Green and Mid-Priced in Eden Prairie
An upscale community in Minnesota wants to add a neighborhood of single-family homes that are green, energy-efficient and not only for the wealthy
Officials in a well-to-do community in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area hope they can spur the development of a neighborhood of green, energy-efficient homes with "midmarket" pricing attractive to young families.
Eden Prairie, a city of about 60,000 a dozen miles southwest of Minneapolis, has informally selected Homestead Partners to develop 36 houses that would sell for between $240,000 and $360,000, according to an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
That may not seem like a bargain-basement price to many people, but new homes in town often sell for $600,000, the newspaper said, and in August there were twice as many houses on the market selling for $456,000 and up as there for between $285,000 and $455,000.
In Minneapolis, officials are pushing a plan to build green homes that sell for no more than $200,000, with help from a $1 million annual subsidy. In Eden Prairie, officials are trying to avoid putting public money into the program.
Four developers submit proposals
Four developers responded to the city's request for proposals. City staffers interviewed the three most qualified firms and Homestead's "Eden Gardens" got the preliminary OK. A formal plan with cost estimates is due in November, to be followed by public hearings. With city approval, construction could start in the spring.
Homestead's project manager, Tom Strohm, says it's too soon to say exactly what features the houses would have to enhance energy efficiency, indoor air quality, water management and the like. But he said developers were planning to build houses so they could win advanced certification under Minnesota's Green Path program.
The program's web site describes that as a "mid-level green certification" in which houses must have a HERSIndex or scoring system for energy efficiency established by the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET) that compares a given home to a Home Energy Rating System (HERS) Reference Home based on the 2006 International Energy Conservation Code. A home matching the reference home has a HERS Index of 100. The lower a home’s HERS Index, the more energy efficient it is. A typical existing home has a HERS Index of 130; a net zero energy home has a HERS Index of 0. Older versions of the HERS index were based on a scale that was largely just the opposite in structure--a HERS rating of 100 represented a net zero energy home, while the reference home had a score of 80. There are issues that complicate converting old to new or new to old scores, but the basic formula is: New HERS index = (100 - Old HERS score) * 5. rating of no more than 60 plus win points for meeting certain energy efficiency and environmental standards. The houses would range in size from 1800 sq. ft. to 2400 sq. ft.
The architect for the project is Whitten Associates of Minnetonka, Minn.
Not everyone is thrilled
Support on the Eden Prairie City Council isn't universal, according to the Star Tribune. City Councilor Brad Aho doubts the houses can be built at the projected prices, and he doesn't like the idea the city will buy the property from the Minnesota Department of Transportation and then sell it to the developer.
Neighbors also expressed concerns because what's now a dead-end road would be extended to provide access to the new development, meaning more noise and traffic in an area where children now ride their bikes and play. And some worry that building less expensive houses next to their own would erode property values.
"In an ideal world, we'd love to keep it undeveloped," Kathryn Atterberry told the newspaper. "It's why we bought the house we bought."
Should the property be developed, she said, there should be fewer, more expensive houses that better match what's already there.
One possible compromise would be to build a dozen market-rate houses on the fringes of the property, presumably to shield the neighborhood from lower priced houses toward the interior.
- Homestead Partners