Saint Paul Real Estate Blog

Saint Paul's Penfield Development Back on the Table... Again!

The Penfield development proposed for the northwest corner of the intersection at E. 10th and Robert streets in downtown St. Paul has been stalled for years. Now, a new proposal calls on the St. Paul Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) to take control of the project and make a scaled-down version of the project happen.

The HRA wants to take advantage of Build America Bonds made available through the federal stimulus program. The HRA would use $48 million of bonding money. HUD would guarantee the bonds. About $3.6 million in proceeds from a special taxing district also would be used, as well as $1.7 million in grants.

Instead of building a 40-story condo and hotel project, the proposed 11-story Penfield tower would hold 216 rental housing units, house a 30,000-square-foot Lunds supermarket and over 300 parking spaces. The building would have a green roof.

Dick Zehring, board chairman of the Greater St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA), said he believes the city is right to take advantage of bonds available now.

"It's a great use of those funds because it creates construction jobs, but it also has a lasting impact on downtown," he said.

In addition to city approval, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would have to sign off the project.


Rain Garden & Sustainable Gardening Workshops

Early spring is the time to spruce up a home's exterior for the late spring and early summer home selling season. As I write this, the snow is melting away more quickly than expected. That mean's it is almost landscaping and gardening season. Just in time, there are some workshops to get you prepared for the planting season.

With all the rain we've been getting, naturally rain gardens would be a good topic to discuss. Do you have a low lying area in your yard where rain water flows or accumulates? It can be hard to keep plants alive in those areas. Planting a rain garden in that spot can help improve the quality of local lakes, rivers and streams. Metro Blooms is offering a series of low-cost rain garden workshops to help get you started.

For $10, learn how to plan, design, install and maintain a rain garden filled with native plants, which filter pollutants out of runoff. There are three levels of workshops: an introductory session, a design session in a small-group format, and a three-hour session that combines both introduction and design. Classes started earlier week and tey run through the end of May. They are being held throughout the Twin Cities area, from from Bloomington to Wayzata, Chaska to Chanhassen. For locations and times, visit Metro Blooms.

Along the same lines, Maplewood MN would like residents and non-residents alike to participate in the Extreme Green Makeover. Starting this month, Maplewood is sponsoring classes on rain gardens, rain barrels, low-input lawn care and sustainable yard design. Nonresidents are welcome to participate, but only Maplewood residents can qualify for the grand prize of a $15,000 front-yard makeover.

Find out more about the Extreme Green initiative at a kickoff event from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. March 18 at the Maplewood Library. All attendees will eligible to win door prizes, which...

Sale at the Mall? No, Mall for Sale!

Woodbury Lakes, an upscale shopping center that opened five years ago but stumbled into foreclosure due to the economy, will go up for sale on March 15. Investors could find a bargain. The Woodbury real estate along Interstate 94 east of Radio Drive has a lot of potential, despite its recent troubles.

Whoever buys the property might do well to make it over from its high-end "lifestyle center" concept into a shopping area that might draw consumers with more moderate incomes from a broader area, said Jim McComb, a Minneapolis real estate and retail consultant.

There is no set price tag for the 50-acre property in Woodbury. That will be negotiated when a buyer emerges.


Twin Cities Home Construction Up This Winter

Homebuilders in the Twin Cities are keeping busy this winter compared to last year. Builders filed 177 permits to build a total of 202 housing units in February. That was an increase of 65% and 71%, respectively, over February of 2009, when builders filed 107 permits to build 118 units.

Between December through February, builders of Twin Cities homes have filed 626 permits to build about $207 million worth of residential housing, according to the Builders Association of the Twin Cities Keystone Report. During those months a year ago, builders filed just 392 permits for less than $147 million in construction.

"Anecdotal reports from builders confirm that there are area families out looking and buying new homes in the past two months," association President Gary Aulik said in a statement. The spring Parade of Homes, which brings traffic into home models, begins Friday. With fewer than 60 days until the home-buying incentives end, some builders ... are also offering special financing and other incentives to get house hunters to act."

In February, Farmington led the metro in building activity with permits filed to build 19 units. Lakeville, Shakopee and Vadnais Heights followed with permits filed to build 12 units each. The market for new homes isn't anything like it was a few years ago: In 2005, 542 permits were issued for a total of 872 units in February.

The home selling season is expected to start early this year as home buyers venture out now because the home buying tax credits expire April 30.


Spring Parade of Homes(sm) and Remodelers Showcase(sm)

Last fall, the Builders Association of the Twin Cities combined its two fall events: the Parade of Homes, which features new construction houses, and the three-day Remodelers Showcase, featuring remodeled kitchens, additions and owner's suites. It was the first time the two shows were linked.

Now, the Builders Association of the Twin Cities is combining the two events again for the Spring Parade of Homes Tour. This year's event features 366 model homes in 83 communities throughout the Twin Cities. Prices range from $129,900 for a home in Elk River to $2.4 million for an estate in Credit River Township. Most of the houses are in the $200,000 to $300,000 range.

That is with purpose, too. Ever since the shaky economy and tighter financing hit the real estate market, some Twin Cities builders have been adapting their designs, downsizing floor plans, and offering lower-cost materials.

Builders also are paying close attention to what new home buyers really want. Amenities like expansive master bathrooms, formal dining rooms, Venetian plaster finishes, and luxe lower levels are no longer "necessities".

Additionally, the St. Paul home featured in the TV show "Extreme Makeover Home Edition," will be open for viewing March 27 and 28.

The Parade of Homes Spring Preview runs Thursdays through Sundays beginning on March 5-28. The homes are open for tours from Noon to 6 p.m. each of those days.

The Spring Parade of Homes Remodelers Showcase takes place Friday, March 26th through Sunday, March 28th. The homes are open from Noon through 6:00 pm

Guidebooks are available at Twin Cities Holiday Station Stores and at



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