Minneapolis-St. Paul Area sees increase in closed communities | Minnesota News


By BOB SHAW, St. Paul Pioneer Press

ST. PAUL, Minnesota (AP) – The ability to walk, a friendly community, and amenities like a hot tub are all reasons Carter Drake enjoys life on the Arbor Lakes Preserve. Security against problems in central cities is another.

“Some people are noticing the crime in Minneapolis. I’m glad we don’t have to deal with this, ”said Drake, a retiree living in the state’s largest gated community. The crime, protests and unrest of recent years could be averted by the automated gate to the 529-home complex, one of many communities appearing in the metropolitan area.

The east-metro area – which has never had a full-scale gated community – will soon have two, in Oakdale and Lake Elmo. The western metro area has more than 10 closed projects underway or planned, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Residents say they love the fenced in lifestyle. They cite safety, along with pools, lodges and a stronger sense of community as all of the positives. Critics, however, say the function of spoiling communities is to keep people apart.

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“They’re meant for older white people who want to get away from others,” said Fernando Burga, assistant professor of urban and regional planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota. “They fragment and divide. Their politics tend to be reactionary and inward-looking.

The U.S. Census reported that 11 percent of U.S. homes were behind doors in 2015, the latest year for which data was available. Closed communities have for the most part been a phenomenon of the South, with thousands of people proliferating across the Sun Belt.

Minnesota actually moved away from closed communities in the 1980s, when its largest – North Oaks – removed its doors and guards.

A handful of small communities were built in the 1970s and 1980s. But the first large-scale neighborhood opened in 1996 – Bearpath, a 301-unit enclave in Eden Prairie.

Others followed, but generally there were few in the state. Today, a single southern city of less than 100,000 residents has more than all of Minnesota – Boca Raton, Florida, with 30 residents. But they are increasing in Minnesota.

In Lake Elmo, a closed 300-unit project opened in May. In Oakdale, a 280-unit gated community will be part of the Willowbrooke residential project.

In Maple Grove, developer Kelly Doran is adding a fourth building to the Reserve complex, bringing the total to 693 units by the end of next year. He is also building another: Triple Crown in Shakopee, a closed complex of 600 units.

“It’s definitely a trend,” Doran said.

As with many residents, it bundles door security with other amenities, including swimming pools and a clubhouse.

“People are looking for the set,” Doran said.

Are its inhabitants fleeing the chaos of city centers? “I think there is an element to it, but it’s not overwhelming,” Doran said.

He said closed communities don’t isolate people – they bring them together. By putting barriers around his buildings, he creates a community within. “It’s better for making new friends and acquaintances,” he said.

It is not known whether the population of central cities has changed significantly since the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May 2020 and the unrest that followed. Prior to that, the U.S. census predicted that the populations of the two cities would increase by 1% from 2020 to 2021, with Minneapolis rising to 435,105 and St. Paul to 314,997.

Urban growth experts say the trend is moving away from the general Minnesota tradition of encouraging free public spaces.

Burga said the suburbs are places to escape perceived urban issues like poverty, protests, racial conflict, crime and inferior schools. Burga said this is often the reason suburbs struggle with affordable housing – fear of poverty, crime and racial tensions. It’s also why, Burga said, closed communities don’t have links to public transport – they don’t want people who can’t afford cars.

Nonetheless, the doors appear to be exactly what many residents are looking for.

Drake moved with his wife to the reserve three years ago. He said he liked it.

“I go to the hot tub twice a week and to the gym three or four times,” Drake said.

He said he liked the feeling of security, reinforced by the gates and fences. “We feel,” he said, “as if we are safer here. “

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