A bike commuter’s paradise and the best place in the country to eat lutefisk and tater tot hot dish at a church potluck, Minneapolis is a great, sustainability-minded city that I don’t cover that often — or at all, rather.
Today, I’m happy to share news of an ambitious green home building initiative launched by the city of Minneapolis in which a total of 100 single-family residences, all built to LEED for Homes and/or Minnesota Green Communities standards, will be erected in city-owned vacant lots in down-and-out neighborhoods in the city’s northern reaches over the next five years. The goal of the initiative, according to the city, is to “build area market value, add a boost to the Northside housing market, and increase confidence of current owners.”
After securing private and public funding and beginning the search for developer partners last year, the Green Homes North Initiative just really kicked off with a groundbreaking ceremony earlier this month as construction work is now underway on the first 12 homes. The first batch of homes, overseen by five different developers, is due to be completed in August while construction on another 15 homes is expected to commence later this summer pending city council approval, according to EcoBuilding Pulse.
One-third of the homes being built during these first two rounds will be located in Hawthorne Eco-Village, a four-block, mixed-income enclave that serves as a “model demonstration project using best practices in community-based development, neighborhood revitalization, and sustainable green development.” All the Hawthorne Eco-Village homes — green features include Energy Star appliances, WaterSense fixtures, whole house air exchanger systems, programmable thermostats, and low-VOC paints and finishes — will be sold in the $150,000 to $200,000 range with most clocking in between 1,400 to 2,000-square-feet with a few slightly larger homes also in the works.
The homes constructed in other North Minneapolis neighborhoods aside from Hawthorne — Shingle Creek, Jordan, Camden, Harrison, Victory, Folwell, and Willard-Hay — will also be two- or three-bedroom affairs with similar price points and the same slew of green features. Although energy- and water-efficient, the Walk Score of the properties isn’t that impressive … most are located in car-dependent or somewhat walkable neighborhoods. It's also worth pointing out some of these North Minneapolis communities were roughed up pretty bad when a tornado tore through the area in 2011.
And it wouldn’t be a massive, city-sponsored green home building effort without a bit of old-fashioned drama. Already, neighborhood groups and renovation experts are up in arms as they point out that some of the city-owned lots aren’t exactly vacant … there are existing homes on them; foreclosed homes that, in their opinion, are structurally sound and not worthy of demolishing to make way for a Green Homes North residence. The obvious argument here is that the greener option would be to perform a gut renovation, not demolish and rebuild.
Promising to build X amount of homes in X amount of years is inherently a bit dangerous but Minneapolis’ projected 27 homes due to be completed by the end of this year seems like a healthy start.
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