Tearing down Edina

Here’s something you don’t hear every day. A neighbor applauding the tear-downs happening on her street.

In this case, it’s Edina, where Governing Magazine focuses its report on how tear-downs are changing suburbia.

“I don’t think you could have this experience of families with young children, unless you drive far out,” Erica Hamilton said.

You don’t have to move to outer suburbia, outer suburbia will come to you, and Edina is the tear-down capital as the houses of the first exodus give way to the newest generation.

“That’s good for the tax base, it’s good for the job market, it’s bringing money in,” Robert Denk, senior economist with the National Association of Home Builders, tells writer Alan Greenblatt.

Is this such a bad thing?

Yes, several people tell Greenblatt, because people are being priced out of the neighborhood.

And lots of people don’t like watching their city morph into something else. What used to be front-porch neighborhood streets, with kids running around outside, have turned into rows of mini-fortresses. The interiors of many of the new homes are cut off from the street by multicar garages. Maria, a resident of Minneapolis who preferred only to be identified by her first name, says she decided not to buy in Edina because of the “inflated prices” caused by the wave of teardowns. Her sister, she says, sold her house in Edina to a physician who tore it down and replaced it with a “monstrosity.”

“It was already a gorgeous home worth many hundreds of thousands of dollars, and they tore it down,” Maria says. “You’re really affecting the character of the neighborhood.”

It seems to happen block by block. A builder comes in, makes a deal with a homeowner, then tears down the house and looks for another opportunity next door or across the street. In some parts of town, any home that’s still reasonably priced is more likely than not to be torn down. The lot is worth more than the house. Neighbors in the remaining three-bedroom, one-bathroom ramblers and bungalows wonder if they should just go ahead and sell. They receive a steady stream of fliers encouraging them to do so.

But some neighbors’ taxes go down when the big tear-down replacement goes up, Greenblatt says.

“Redevelopment benefits everybody in town,” says Scott Neal, the city manager.

There’s a reality here. It’s what people want. Greenblatt says all over the country, many close-in suburbs struggle with declining housing stock and city people who have kids want to move to the space of the suburbs. And there’s apparently not a big market for ramblers among the generations anymore.

The market has dictated that sometimes a home outlives its useful life.

Related: Teardowns, ‘McMansions’ and the changing character of Twin Cities neighborhoods (MPR News)