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City report shows increase in jobs, decline in residential housing values

The city of Woodbury released its Community Development Annual Report last week, which chronicled changes and trends over 2010. Bulletin photo by Mike Longaecker

New commercial construction in Woodbury was on the rebound in 2010 for the first time in four years, though local residential property values continued to decline, according to a report released last week by the city.

The 58-page report was presented Feb. 7 to Planning Commission members in draft form. The report chronicles civic updates, economic development and commercial trends over 2010.

"What we're doing in Woodbury is pretty impressive," Planning Commissioner Kay Hendrikson said after a presentation on the report.

Assistant Community Development Director Janelle Schmitz said the report reflects a sunnier snapshot of the city than did 2009, and gives her reason for "guarded optimism."

"I think we're starting to see some of the trends moving in a positive direction," she said. "Hopefully some of those darker days are behind us."

The biggest boost came in new commercial construction, which tallied 232,000 square feet in 2010. The square footage total was nearly seven times higher than in 2009, and represented the most constructed in the city since 2006, which saw 717,000 square feet.

"We were happy to see it bounce back up," Schmitz said.

Most of last year's commercial construction came at the soon-to-open Super Target, which comprises about 176,000 square feet. Other commercial expansions included Globe University's second phase, Cortrust Bank and Service Ideas.

The continuing decline in Woodbury property values, Schmitz said, is likely a symptom of local and national trends. The report lists the average residential Woodbury home valued at $258,100 - the lowest mark yet on a general downward trend after values peaked in 2006 at $304,000.

"I think that's indicative of the broader housing situation that's going on," Schmitz said.

According to the report, Woodbury's employment numbers showed modest improvement over 2009: total jobs climbed from 18,701 to 19,243.

Most of the new job growth came in the education and health services sector, which added 387 jobs between 2009 and 2010.

Three more of the nine sectors listed in the city's report showed job growth: trade, transportation and utilities; professional and business services; and leisure and hospitality.

Unemployment in the city opened the year just above 6 percent, but finished at about 5 percent - much lower than the national rate -- which closed the year at more than 9 percent -- and the state's rate at about 6.5 percent.

Schmitz attributed Woodbury's lower unemployment rate to "highly educated and skilled" local workers.

"Our demographics have always served us well," she said.

School District 833 remained the city's largest employer, at 1,000 jobs. Woodwinds Health Campus, The Hartford, Woodbury Healthcare Center and Globe University rounded out the top five, respectively.

Meanwhile, Woodbury's new housing construction jumped to 522 units, ranking the city first among metro suburbs for units built in 2010.

Schmitz said the quality of life fostered in Woodbury accounts for that leading figure.

"We try very hard to maintain, sustain and increase that quality of life," she said, adding that Woodbury's geographic location - at the junction of 494 and Interstate 94 - also continues to be a draw for prospective resident. "It's a pretty nice place to live."

The number of new units built was the most since 2006, ending a three-year slide.

Of the new units constructed last year in Woodbury, the lion's share were multi-family units, which exceeded single-family units 352 to 170.

There was little change in the cumulative ratio of single-family versus multi-family units in the city's housing stock: about 56 percent were single family, while about 44 percent were multi-family.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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