” ranging from $240,000 to $360,000, hoping to draw empty nesters, single parents or small families and young professionals.

Emily Green, a Realtor and president of the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors, said small lot sizes may be the only way some people can afford to live in highly desirable cities such as Eden Prairie.

“The greatest barrier in those areas is affordability,” she said, adding that baby boomers looking to downsize are more attracted to smaller lots while younger families are drawn to energy-efficient features. “There’s definitely a greater interest in a more manageable [lot] size. It’s just kind of the way the world is going.”

Next steps

In Eden Prairie, city leaders say combining “green” features with “midmarket” homes would be one of the first to do so in the region.

“The potential exists there for us to do something innovative,” Koivumaki said.

No formal city vote has been taken yet; a Planning Commission public hearing is slated for March 10 followed by the City Council’s first reading of plans April 22. But the city still has to convince skeptics.

The 8-acre parcel near Hwy. 212 and off Eden Prairie and Scenic Heights roads is owned by the Minnesota Department of Transportation; the city would buy the property for $950,000 and sell it the same day, which worries some who believe it could set a precedent for the city acting as a facilitator.

Meanwhile, residents like Atterberry just want a development that doesn’t lower their property values and better blends in with their neighborhood by having fewer houses, more space and less traffic.

“No one is trying to stop development,” he said. “We just want it to be done to recog­nize the needs of residents already in Eden Prairie.”