Map Monday: Two Minnesota Cities Are About To Swap Borders

On the week of October 19th, and 20th, the city councils of Hopkins and Saint Louis Park voted to do something exceedingly rare in Minnesota. The two city councils voted to go through with redrawing the city borders, annexing land from the other city. On paper, initially, Hopkins comes out on top gaining about 3 additional acres and about $4.5 M in additional tax base. I posted this map to the forums a few weeks back.

Future Borders of Hopkins and Saint Louis Park

Hopkins-SLP new borders


There are numerous examples of cities annexing land from townships. Rogers has been annexing pieces of Hassan Township, for example. City-City annexations though? In the little research, reading, and listening about this, no one I came across can think of a time this happened last.

So how did this come to pass?

In the late 90s, Japs-Olson was lured to Saint Louis Park from Minneapolis with the prospect of a very large industrial parcel that had sat vacant. Today, Japs-Olson’s needs are outgrowing this space, it needs more. The company bought an industrial property across Meadowbrook Road, once filled by an ApplianceSmart (which relocated to Hopkins), and planned to demolish it for employee parking while building the production facility expansion on the existing employee parking at the west of the main facility.

Japs-Olson area


The company approached Hopkins for permits to build on a small portion of their block that sits in Hopkins city limits and was denied by Hopkins. Hopkins rationale is that the former industrial area within Hopkins has been guided in their comprehensive plan for business park, away from industrial. Allowing Japs-Olson to expand into Hopkins with an industrial use would go against that city’s comprehensive plan to deemphasize industrial use in this corner of the city. Hopkins would have needed to re-zone back industrial. This wasn’t going to happen.

The company then approached Saint Louis Park for help. Turns out Minnesota’s process for cities to change their borders with another city is brief and quick. Simplifying drastically here: Identify the parcels, both cities vote, hand it to a judge, and wait a couple months (more or less).

Saint Louis Park city staff approached Hopkins city staff with the offer of having Hopkins annex industrial properties (which Hopkins would then zone business park) in exchange for Saint Louis Park annexing the property Japs-Olson needed for their expansion. Hopkins was offered land of greater value than Saint Louis Park would acquire from Hopkins because the Japs-Olson expansion is expected to be worth far more once it gets built.

As the city staff of Hopkins stated during the council meeting, it is easy to see this border change as a “win-win-win”.

Side-note for the curious: that odd triangular-crescent wedge parcel was a former rail spur to the old industrial buildings. It has no connection to any street, and the rails were long ago ripped out, so it is considered to have marginal value. It was included in the swap to make any potential future redevelopment more valuable. It also makes the future city boundaries even stranger.


The Japs-Olson proposed production facility expansion

Japs-Olson addition

I think we could even call this a “win-win-win-win”.

The Minnehaha Creek is gaining out of this whole exchange and expansion, too. Japs-Olson needs Minnehaha Creek Watershed District approvals for their expansion. Japs-Olson’s new parking lot is designed with modern stormwater management features, plus the company gave 4 acres to expand the Minnehaha Creek Greenway. What was once mostly impervious surface right up to the edge of a swamp along the east side of the future employee parking (that’s how cities did development in the 1940s and 1950s) will become restored public green space, with a future trail linking the Greenway boardwalks along the creek down to the sidewalk along Excelsior Blvd.

The construction for the new employee parking lot and stormwater management is underway right now.

What’s Next?

The city councils have voted and it has been submitted to a judge. Everyone is waiting.

But the next steps are where the heavy work happens. Comprehensive plans for each city will need updating. Map companies and government agencies will all need to update their maps and GIS shape files. Legal addresses for properties need updating.

Eric Anondson

About Eric Anondson

Born in St. Louis Park and lived there nearly 28 years but has been living in Hopkins since 2008. Eric's hopped around two years or so at a time in Loring Park, Laurel Village, Snellby, Whittier, and Golden Valley. He works in downtown Minneapolis. On Twitter as @xeoth.