Anoka wants second look at proposals for upscale home development

After more than a decade of wishing for move-up housing in Anoka, the city has heard from two local companies vying to add a development of upscale homes in the community.

Developers from SW Wold and Hanson Builders each pitched the Anoka City Council on Monday with proposals for 22 acres owned by the city, north of Bunker Lake Boulevard and west of the Rum River Library. The property also backs up to the 220-acre Anoka Nature Preserve.

The council favored the concept plan from Andover-based Hanson Builders, which includes approximately 44 single-family homes, ranging in price from $400,000 to $650,000. The proposal includes neighborhood gathering areas, a pool and fire pit.

In comparison, SW Wold was proposing a development that would include 31 detached townhomes plus 32 single family homes. Single family-homes would range from $350,000 to $550,000, with townhomes listing between $250,000 and $400,000.

The financing piece from SW Wold called for less city investment for the development’s infrastructure compared to Hanson’s projections.

The city will now ask both developers to refine their proposals and present them again to the council, during a special work session Monday, March 25.

Hanson Builders President Dean Hanson said his company aims to create a signature development in Anoka.

“It should be the kind of neighborhood where people aspire to live,” he said.

Hanson started the company in Anoka with his father Ken back in 1979.

The builder plans to work with its sister companies, Jonathan Homes and Landmark Development, on the project.

Scott Wold said he would be working with Regency Homes and Dingman Construction.

Wold said he discussed this development with city staff a long time ago.

“This is almost what we spoke of 10 years ago,” said Wold. “I don’t live very far from here. It would be neat to see it come together.”

Councilmember Mark Freeburg said he favored the lower density in Hanson’s proposal, but still needs to learn more about the financing differences between the two proposals.

“What I wanted to see on that land 16 years ago is exactly what Hanson is proposing,” he said.

Freeburg, a realtor, said the timing is right for this kind of housing in Anoka.

“People have moved to other cities because they can’t find these kind of houses in Anoka,” he said.

According to the Multiple Listings Service, right now there are only four homes for sale in Anoka within the $400,000 to $650,000 price range.

According to Freeburg, the market for owners to sell their current home before moving up has also improved greatly.

“People are not going to get what they got eight years ago, but some houses are selling in days or weeks with multiple offers,” said Freeburg, who thinks most of the potential buyers in an upscale development would come from Anoka.

City Planner and Economic Development Coordinator Erik Thorvig said he contacted many Twin Cities developers in January 2012 but didn’t get any interest.

But in 2013, that changed.

“I think it’s the perfect storm,” said Thorvig. “A lot of the available building sites in nearby cities are going away. The families with two or three kids looking for this style and size of a house, we’ve been losing to Andover.”

Anoka has not seen a new development of this scale since the 1990s, said Thorvig.

The city of Anoka, as outlined in its recent goals presentation, has a potential for 1,600 new housing units in the city –a mix of single-family homes, townhouse and higher density developments. Other possible locations include around Green Haven Golf Course, near the Anoka Rail Station and a potential townhome development off 11th Avenue in the Sunny Acres neighborhood.

Plans for development

Hanson said they would plan to build two model homes plus two spec homes to kick start the development.

They aim to have the models ready for this fall’s twice annual Parade of Homes tour.

Wold had a similar fall time frame in his proposal.

Wold’s proposal would bring in more park dedication fees because of the increased number of units. It also included a wider (80 foot) access road that would meet warrants for a traffic signal off Bunker Lake Boulevard, compared with the Hanson proposed road, 60 feet wide.

And Councilmember Jeff Weaver feels that traffic signal is non-negotiable. He said making a connection between this new residential area and the new Castle Field, ice arena and Anoka High School to the south would be disastrous without a signal.

“There would be an accident every 15 minutes,” Weaver said.

Freeburg said he was willing to take a risk that the city would be able to work something out with Anoka County on the signal.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at [email protected]