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Hopkins is what America should strive to be

Not only is my neighborhood sensational, there have only been two crime-related police calls in my immediate neighborhood in two decades.

Matthew McNeil

Last weekend I had a recurring conversation. A friend who lives in Minnetonka wanted to console me for my hellscape existence in the town I live in, Hopkins. I said there was no need to throw pity my way, as not only is my town doing great, Hopkins is what America should strive to be.

Most of time when I’m correcting false notions about Hopkins it’s because of a common problem. A person moves from Hopkins to a wealthier neighborhood in one of the surrounding communities (Minnetonka, Edina, Eden Prairie or Wayzata) and to validate their decision, they vilify Hopkins, implying their “escape” from the town was on par with the Millennium Falcon barely getting out of the mouth of that asteroid worm.

It’s fantastic you were able to move to a wealthier neighborhood, but just because you did doesn’t mean the neighborhood you left was bad. I’ve lived in my Hopkins house for almost 20 years. Not only is my neighborhood sensational, there have only been two crime-related police calls in my immediate neighborhood in two decades. TWO!  Not exactly a hellscape.

Part of Hopkins’ problem is it was a less desirable community for many years. The glory days of its agricultural roots were a faint memory by the 1980s, when the town was mostly known for cheap housing, dive bars and hair metal motorcycle gangs. But then Hopkins started to resurrect its reputation, beginning with the opening of the Hopkins Center for the Arts. It embraced a new focus, encouraging a more family-friendly environment. And Hopkins did this while maintaining standards for affordable housing and accessibility. The city’s done a magnificent job.

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Surrounded by wealth

It doesn’t help Hopkins that it is surrounded by some of the wealthiest communities in the state. Any community would seem subpar when compared with the million-dollar McMansions that crop up just across the borders. While the surrounding wealthy communities have changed — moving away from their working-family roots to embrace the trend of buying up smaller houses, tearing them down and then building a 7,000-square-foot monstrosity replacement house to the property lines — Hopkins has maintained most of its 1950s Americana suburban, single-family charm. This is because Hopkins has very strict zoning laws, which prevent a Hopkins McMansion from becoming reality; the house can only be a certain percentage of the property size. This rule has been a godsend for Hopkins, saving it from the wrong kind of development. It’s kept Hopkins unique, and in turn made it more desirable.

Even with preservation rules and affordable housing standards in place, Hopkins is still more upper class than lower class. The average median housing price in Minnesota is $230,000. Hopkins is $252,000.

And Hopkins is about to go through a major renaissance. The Southwest Light Rail Line is starting to be built, and with it comes three stops in Hopkins. The light rail lines on University and Hiawatha have dramatically revitalized those communities, bringing in long overdue development and investment. You should expect the same in Hopkins, as developmental property around the stations will make for a good return on many levels. Already Hopkins has seen the addition of two brand new apartment complexes, and both were almost immediately full. Expect the positive development trend to continue.

Real ethnic diversity

In my mind, what makes Hopkins truly sensational is how really unique it is; real ethnic diversity in a middle-class suburban environment. I graduated Edina in 1986 and that school was almost exclusively white. While Edina was a fantastic school, it did not prepare me for the real world on that level. The streets and schools of Hopkins are a cornucopia of racial diversity. Regardless of the irrational fear of some, this is a representation of the world we’re heading toward. It doesn’t mean there aren’t still issues, but having a more diverse community brings awareness and conversations that help drive Hopkins in the right direction.

This commentary is by no means an effort to bad-mouth the wealthy suburbs of the southwest metro. They’re fantastic and offer a lot to their residents. I don’t have to bad-mouth my neighboring communities to make myself feel better about living in Hopkins. To paraphrase Prince: I like Minnetonka, Edina, Eden Prairie and Wayzata. I just like Hopkins a little bit better.

Matthew McNeil is the host of the Matt McNeil show, weekdays at 3 p.m. on AM950, KTNF.


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