Barker and Hedges Real Estate Blog

Minneapolis Urban Forest: The Next Generation

Several generations ago, nearly 90% of the trees on public land in Minneapolis were American elms. When Dutch elm disease hit, ash were a favored replacement and now make up 19% of the city's boulevard trees. Enter emerald ash borer in St. Paul. What to do? The August 19 tornado is giving the city a head start on planting the urban forest that will shade generations to come, without the pest susceptability.

Minneapolis' urban forest already has a lot of maple, linden, Autumn Blaze maple, and some disease resistant elm. The new trees might not sound so familiar: Kentucky coffee, buckeye, river birch, pear, alder, hop hornbeam, even one called Espresso! There will also be a tree that has been specifically "developed" in Minnesota:

The Autumn Splendor buckeye actually originated nearly 40 years ago at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, apparently the result of an accidental genetic mix in a collection of painted buckeye at the Morton Arboretum outside of Chicago, from which the Minnesota arboretum bought seedlings. Unlike most buckeyes, which go drab and drop their leaves at the end of summer, the Autumn Splendor variety turns red and holds its leaves into the fall.

These new types of trees are not going to be as tall as the grand elm trees of the past, but they will be large enough to provide shade for homes and cars. And becuse a greater variety of trees will be planted, a scourge like Dutch elm disease or emerald ash borer won't be able to take down large swaths of our trees again. Generations of Minneapolis residents will be able to enjoy the new and improved urban forest for many, many years!


At Home at the Minnesota State Fair

The Great Minnesota Get-Together starts on Thursday! And with the Minnesota State Fair comes the Eco House demonstration home!

Designed by SALA Architects, this year's approximately 2,200-square-foot dwelling produces as much electricity as it uses. The house's design includes three dozen solar panels and a geothermal heat pump. Hooked up to the existing electrical grid, it's configured to draw from certified green energy sources at night and on cloudy days, while feeding energy back into the grid on sunny days. It's also carbon-neutral, using no fossil fuels.

Other green features include electrical appliances, super-insulated 12-inch-thick walls, and eco-friendly finishing materials, such as wheatboard interior walls, recycled glass tiles and a kitchen countertop made of crushed walnut shells in resin. The house will include a carport (designed to house a plug-in electrical car) with a green roof and a demonstration rain garden.

What's more, if you want one to call your very own, this year's Eco House is not just a showcase but an actual prototype, with plans available for purchase.

The Eco House is long and narrow, designed to sit on a standard city lot. Having an Eco House of your own would likely cost a little more up front, but the reduced operating costs would make the investment worth it over the long run. You can see an aristic rendering of what the house looks like in this Star Tribune article. Or, if you visit the fair, you can take a free tour of the house as part of the Eco Experience in the Progress Building.

The Minnesota State Fair runs August 27 through September 7.


Photo Friday - Science Museum of Minnesota

Located in the state's capital city of Saint Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota is an American institution focused on topics in technology, natural history, physical science and mathematics education. Founded in 1907, the non-profit is staffed by over 500 employees and over 1,600 volunteers. It has a variety of features, including permanent exhibits,the Mississippi River Visitor Center, the Collections Vault, Lee and Rose Warner Nature Center and the Youth Science Center. It also hosts special exhibitions, provides exucational activities, and plays films at its Omnitheater and 3D Cinema. The museum's mission statement, "Turn on the science: realizing the potential of policy makers, educators, and individuals to achieve full civic and economic participation in the world", reflects its intention to foster science citizenship for all its publics.


Greening Minnesota - August

The residents, businesses, and government of Minnesota have been doing so much to make the state a greener place to live. Greening Minnesota is a monthly installment that explores some of these actions and developments.

First, a story about an eco-friendly home rennovation. Can a green remodeling project look good and not break the bank? A St. Louis Park bungalow got an affordable, earth-friendly makeover that respected the 1940 home's vintage charm while at the same time reducing its energy costs. The renovation included a two-story addition to expand the kitchen and add a family room and mudroom as well as create space for upstairs bedrooms. St. Louis Park design/build company Sicora followed the new Minnesota Greenstar certification program to meet green building standards, but the bottom line was also a factor. This affordable remodel doesn't include all the bells and whistles. Though there aren't spendy bamboo floors or a geothermal heating system, it does have hardwood floors repurposed from the original home, remnant granite countertops, and two Energy Star-rated furnaces that heat and cool in zones.

