Podcast: Housing and Redevelopment’s Michele Merxbauer

City of Northfield’s Housing and Redevelopment Division staff person Michele “Mitch” Merxbauer was our guest this week. Northfield was just selected, out of communities all around the state, for funding by the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund (GMHF) and the Blue Cross Blue Shield Foundation. Michele is staff liaison to the Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA).

Eric MerxbauerMichele MerxbauerTracy was AWOL and I was napping so Ross carried the load all by hisself. To complete the meltdown, KYMN goofed and didn’t air the show at 5:30 pm. Fines and suspensions will be announced next week.

Since I wasn’t there, we don’t have a photo of Michele. Here’s the best we can do: a Harley motorcycle shop foreman. What’s the connection? Listen to the show to find out.

(Update 4:45 PM: I stopped by Michele’s office at City Hall this aft. for a photo. Click thumbnail to enlarge.)

The HRA is securing 14 acres at reduced prices to create approximately 60 units of ownership housing, targeted as starter homes, workforce housing and down-sized homes for empty-nesters.  See the Dec. 19 Northfield News article titled HRA may purchase 14 acres for more background info.

In last week’s Weekly Memo, City Administrator Al Roder wrote:

Staff met with John Harrington from Greater MN Housing Fund this week and also Janet Mutch from Growing Up Healthy, Rice County. These two organizations, as well as Blue Cross Blue Shield, are involved in the new housing development that the HRA is planning with Three Rivers for the Southbridge site. The focus on this neighborhood will be emphasizing healthy communities by utilizing not only “green” building techniques, but also promoting a healthy neighborhood by incorporating a walkable neighborhood that connects to the greater community.

There will be a Community Input session on Tuesday, March 4, from 6-8 in Council Chambers. Staff will be on hand to greater explain the collaborating partners, ideas for the neighborhood, and receive input from the Community as to what they would like to see incorporated into the neighborhood.

Click play to listen. 30 minutes.

Our radio show/podcast, Locally Grown, usually airs Wednesdays at 5:30 PM on KYMN 1080 AM. You can also subscribe to the podcast feed, or subscribe with iTunes. We seek your comments and suggestions.


  1. Where is the Southbridge site? Can someone give me the exact location? Neighborhoods and areas seem to get named and then referred to with the assumption that everyone will know where they are, but I can’t find any specific information on the city site, Three River’s site or here. I have a general sense where it is, but would like to know more precisely.

    That’s just me.

    February 28, 2008
  2. Great podcast, Ross. I had a chance to talk with Mitch Merxbauer this morning, and blogged about the project as well.

    Brendon, I like to know where stuff is, too. The site is an irregularly shaped piece of land roughly midway between Maple Street and Highway 246, just southeast of the Spring Creek Soccer Complex. I have an image of the site in my blog (http://www.sustainablecommunitysolutions.com/index.php/2008/02/28/green-workforce-housing-coming-to-northfield/).

    February 28, 2008
  3. Bruce,

    “Just southeast of the Spring Creek Soccer Complex” is Maple Street. How could the site be “roughly midway between Maple Street and Highway 246”?

    I couldn’t read any street names and there was no directional compass on the map on your blog. So, I remain, confused.

    February 28, 2008
  4. The site that is being discussed is just southwest of the soccer complex, west of Maple Street and east of 246. Southbridge Drive will continue into the development, and Ford Street will be south of our development line.

    At the Community Input Meeting on Tuesday, I will provide maps that show the area more clearly.

    Thank you, Brendon, for pointing out that sometimes we tend to carried away in names, not necessarily location specifics. I hope this helps.

    February 28, 2008
  5. Thanks, Michele, southwest of the soccer fields, Southbridge and Ford. I get the boundaries now.

    I would suggest calling it a “neighborhood” rather than a “development”; because words matter, and it might be nice to frame it that way.

    I’m excited to see this come together. Thanks for the good work you do for Northfield.

    February 28, 2008
  6. Thanks for the clarification, Michele. My directional dyslexia sometimes rears its ugly head!

    I’ve updated the map with Maple Street, Highway 246 and Ford Streets labeled.

    February 28, 2008
  7. Griff Wigley said:

    I stopped by Michele’s office at City Hall this aft. for a photo and have edited the blog post to include it. Now it’s time for my nap.

    February 28, 2008
  8. Griff Wigley said:

    In today’s Nfld News: Open house Tuesday on mixed-income neighborhood.

    A community input meeting is from 6 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall. The evening begins with a presentation by the city’s housing manager, Michele Merxbauer. Merxbauer expects to provide an overview of the Housing & Redevelopment Authority’s 14.2-acre project which is planned as a walkable community with homes featuring front porches and side-loading garages.

    March 1, 2008
  9. Griff Wigley said:

    Since last week’s show with Michele didn’t air on KYMN, it’ll run today in the regular 5:30 PM timeslot.

    IMG_1476 IMG_1473
    Last night’s Housing and Redevelopment public meeting on the new Southbridge development was well-attended. I missed most of it but took a few photos.

    Michelle, can you give us a brief summary? And can I get photos or PDFs of the various charts you displayed?

    March 5, 2008
  10. Griff Wigley said:

    Here’s a Flashplayer view of the types of homes that’ll be built. According to Michele, “these are actual homes that have been built in Pine Island and Cambridge.”

    March 5, 2008
  11. Jerry Bilek said:

    Thanks for posting the photos Griff. These are the style and type of homes recommended in the book Suburban Nation. Porches and sidewalks actually help build strong neighborhoods. Notice how far forward the house is set on the lot.

    It’s also the type of house Northfield Construction built for my family in 2004.

    March 5, 2008
  12. Anne Bretts said:

    The houses look a lot like the ones already in the neighborhood, right along Jefferson Parkway. They’ll be a nice addition to the diversity we have out here.

    March 5, 2008
  13. Jane McWilliams said:

    I hadn’t heard the podcast, so I learned a lot at the HRA open house last night. I was impressed not only by the goal of affordability, but of energy conservation as well as the collaboration of funders and organizations to achieve these two goals. The presenters, Michelle, Jenny Larson of Three Rivers, and John Harrington of the Greater Minnesota Housing Fund, sought public comments. Several public members were concerned about adding more housing stock, given the current market. One person suggested that it would be better to scatter affordable housing, rather than creating affordable neighborhoods. I suggested they consider one or two rentals as there seems to be a serious shortage of that kind of housing in Northfield.

    The presenters said this could be a unique project – putting us on the map nationally. So – in spite of the problems at the council level, good things are happening in the city!

    March 5, 2008
  14. Bill Ostrem said:

    Congratulations to those who have worked on this project. I listened to the podcast and was impressed that Blue Cross chose the project over others around the state and also that it will possibly be featured in a PBS TV show.

    I hope that there can eventually be improved access for kids in this neighborhood to walk and bike to the the schools on the other side of 246. Right now everyone east of 246 is bused for safety reasons.

    March 6, 2008

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