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New Woodbury homes dip again in 2007

For the third consecutive year the number of new homes dipped in Woodbury. But don't judge a book by its cover.

When compared to other communities in the Twin Cities, Woodbury's new housing stock is relatively healthy, local planning officials said last week as the city unveiled its annual development report.

In 2007, 225 single family homes and 207 multi-family homes were built within the city limits. That's a drop off from 340 single family units and 373 multi-family units in 2006, and four years removed from a spike in 2004 when 508 single family units and 779 multi-family units were constructed.

But Janelle Schmitz, the city's planning and economic development manager, said the decline wasn't as sharp as other communities have experienced since the slump in the housing market hit after 2004.

"The new home numbers are certainly healthy, relatively speaking," said Schmitz. "If we compare ourselves to other years in Woodbury, it's certainly down. But when we compare ourselves to other suburban environments, I think we're one of the healthier housing markets out there."

Also, for the first time since 2003, new single-family homes constructed in a calendar year outnumbered the amount of multi-family units. But Schmitz said the difference is minimal as the number of new single-family to multi-family units has generally been a 50-50 ratio. The numbers bear out that fact as every year since 1995, with the exception of 1999 and 2004, the new single to multi-family units ratio has been relatively close.

Schmitz said the generally 50-50 split between new single family and multi-family units in Woodbury is an extension of the city's comprehensive plan.

"It's a stated goal in our comprehensive plan that we want to see a mix of housing types," Schmitz said. "But in terms of the dip in overall numbers, that may be more influenced by the market."

New commercial down

The city's annual development report also revealed that new commercial construction also took a dip in 2007, but Schmitz maintained that is more likely due to a big commercial year for Woodbury the previous year.

A total of nearly 140,000 square feet of new commercial was constructed in 2007. The city also measures new commercial in total value of building permits. The 2007 total was $18.2 million compared to more than 716,000 square feet and $61.2 million in 2006. Schmitz said with commercial construction, a high year is usually followed by a lower year, due to the fact that new available commercial space is filled throughout the next year by tenants.

"If there is a good supply out there, you will see tenants fill that up, which means there is not as much demand for new commercial construction for awhile," Schmitz said.

The single largest year for new commercial construction for Woodbury was 1996, when more than 1 million square feet was added. New construction dipped the next year to 227,000 square feet.

Northeast business park

Schmitz said Woodbury will continue to be a high-demand location for new retail and office space, with a large portion of available space located in the northeast business park.

The likely development 600 acres of available commercial space on the Woodbury side of I-94 and Manning Avenue is still in its earliest stages. Schmitz said the city is currently performing an environmental review on the site, before it reviews the possible development scenarios, which include a number of options ranging in different ratios of retail to office space, with some residential.

But the actual development of the northeast business park is not expected to come to fruition for 20-30 years, Schmitz said.

"Certainly, this is the next big piece for commercial development, she said, "but we won't see any development at all on this for at least four to five years."