Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Section of Rockford to Stay in Hennepin County

In a case that has been watched by several Minnesota cities, the Hennepin County Board hindered the City of Rockford’s effort to redraw the county line. On June 17, the Board rejected a measure that would have allowed Hennepin County residents to vote on the matter.

The 3,800-resident city straddles Crow River, which is the boundary for the two counties of Wright and Hennepin. Approximately 90% of the city is in Wright County and about 10% of its land parcels are in Hennepin County. City officials say being split between law enforcement and ambulance service jurisdictions and tax rates has caused a multitude of problems. For years, Rockford MN residents have petitioned to bring all of its land under Wright County jurisdiction.

Commissioners, who stated that they had “no opposition” to the boarder change in Rockford, did not discuss the resolution before voting it down 6-1. Previously, commissioners had said that allowing Rockford to switch would set a precedent that could prompt "a cascade of changes" to Minnesota's most populous county.

There are other Minnesota cities which have been watching Rockford's situation. St. Bonifacius began to look at whether its taxes would be lower and its services better if it were part of nearby Carver County. But there is one catch: St. Bonifacius doesn't even border Carver County. The city would need to annex land in order to make its case.

State law allows changing counties' boundaries, but the process is involved. To begin with, one-fourth of a county's residents must petition for the change. In Hennepin County, that would be 123,000 signatures.

Rockford managed to get around that in 2007, when the Legislature approved a measure for the city that takes the place of the petition. But then the approval of both county boards was required. The Wright County Board quickly approved the decision....

Northstar Building: New Owners, New Upgrades

The Northstar Center is undergoing an ambitious makeover. Downtown Minneapolis' first mixed-use property, adding up to 814,000-square-feet of space which includes offices and retail as well as a Crowne Plaza Hotel, is being restored. 

The work will include tuck-pointing, replacing stone, and cleaning the exterior of the three-building complex over the course of about three to four yearsWork on the parking ramp, which includes replacing some concrete and waterproofing, began in April and is expected to be completed in September. Renovation of the 222-room hotel is underway and is scheduled to be completed later this month. The over $4 million project has included remodeling guest rooms and the lobby and adding a larger Executive Club lounge.

All of this is happening because of new property owner and manager Grubb & Ellis.  Grubb & Ellis acquired the Northstar Center in December when it merged with the parent company of California-based Triple Net Properties.

The complex has about 645,000 square feet of office space, most of it occupied by Wells Fargo & Co.


Saint Paul's Dayton's Bluff Neighborhood Highlights

Dayton's Bluff is a neighborhood located on the east side of the Mississippi in the southeast part of the city of Saint Paul, Minnesota. The northern border of the neighborhood is Grove Street and the Burlington Northern Railroad. The southern border is Warner Road. To the west is Lafayette Road and Highway 3, and to the east is Highway 61.

Dayton’s Bluff contains one of the widest varieties of history of any Twin Cities’ neighborhood. The history of the area goes back over 1,000 years when the Hopewell Native Americans used the area as a sacred burial ground. On the edge of the southern and highest part of Dayton's Bluff today, a series of seven large aboriginal burial mounds remain in Indian Mounds Park, overlooking the Mississippi River and the central part of the city. The park features walking paths, playgrounds and a picnic area.

In 1857, Lyman Dayton, a well-known land and railroad speculator from Vermont, platted an "addition to St. Paul" on the Eastern border of the city. The area was separated from the early settlement along the river by a ravine, but this inaccessibility did not deter Dayton. A handful of other businessmen also built large and costly houses in the area. Farther to the south, beyond present day I-94 in the Mounds Park area, river-oriented residential development was also occurring. The earliest settlers had a spectacular view of the growth of the city at the Lower Levee and along E. Seventh Street. The area has since been referred to as Dayton’ Bluff, named after the man who built the first large home here.

