For three and a half decades, horses roamed some 40 acres in Eagan, known as the Diamond T Ranch. They eked out paths in dark, muddy rings, took shade on warm days beneath the eaves of a large corral. But the ranch's owners sold the land last fall, and the landscape is likely to be transformed.
Toll Brothers, a national development group, plans to build luxury homes--120 housing units at the former ranch location on Pilot Knob Road. John Jakominich, a spokesman for Toll Brothers, said the development would likely include approximately 75 luxury townhouses starting at around $300,000 and 45 single-family homes at around $500,000. Jakominich said Toll Brothers plans to submit a proposal to the City Council in March. He said the company has had conversations with some of Eagan's planners.
"Toll Brothers believes that Eagan is the ideal location for us to move forward and get started in Minneapolis," Jakominich said. Jack Conrad, a member of the conservation group Friends of the Eagan Core Greenway, which aims to preserve Eagan's greenspace, said "Toll Brothers isn't coming to Eagan because of any local housing needs; they are coming here simply to add one more state to their expanding coverage in the luxury home market."
Conrad, who said he was speaking for himself and not for the Friends of the Greenway group, said the proposal would represent a drastic change in the rustic character of the area. But perhaps more importantly, he added, it won't to meet the city's affordable housing needs. "Toll Brothers' consumption of the Diamond T Ranch for executive homes represents a lose-lose situation for our community," Conrad said. "We lose 40 acres of prized open space on the edge of Lebanon Hills Park; we gain upscale housing that will benefit few if any of the city's current residents or employees."
Elaine Eyre, a 13-year resident of Eagan and a member of the Metropolitan Interfaith Council on Affordable Housing board, said she would like to see more affordable housing units in Eagan, but that she never thought of the site of the former ranch as a likely location for low-cost housing. "There are areas of Eagan that should be considered" for affordable housing projects, nearer to transit and shopping hubs, if possible, she said. A recent Dakota County Community Development Agency study found Eagan to be the top Dakota County city in need of workforce housing. According to the study, Eagan will be providing 52,000 jobs and will add 4,200 households by 2020. Two thousand of those homes should be workforce rental housing, the study found.