Kingfield extends an affordable, green welcome

Late last month, a new homeowner and new rain gardens marked the completion of an affordable green home in Kingfield.

Members of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association and neighbors gathered at the redeveloped 4307 Wentworth Ave. home on June 21–23 to reshape the soil for the installation and planting of the gardens.

“I just think it’s amazing,” new homeowner Jody King said of the community gathering. “I feel really fortunate to be in the neighborhood.”

After the house was foreclosed, Hennepin County acquired the property in 2007. The county then partnered with the City of Lakes Community Land Trust, a South Minneapolis organization that builds affordable housing, to demolish and rebuild the home.

Hennepin County also partnered with the Kingfield Neighborhood Association for their help.

Sarah Linnes-Robinson, executive director of the Kingfield Neighborhood Association, said her goal was to maintain a variety of affordable housing options in the neighborhood and build environmentally friendly homes.

She said they have worked with several affordable housing programs — including Public Housing, Habitat for Humanity and now the Land Trust — in recent years to increase the number of affordable homes in the neighborhood.

The neighborhood association’s Green Committee met with Hennepin County’s project manager, Harold Troup, several times to brainstorm green features for the home, including rain gardens. Architects and builders on the Green Committee reviewed the county’s plans and designs, acting as a sounding board.

Those ideas have become a reality. Once a 100-year-old home with one bedroom and one bathroom, the house was rebuilt as an environmentally friendly, three-bedroom affordable home, including all energy-efficient appliances, recycled-pop-bottle carpeting and a geothermal furnace. And the house is even painted green to symbolize its energy efficiency.

Troup said the house is not an Energy Star–certified green home because they did not purchase the certificate, but it meets the conditions to qualify.

Now, after the Land Trust marketed and showed the house at numerous open houses, a purchase agreement is in place with King with a closing date of July 15. As part of its affordable housing mission, the Land Trust sells homes only to households with income levels at or below 80 percent of the metropolitan median income.

Land Trust will buy the title to the land from Hennepin County for $202,000, then, with the help of $60,000 in state and county affordable housing assistance, King will pay $142,000 for the structure.

City of Lakes Community Land Trust executive director Jeff Washburne said energy efficiency is important because, while the Land Trust can help make the home affordable, it can’t control the gas or electric bill.

“We’re wholeheartedly supportive of anything that is potentially going to drop the operating cost of a home,” he said.

To celebrate the project’s completion and welcome a new homeowner to the neighborhood, the Kingfield Neighborhood Association partnered with workers from local landscape company EnergyScapes, who donated their time to develop a site plan and oversee the installation of the rain gardens, which will capture runoff from all surfaces of the home.

“Every drop of water that hits this site — the roof, the garage — it’s all going to get directed into places where it can soak in instead of running off,” EnergyScapes chief ecological officer Douglas Owens-Pike said.

On June 21 and 22, Owens-Pike showed volunteers from the neighborhood and the Kingfield Neighborhood Association’s Green Committee how to move soil, reshape elevations and dig basins for the rain gardens to prepare the site for planting.

“It doesn’t require an engineer and fancy rental equipment,” he said.

Kingfield residents Martha Kennedy and Michael Petri came by to learn how to install rain gardens and helped with moving and shaping soil.

“This community has never had a problem coming together,” Kennedy said.

Washburne said he feels that this home is part of the community because of the amount of effort put forth in rebuilding and completing it.

“The neighborhood invested a lot of time and energy and resources into this home, and I think they view it as a community asset, as we do as well,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of opportunity for pride in saying, look, we contributed to this.”

On the evening of June 23, volunteers planted 200 specially selected plants. Owens-Pike said rain gardens are environmentally friendly because they use plants that are durable and not invasive into the wild.

The community gathering was a fun way to bring the project to a close, Kingfield Neighborhood Association’s Linnes-Robinson said.

“It’s sort of a modern-day barn raising for us. It’s a great way to welcome a new person to the neighborhood, a great way to support affordable housing, a great way to educate people about green initiatives,” she said. “We’ve been working on it from a redevelopment angle, but this outdoor project is more of a community celebration — the last hurrah.”