Located on the east side of St. Paul, Dayton's Bluff has a particularly high concentration of 19th century homes within its boarders. In the early 1800's, Dayton's Bluff was one of St. Paul's first affluent suburbs, as is evidenced by the many Victorian, Italianate and Queen Anne styles of architecture. Overall, most of the homes in Dayton’s Bluff were built...

Minneapolis’ Northeast Community Highlights

Northeast community of Minneapolis is composed of 13 smaller neighborhoods. The Northeast community blends old architecture, classic housing, bustling commercial districts, and industrial work centers as well as new residential high-rises, suburban cul-de-sacs, and a popular art scene. The Northeast community is part bedroom neighborhood and part job center for the City of Minneapolis. The prominent features of Northeast include ornate churches and massive grain silos and mills, both of which help to create a unique skyline. Formerly known as the City of Saint Anthony before it was annexed into Minneapolis, Northeast is sometimes referred to as Nordeast, reflecting the history of northern and eastern European immigrants and their language influence.

Columbia Park - The Columbia Park neighborhood in northeast Minneapolis is bound on the north by 37th Avenue Northeast, on the east by Central Avenue Northeast, on the south by 27th Avenue Northeast and St. Anthony Boulevard, and on the west by University Avenue Northeast, 4th Street Northeast and the Mississippi River. Phew! The Columbia Park neighborhood received its name for three reasons. The first has to do with the actual Columbia Park, an area park which has a challenging 18 hole golf course, playground area, walking trails, archery course, horseshoe pits and picnic areas. The second coincides with the park’s acquisition in 1892, which is referred to as the “Columbian” year, 400 years after Christopher Columbus’ first voyage to the Americas. Finally, the third reason is a nod to the adjacent suburb to this neighborhood, Columbia Heights.

In addition to Columbia Park, the neighborhood also includes a smaller park, Hi View park, with a children's wading pool and basketball courts. Other highlights of the neighborhood include the walking paths along the Mississippi and the St. Anthony Parkway Bridge.


Hennepin County Digitizing Records

One hundred years ago if you wanted to look up any sort of vital records, from births and deaths to marriages and property histories, oversized books filled with information on paper was all the county recorders had.  Hennepin County still has its plat books, which are large, awkward, green-bound volumes that measure 31 by 26 inches and weigh 15 to 20 pounds each.

The county didn’t begin microfilming old documents until the 1960s. Electronic recordkeeping began in 1988, and since 1994, all document imaging has been in a digital format.

Now, Hennepin County will spend $2.7 million to digitize more than 24 million pages of records and marriage licenses dating back all the way to the 1850s.  The information won’t be available on the internet to just anyone, however.  The digitization is largely a move to smooth document tracking for Twin Cities real estate, legal and financial professionals who work with mortgages, property titles, easements and others.  Lay people are welcome to use the digitized information at the county records office.

Professionals who work with land records will be able to search the records online from their offices for a subscription fee, which has yet to be set.  In order to use the system, they'll need a property name or legal description to track a property. The documents will not be searchable by keywords.

The switch to digitization is expected to improve efficiency and turnaround time.  The new system will allow users to go between documents that are related with a click.  Digitization should also protect ancient, brittle paper documents and reduce the theft of legal and historical records.

The new project will convert records in five stages. Documents which date from 1901 that show details of land sales, such as deeds, mortgages and powers of attorney will be the first to be digitized.  Certificates of title from 1901 to 1998...

Hennepin County Speeds Demolition of Problem Properties

Hennepin County commissioners voted last to allocate up to $1.25 million to the City of Minneapolis to speed demolition of at least 50 Twin Cities houses. The actions comes as concerns rise that some Minneapolis neighborhoods may become so scarred by boarded up and vacant houses that they may not bounce back,

For example, northern Minneapolis has 544 of the 925 boarded and vacant houses listed within the city. The effects were cited on streets such as the 2900 block of Dupont Avenue N., where several houses were burned and boarded up after they were foreclosed on or abandoned. Minneapolis commissioners worry that other residents in the area will leave, resulting in even more blighted and vacant homes.

