Woodbury ranked among the Twin Cities leaders in residential building activity in 2014, adding to the gains the city has made since the housing downturn.

The city was fourth in the metro with 267 residential building permits issued through November. And it was fifth with 363 housing units permitted during the same period, according to the Builders Association of the Twin Cities.

Woodbury likely will see as many homes built in 2014 as it did the year before, senior planner Eric Searles said last month. In 2013, 346 single-family homes and 41 attached housing units were built in the city.

“We anticipate similar success in residential growth in 2015,” Searles said. “We have a number of new projects that are in the pipeline that we hope will feed our residential demand in 2015 and 2016.”

Among them are St. Therese of Woodbury, a “continuum-of-care” project marketed to seniors. The project, southwest of Bailey Road and Radio Drive, consists of 208 units, including independent-living apartments and assisted living, memory care and skilled-nursing units, Searles said.

In addition to the improving housing market, several factors have contributed to yearly homebuilding gains in Woodbury since the low point of the downturn in 2009, Searles said.

Among them, he said, are the city’s focus on developments with extensive trail networks and high-quality parks and the $22 million in improvements the city has made to its Bielenberg Sports Center.

Also drawing builders and residents are good schools, Searles said. Woodbury has partnered with three districts — South Washington County Schools, Stillwater Area Public Schools and District 622, covering North St. Paul, Maplewood and Oakdale.

Buyers also are attracted to the variety of housing models and types, Searles said.

“It’s not all single-family,” he said of the homes available.

Commercial growth a catalyst

Strong commercial development also boosts the city’s housing market, and vice versa, Searles said.

“The two go hand in hand,” he said.

New commercial projects in Woodbury include Bielenberg Gardens, a service-retail development on the city’s south side that Searles said is surrounded with property zoned for residential construction in order to create a walkable community.

Despite the momentum, it’s unlikely Woodbury will soon see a return to the homebuilding levels it experienced before the recession, Searles said. The city had nearly 1,300 housing units permitted in 2004 and close to 800 in other years before the recession, according to the Metropolitan Council.

“That was a different environment,” Searles said. “In today’s environment there are fewer developers and fewer builders and it’s unlikely that we’ll meet those numbers at any point in the near future because of the change in the marketplace.”

Joining Woodbury among Twin Cities leaders in homebuilding in 2014 were the south-metro cities of Lakeville and Savage.

Lakeville led the metro with 298 residential building permits issued through November and with 37 issued during that month.

Savage was third in the number of housing units permitted in 2014 with 477 through November.

Both Savage and Lakeville expected to have fewer single-family homes permitted in 2014 than in 2013 in what overall has been a disappointing year for homebuilding in the metro area.

The total of 4,559 residential housing permits that cities in the 13-county metro area issued through November was down nearly 400 through the same period in 2013, according to the builders association.


Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Woodbury. His e-mail address is todd_nelson@mac.com.