Iteri Avenue’s unusual features make it ripe for new builds

The curious have begun to appear, sometimes by the carful.

Drivers creep their way down a two-block stretch of Iteri Avenue in Lakeville, craning their necks to get a good view of the million-dollar-plus homes that have been built — and continue to be built — in a once rural enclave near the heart of the city.

The white modern farm house just built on a nearly half-acre lot around the corner on 194th Street? It is on the market for $1.375 million. A similar-sized home across the street, built on a .6-acre lot after the original home was torn down, recently welcomed its new owners. It is currently being featured in Traditional Home magazine.

Two other homes on side-by-side 2.6-acre lots, measure 7,716 and 6,788 square feet, respectively. The real show stopper (and car stopper) is the 18,000 square foot home currently under construction on a nearly three-acre corner lot. With the framing just about completed, seeing is believing.

The draw? Lot sizes that range from .4 to 3.34 acres, relatively unheard of in the metro area for an area well within the city limits. Kenwood Trail Middle School is a block to the west, Lakeville North High School two blocks to the east. Access to Interstate 35W is five minutes away via County Road 50.

A visit to the neighborhood on any day is sure to find a whirlwind of activity, be it framing, clearing trees, sodding new yards or paving driveways. As the lots continue to be subdivided and original homes are torn down (and, in one instance, hauled away) and replaced by winning the lottery-type homes, Iteri Avenue and the adjacent streets in the area known as Appaloosa Farm could soon become the most prestigious neighborhood in Lakeville that isn’t perched above a lakeshore.

There currently are 42 lots in the neighborhood, including 16 that feature modest homes built in the 1970s and ’80s. Many of those homes are on lots large enough to subdivide; all of them appear destined to be replaced within the next few years if owners are willing to let go.

Dave Zweber’s Lakeville-based company, David Charlez Designs, is the architect for four of the new houses along Iteri Avenue, including the largest one. He said the combination of large lots and close proximity to schools and amenities make it a very desirable area.

“Tear downs in Lakeville are pretty uncommon,” Zweber said. “Edina, Minneapolis and the first-ring suburbs are the first areas that I am aware of that are doing it. People (looking in Lakeville) are willing to tear down old structures because land values are still relatively reasonable.”

A .6-acre lot in the neighborhood is currently on the market for $220,000, so the emphasis is on “relatively.”

As Zweber pointed out, there is plenty of available land west and south of Lakeville to build on, but not everyone wants to move that far out.

“There are still a lot of people who want their kids to attend Lakeville North,” he said, “and this is the only area I am aware of in the Lakeville North area where you have larger lot sizes.”

One couple, who requested that they not be named, recently moved into one of established homes (a modest 1,800 square feet) situated on just over a half acre. They came home following the closing to find that the home next door had been torn down. That was the first they knew of any such activity taking place in the neighborhood.

“It probably wouldn’t have stopped us from buying here,” one of them said, “but it would have been nice to have known about it. I guess there are enough (established) homes still here that it doesn’t make our house look silly.”

The area was first incorporated into the city in 1969, and a year later subplots between 1.5 and 3 acres were created. The houses relied on well water, there were no curbs or sidewalks and no paved roads. It was just the way the residents wanted it to be.

Bob and Marge Lane married in 1988 and moved into the house on approximately four acres that Marge had been living in since 1981.

“Most of the properties were hobby farms,” Bob Lane said. “Marge had horses; the neighbor across the street had horses. There weren’t too many homes. They were all (around) 2.5 acre lots. There was a farm on 192nd Street. So it was a little more country.”

The horse population eventually was reduced to zero, but little else changed until 2002, when Blaine Eggum and his family bought just under 3 acres and built a four-bedroom home. The Eggums liked the idea of owning a larger piece of property while still being “close to the action.”

Blaine Eggum considered the area to be a hidden gem.

The next milestone in the area’s transformation came in 2005, when the streets were paved. The neighborhood became connected to city sewer the following year, and with that, lot sizes were allowed to be as small as .35 acres. Thus, the chance to subdivide had arrived.

The first area of development took place along Iteri Lane, where homes were built that were comparable to those in the adjacent subdivision, Paradise Hills. The first sign of things to come came in 2011 when a 7,500-square-foot house with a stone exterior was built to finish off the north side of the short street.

Four years ago, Bob and Marge Lane decided to turn their property into four lots, and with the help of their neighbor, Blaine Eggum, sold three lots at approximately half an acre each. One of those to buy was Kevin Kyro — a friend of Eggum’s who also liked the idea of building on a larger lot.

The Kyros had lived in Eagan in an area that Kevin said had a rural feel to it. “Areas like this (within established areas) are so hard to find now,” he said.

When he built his home he said he was afraid he had committed the classic mistake in real estate: building the most expensive house on the block. He was prepared to live with the consequences, but before long he knew that would not be the case.

A job change recently saw Kyro and family move to the Dallas area, and they reluctantly said goodbye to a house and a neighborhood they loved.

“All the research we did for selling a house at this price point said it would take about 200 days,” Kyro said. “We got three offers in four days.”

And when they received full asking price, the Kyro’s former home became a member of Iteri Avenue’s million-dollar club.

Lane had first considered selling all of his property about 10 years ago he learned that some of his neighbors were concerned that they wouldn’t be able to subdivide their property due to lack of access to roads. So Lane decided to put together a plan to get everyone together and offer the 15 acres bordered by County Road 50 to the west, 192nd Street to the north, Iteri Avenue to the east and 194th Street to the south to a builder. The builder, in turn, could add roads when he divided the property.

But when the market took a major dip he abandoned the idea. By waiting until 1995 to subdivide his property, Lane said he was able to get a price comparable to the one he would have gotten before the market crashed.

A year ago, the 80-year-old Lane heeded his wife’s wishes to move into a townhouse. He said he had an offer from SD Custom Homes, who purchased five other lots in the neighborhood but elected instead to sell to Blaine Eggum’s sister, who is committed to keeping the house from being torn down for a least a few more years.

But there is sure to be a few knocks on the door.

“The price is only going to go up,” Lane said, “as the available lots begin to disappear.”

Dean Spiros can be reached at lakeville.thisweek@ecm-inc.com.

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