The U.S. Green Building Council has announced the introduction of its new LEED for Homes Affiliate Program, which allows regional green home building programs to promote the growing green residential market by partnering with USGBC. The objective of the new program is to increase the availability of the green homes stock through collaborations with local green home building programs across the country and  further promoting sustainable design and energy-and-resource efficiency in all dwellings. Third-party green home building certification system Minnesota GreenStar was one of the first two green home building programs to sign on with LEED for Homes Affiliates.

Let's not forget that Minnesota is about to get $52.7 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to weatherize 16,800 homes this year. A home that is properly weatherized...

Minneapolis & Saint Paul Partner Up for Weatherization Assistance Program

There is some economic and evironmental good news in the housing and construction sector. More than $10 billion of federal stimulus funding to retrofit homes, businesses and government buildings to be more energy efficient is starting to hit communities around the country, including Minnesota, Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Building energy retrofits save energy and reduce pollution at the same time they put people to work.

Energy use in buildings accounts for nearly 40% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. Low-cost technologies and certain construction practices can cut energy use in many buildings by up to 30%. That difference could translate into cost savings and implementing the fixes will create jobs.

Cities that receive retrofit funds from the Minnesota Weatherization Assistance Program are spending the money quickly to create jobs. They're also trying to make sure they invest these resources in the best way possible for the best long term benefits.

And Minneapolis and Saint Paul are doing a good job. Our Twin Cities have partnered up to work together and have set a daring goal of retrofitting all the buildings in their city limits within 10 years. The Twin Cities have engaged a partnership of state and local agencies, utilities, industry groups, organized labor and community-based nonprofits to create a comprehensive system to get the work done.

There are other communities throughout Minnesota that have money waiting for home weatherization. Want to know what the requirements are? Want to find out if you qualify? Check out the Minnesota Housing website. ...

Photo Friday - Saint Paul Capitol Building

On January 2, 1905, after nearly 12 years of planning and construction, thousands of Minnesotans toured the  halls and chambers of their new state Capitol for the first time. The St. Paul Capitol was immediately hailed throughout the country as one of America's grandest and most beautiful public buildings, a distinction that has endured for 100 years.

The 1905 capitol is the third building to serve as the State of Minnesota's seat of government. The first was built at 10th and Cedar Streets in 1853, when Minnesota was still a territory. It was destroyed by fire in 1881 and replaced two years later on the same site in Saint Paul with a red-brick Victorian structure with a tower. Almost immediately, complaints that the new building was cramped and stuffy began to roll in, and just 10 years later a legislative committee called for a new state Capitol.

An architectural competition in 1895 attracted more than 40 design entries for the rise of land called Wabasha Hill. The winning design was the work of Cass Gilbert, an influential 35-year-old architect who had grown up in Saint Paul. His experience, talent, local connections, and a little persuasion propelled him to the lead of the Minnesota Capitol design competition.

Gilbert was a very hands-on architect, always on the forefront of the construction project. He is the one who insisted on the stunning white Georgia marble used for the upper walls and dome - one of the Capitol's most brilliant features. He called  for Minnesota-quarried granite and sandstone for the lower levels, steps, and terraces, and local Kasota stone for much of the interior. Gilbert's design is dominated by its...

July Twin Cities Real Estate Report

Pending home sales in the Twin Cities area rose for the 13th consecutive month in July. Signed purchase agreements on homes in the Twin Cities metropolitan area increased 16% from a year earlier, to 5,174, according to the Minneapolis Area Association of Realtors. Closed sales rose nearly 26% from a year ago, to 5,235.

Housing prices are continuing to fall, however. The area's median sale price fell to $171,000 in July, down 18% from 2008 and down 27% from 2007. That's even down from June's median price of $173,500. Until July, prices had been increasing since hitting a bottom of $150,000 in February.

Deeply discounted foreclosed homes drag down sale priceshe price decline on the high number of foreclosed homes on the market. About 44% of July pending home sales were of lender-mediated foreclosures and short sales.

Excluding sales mediated by a lender, the median price for traditional home sales was $213,150, 6% less than a year ago. Naturally, traditional home-sale prices have been dragged down by the lower prices of nearby foreclosed homes and buyer expectation.

Once the foreclosed homes are culled from the market, median home sale price will increase and the market will stabilize, but predicting when that will be is difficult given the higher-than-usual employment rate in Minnesota.

