With the St. Croix Crossing opening for traffic by August 3, we get a number of questions and speculation about the impact this new bridge may have on real estate in the area. A recent Pioneer Press article covered the subject well (see With New St. Croix Bridge, Wisconsin Will Move Closer To The Twin Cities), and I’d direct you to that if you’d like a nice overview, but as an agent who does a lot of business in the areas of impact, I’m going to put my two cents here.
Stillwater and Hudson residents wonder if their communities may be less interesting to buyers as traffic that previously had to choose one of those city access points now diverts to the new thoroughfare instead. Will businesses suffer, affecting the community adversely?
Where Hudson is concerned, probably not. People in both states have already come to appreciate the lifestyle options in Hudson and regularly frequent such well-received eateries as Pier 500, San Pedro Café, Winzer Stube, and Agave Kitchen, or attend creative programming at the Phipps. Those coming into Hudson for its community life won’t stop doing so just because of a potential change in work commute.
Additionally, the desirable school system (and Hudson also has excellent private/parochial schools – we’re involved in both) remains a strong magnet for homebuyers, since current capacities rule out open enrollment options for families living outside the district. This community will continue to grow and thrive – as a Hudson resident (since 2002), I’ll vouch for that!
Stillwater, of course, will experience the most dramatic change, and I’m intrigued thinking of the inevitable atmosphere shift. With Stillwater’s historic downtown area no longer a congested “main drag,” it can perhaps reclaim its character as a “Main Street”—a safer and more pleasant environment for tourists and residents alike, and a new draw for pedestrians and cyclists who had previously found the historic bridge’s heavy traffic distasteful. The town has great plans to rehab the bridge as “part of a five-mile long pedestrian loop trail” (see Stillwater Plans A Party For Lift Bridge’s Last Days With Vehicle Traffic).
Current and future residents along the river in those communities – including Houlton and neighboring Somerset, on the other side of the lift bridge crossing – should find a much more tranquil setting for home life. It may even attract a whole new set of people into the housing market overall – people who wanted the feeling of “getting away,” but weren’t finding it in Stillwater and hesitated to drive further out. Those neighborhoods – may all become more desirable, not less.
Obviously, the commute will play into this. My buyers ask me to search within “drive time” parameters, and the lift bridge congestion lengthened the commute to and from Somerset and Houlton exponentially. If the new bridge cuts down that drive time, it should open some doors for them.
Caveats: Traffic and Schools
A few aspects of the St. Croix Crossing may have been overplayed, and I don’t want to pass over that fact. New Richmond may not experience much immediate impact, for instance, being further out than some of these other communities. And even though Stillwater will certainly lose its disproportionately large traffic snarls, it’s doubtful that traffic in other areas will be much affected. Cars will still pack the 494/694 loop just as much, and that’s quite a long stretch of highway between 94 and 36. It may all come out in the wash, for most commuters.
It’s also important to remember that although other school districts have great programs and caring staff/administrators, and many express great satisfaction with the education their children receive there, perceptions are difficult to shift. Hudson schools draw many homebuying families away from some more rural communities in the area, and a new bridge won’t change that reality.
However, the St. Croix Crossing isn’t the only big change in progress. Hudson currently has an expansion in the works that might reopen enrollment options for new families, to be finished in 2018. Also, communities that experience growth in other areas have more opportunities for all types of improvement, so outlying school districts will likely benefit indirectly from the new crossing as part of this growth. The other changes may encourage more families to give these districts a chance, and they might be pleasantly surprised.
It will be exciting to see it all pan out in the coming months and years; I’ll be staying tuned.
Posted by L. Lathrop for Jim Burns
Like the gorgeous Lift Bridge photo above, used by permission from Mark Goodman Photography? Don't forget to check out this great local artist's other work at his website.