County officials will meet with their Minneapolis counterparts to negotiate an agreement that should allow the city to possibly double the number of houses it can tear down this year after they've been declared nuisance properties. Hennepin County evaluates properties for rehabilitation and chooses removal when area livability and safety can be improved with its destruction. At least 50 houses are to be demolished by the end of the year, with plans for the sites to be cleared and improved by next June.

The measure passed 6 to 1, with Linda Koblick voting no. Koblick’s refusal argued that the plan should have been reviewed by board committees and faced public feedback before a vote was taken. She said that taxes paid by people all over the county shouldn't be earmarked just for a single city when there may be suburban properties that need attention as well.

Other commissioners voted for the measure anyway, arguing that the sheer magnitude of Minneapolis' problem properties warrant action. An example of why this measure was introduced can be found at 2914 Dupone Ave N. A fire broke...

Saint Paul Market Analysis: May 2008

Similar to the experience of Minneapolis but more dramatic, new listings for homes fell in Saint Paul, Minnesota, during the month of May, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors’ Market Update for 100 Twin Cities Communities. During May of 2008, there were 623 new listings in the City of Saint Paul. In May of 2007, there were 818 new listings, which is a drop of about 23.8%. St. Paul’s Downtown experienced the greatest decline in new listings at -56.3%. The West Side/Cherokee neighborhood was the only location in St. Paul to experience an increase in new listings over last year. Here is a list of May 2008 new listings in Saint Paul by neighborhood and the percentage of change that has occurred compared to May 2007. (To see a Barker & Hedges article about April 2008 St. Paul Market Activity, please click here.)

Como 41 (-26.8%)
Crocus Hill 50 (-33.3%)
Downtown Saint Paul 21 (-56.3%)
East Side 143 (-14.4%)
Highland Park 55 (-3.5%)
Mac-Groveland 34 (-41.4%)
Merriam Park 20 (-23.1%)
North End/Frogtown 65 (-27.8%)
Phalen 83 (-0.0%)
Southeast 26 (-33.3%)
St. Anthony/Midway 26 (-46.9%)
West 7th 17 (-51.4%)
West Side/Cherokee 39 (+14.7%)

When you look at Saint Paul’s posted new listing for the 2008 year-to-date, there has been less drastic of a decrease by over half. From January through May, there were 3,138 new listings in the city, compared to 3,455 during the same time period of 2007. That means there are just 9.2% fewer new listings so far this year. The most dramatic changes have happened in the Saint Anthonty/Midway neighborhoods, where new listings have decreased by 31.1% while the Phalen neighborhood’s new listings increased by 11.9%. Here is a list of new listings in Saint Paul for the 2008 year to date compared to 2007:

Como 195 (-13.3%)
Crocus Hill 253 (-15.1%)
Downtown Saint...

Minneapolis Market Analysis: May 2008

During the month of May this year in Minneapolis, there was once again a decrease in new listings, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors’ Market Update for 100 Twin Cities Communities. During May of 2008, there were 1,098 new listings. In May 2007, there were 1,353 new listings. That is a drop of nearly 20%! It’s also much higher than April’s drop of just 6.9%, but it matches March’s 20% decrease. Basically, many sellers seem to be holding off compared to last year. The slowdown in new listings has really helped to ease pressure on the Twin Cities area real estate market.

Unlike March and April, the University community experienced the greatest increase in new listings during May. There were 56 new listings in University, up 36.6% from May of 2007’s 41. Conversely, the Philips and Nokomis communities had decreases in new listings compared to last year, at -48.4% and -34.9% respectively.

Here is a list of May 2008 new listings in Minneapolis by community and the percentage of change that has occurred compared to May 2007. These changes are very different compared to the real estate activity of April. (To see a Barker & Hedges article about April 2008 Minneapolis Market Activity, please click here.)