It isn't just the Minneapolis - Saint Paul - Twin Cities real estate area that is being effected. The National Association of Realtors says the median sales price in the second quarter was $174,100, up 4% from the first quarter, but still almost 16% below a year ago. That's pretty similar to our July statistics. Prices were still down from a year ago in 129 out of 155 metropolitan areas the group tracks. ...

First Time Home Buyer Federal Tax Credit: Act Now!

Summertime is the busiest time to sell houses, which means that lenders are busy, too. Even though the federal tax credit for first time home buyers doesn't expire until December 1, now is a good time to buy. The volume of loans being processed is only going to get bigger as other people try to close on homes before the deadline. If you wait to buy something until October or November, you could miss out.

If you are a first time home buyer that qualifies and you want to take advantage of the federal tax credit, buy as soon as you can.  Sometimes deals fall through and you're back to square one. Because the lenders are already busy, your purchase could be delayed. Problems with the lender or the seller could happen. You simply cannot take the risk.

Great news! In case you didn't know, the tax credit can be applied for immediately after closing on your home. That meanns you can ammend your 2008 tax returns using the 1040x form and the 5405 (tax credit) form. As soon as the IRS has this, you will likely get your money within a few weeks. It's just that quick.

What should you do? Get out there, start looking, buy your first house and reap the tax credit rewards. What's there to lose? Only $8000 if you delay! ...

Photo Friday - Cathedral of Saint Paul

The Cathedral of Saint Paul is a Roman Catholic cathedral in the city of St. Paul, Minnesota. One of the most distinctive in the United States, it sits on Cathedral Hill overlooking downtown and the State Capitol Building. It opened in 1915 and was the fourth cathedral of the archdiocese to bear this name in the City of St. Paul, the first having been established on the bluffs in 1841. The first church was also the namesake for the city, which from 1840 until 1849 had been called Pig's Eye. Thankfully, that was changed when the Minnesota Territory was formalized and Saint Paul was named its capitol.

Archbishop John Ireland set the construction for the cathedral in 1904. The third Cathedral was 46 years old and too small for the growing congregation. Well-known French Beaux-Arts architect Emmanuel Louis Masqueray was commissioned to design it and construction began in 1906. The design was inspired by French Renaissance architecture.

The dome of the cathedral is 76 feet in diameter and 186 feet  high. The exterior walls of the cathedral are Rockville granite from St. Cloud, Minnesota. The interior walls are American Travertine from Mankato, Minnesota. The interior columns are made of several types of marble.

Some things have changed over the years. Electric lighting was installed in 1940. Warm-colored paint and gold leaf were added to the interior of the dome during a major renovation in the 1950s. In 1987 the Cathedral acquired five bronze bells cast in France.   The Cathedral's copper-clad dome was renovated in 2002.

The building was added to the National Register...

August Events in the Twin Cities

August is a swinging month in the Twin Cities when it comes to community celebrations, festivals, and other excuses to walk around in shorts and eat "Something on a Stick." There's lots to do, starting with today!

New Brighton's annual summer Stockyard Days are taking place on August 2 through 9. The event, now in its 29th year, features a golf tournament, a kiddie parade and grand parade, street dances, and fireworks. For a complete list of times and locations for all Stockyard Days activities, go to and click on "events."

Lake Hiawatha’s Annual Neighborhood Festival is taking place today, Wednesday, August 5 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Lake Hiawatha Park, 2701 E. 44th Street in Minneapolis. There will be a talent show with prizes, carnival games, food for sale, and community information tables.

There will be some Outdoor Puppet Theater on Thursday, August 6, from  6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Folwell Park, 1615 Dowling Avenue N. in Minneapolis. "The Adventures of Katie Tomatie" will be presented by Open Eye Theatre with live music.

LYNAS Summerfest takes place on Thursday, August 6, from 5:30 p.m to 9p.m. at Lynnhurst Park, 1345 Minnehaha Pkwy. W. in Minneapolis. As always, the annual event will be a fun evening for the whole family with food, games, music and more.

The 36th Annual Longfellow Cornfeed occurs on Thursday, August 6, from 5:30 p.m to 8 p.m. at Longfellow Park, 3435 36th Ave. S. in Minneapolis. Join in for an evening of fun, food, and entertainment perfect for the entire family! Enjoy hot, delicious corn on the cob, live family-friendly entertainment, hair and face painting, fair style concessions, large inflatable attractions, community information tables, and much more!

The Minneapolis Park & Recreation Board is partnering with the Minneapolis Institute of Arts (MIA) for...