As Edina finishes its fifth straight year with more than 100 residential teardowns, neighboring St. Louis Park is quiet by comparison.
Despite bordering on some Edina neighborhoods where home demolition is booming, St. Louis Park has consistently recorded only a small fraction of Edina’s teardown numbers in recent years.
“We’ve not done as many [in St. Louis Park], nor do we get those calls,” said Scott Busyn, president of Great Neighborhood Homes, one of the most active teardown/rebuild contractors working in Edina.
There are a number of reasons why the teardown craze hasn’t spread to St. Louis Park, city and building industry officials said.
One is St. Louis Park’s point-of-sale inspection law, which requires all homes to be brought up to code before a sale. Another reason for the difference between the two cities is the demand created by Edina’s vaunted school system, Busyn said.
But he added that it’s only a matter of time until St. Louis Park sees its own teardown boom.
“There’s a whole herd mentality about teardowns,” Busyn said. “People aren’t comfortable doing a teardown unless there are others nearby. People don’t want to be the first.
“But once they see that others are willing to invest, then they’re more comfortable.”
With teardowns, buyers are often looking for a home in a desirable neighborhood that’s been allowed to deteriorate. Because of its inspection law, those homes aren’t easy to find in St. Louis Park, said Greg Hunt, the city’s economic development coordinator.
“A lot of our housing stock isn’t in that category of falling into disrepair,” Hunt said. “A lot of our homes continue to be upgraded.”
Instead of teardowns, the focus in St. Louis Park has been on home renovation and expansion, said Jennifer Cutter, a real estate broker and manager of Edina Realty’s City Lakes Office on Minnetonka Boulevard.
“St. Louis Park is definitely an area where people are willing to invest,” Cutter said. “We see this in the area near our office — we see construction dumpsters all over the place.
“Investors are doing the renovations because they know the appetite to stay in the area is there.”
One area in St. Louis Park that has seen significant teardown activity is the Lake Forest neighborhood, which borders Minneapolis’ Calhoun-Isles district. Dentley Haugesag, a 32-year resident, has seen three teardowns in recent years within a block of his home.
“I think it indicates that it’s a healthy neighborhood, that it’s regenerating,” Haugesag said. “It’s brought some younger children into the neighborhood.”
St. Louis Park is well positioned to benefit from the broad trend toward urban living, Cutter said, reversing the decades-long movement toward suburban growth.
Although it’s a suburb, St. Louis Park is a mature and fully developed place with many of the characteristics of established city neighborhoods: transit and biking routes, a lively restaurant scene, walkable streetscapes and easy access to downtown jobs.
The two key customer groups for teardowns, Busyn said, are young families and empty nesters.
“The people who show up in our office to build, 90 percent have a newborn,” he said. “They want that nest. And then there are the empty nesters who prefer a new home in an established neighborhood as opposed to a condo. They could spend a million dollars on a condo, but they’d rather have a small, well-curated home.
“Geographically, where St. Louis Park is located, in the long term they will have teardowns.”