Camden 139 (-13.1%)
Downtown Minneapolis 120 (-31.8%)
Longfellow 64 (-27.3%)
Nokomis 125 (-34.9%)
North 118 (0.0%)
Northeast 89 (-11.9%)
Phillips 16 (-48.4%)
Powderhorn 93 (+2.2%)
Southwest 147 (-22.6%)
University Area 56 (+36.6%)
Uptown-Lakes 131 (-20.1%)

Taking a step back to look at Minneapolis’ posted new listing for the 2008 year-to-date shows a slightly different picture. From January through May of 2008, there were 5,145 new listings, compared to 5,916 during the same time period of 2007. That is a decrease of about 13.0%. The most dramatic adjustments happened in the Northeast and Uptown-Lakes...

2008 U.S. Women’s Open in Edina

The Twin Cities suburb of Edina will soon have the opportunity to present its greatness to the nation. This year, the 2008 U.S. Women’s Open is happening right here in our own Edina, at the Interlachen Country Club. This event, which just happens to be the biggest competition in the world of women’s golf, happens from June 23 to June 29.  It is expected to attract 135,000 people to Edina during that period of time.  Edina native Hilary Lunke will be competing in the championship this year, giving the city yet another reason to be proud.  To top it off, the entire competition will be broadcast nationally on channels ESPN, ESPN2 and NBC.The flood of people will also mean a deluge of business for hotels and restaurants.  Because many attendants will be parking at Southdale Center and Galleria, it is probable that they will go shopping before or after they take a shuttle to Interlachen. It is estimated that the U.S. Women’s Open will bring $20 million into Edina’s economy as people sleep at hotels, eat at restaurants, and shop at the many stores.

Edina community businesses have already been cashing in on the benefits of hosting this huge event. The Edina Chamber of Commerce has connected event organizers, the United States Golf Association, with Edina businesses that will provide services and materials for the golf championship.  The Chamber will also have a hospitality tent at Interlachen provided by several metro-area businesses and organization. The USGA is lining up vendors, sponsorships, ticket sales, even scheduling trash pick up.  All of it is going to result in dollar $ign$ for Edina.

Though advertising in the metro area for the U.S. Women’s Open has just been recently making itself known, the plans for this one week of Edina history have been in the works for years.  In fact, organizers have been preparing for the event at Interlachen for five years.  USGA staff itself has been working on-site since the...

June Is Home Safety Month

Every June, the Home Safety Council celebrates Home Safety Month!  HSC is an organization which encourages people to take easy steps toward making their homes safer for themselves, their pets, and their families.  The theme for this year’s Home Safety Month campaign is Hands on Home Safety. As the name suggests, it suggests some simple hands-on steps to create a safer home environment from the five leading causes of home injury: falls, poisonings, fires and burns, choking or suffocation, and drowning.  Many household accidents like these can be avoided with some precautionary measures!  Also, some aspects of a home safety are good to have in place anyway when one is trying to sell a house.  If a potential buyer hurts themselves on your property, you may find yourself with a lawsuit instead of a sale!

According to the HSC, falls are the leading cause of injury at home. There are several actions which can be taken to prevent many types of falls.  Ensuring that stairwells and hallways are well-lit is the first place you want to start.  Stairs should have handrails on both sides secured along the full length of the stairway.  Finally, make sure the halls and stairs are unobstructed.  You wouldn’t want a potential home-buyer tripping over a soccer ball in an enclosed space like this.

Make certain that smooth walking surfaces, such as hardwood or stone floors, are dry. When these surfaces are wet, they can be very slick.  Putting rugs at doorways and in the kitchen in front of the sink can help to provide traction in potentially slick walking areas. 

Here is the HSC’s Hands On Home Safety Checklist.  Now, there are other areas of a home which can be susceptible to trips and falls which are important to be aware of when you’re selling your home

The top problem areas for outdoor falls around the home are walking paths, sidewalks, and...