Twin Cities exurban growth stops cold


Was a time when certain folks came to view the endless beige swaths of suburbia as, well, too urban. They packed up their SUVs in places like Eagan and lit out for the territories, from which they commuted back to where they came from for endless hours every day on cheap gas in a booming economy.

But that was before we all got to watch George W. Bush scratch his head in befuddlement as gas hit $4 a gallon, the housing bubble burst, Detroit went bankrupt and the financial sector imploded.

Things are different now, as the Star Tribune reports this morning: Migration to exurbia -- places like Owatonna, Princeton and St. Bonifacious -- is dead, brought to a halt by high gas prices, flacid property values and the rotten economy.

With people abandoning foreclosed and unsellable homes, the two-state ring of exurban counties is hardly growing. For these counties as a group, 2009 marked the first time more people left than moved in.

In the five big suburban counties closest to the center (Dakota, Scott, Carver, Anoka and Washington), new arrivals have slowed to a standstill.

The two big core counties of Hennepin and Ramsey, losing tens of thousands of people a year as recently as five years ago, are on the rebound.

Movement back to the suburbs would be even more pronounced if folks who made the choice to live in the moral equivalent of Neptune could actually sell their homes. But they can't.