Build Me Up: Building a Strong Community with Dwight Picha
When longtime Community Development Director Dwight Picha began his tenure with the City of Woodbury in 1977, its population was just 8,000 people. 43 years later, Woodbury is one of the most populous suburbs in Minnesota with over 74,000 residents.
Recently retired, Dwight oversaw the development of approximately 10 million square feet of commercial real estate. About 90 percent of the homes in Woodbury today were constructed during Dwight’s time with the city. Woodbury also boasts excellent parks and school systems, and some key development projects include the CityPlace shopping center and the HealthEast Sports Center, one of the largest multiuse sports centers in the state.
To discuss the City of Woodbury’s tremendous growth, we sat down with Dwight Picha and Kraus-Anderson Construction Executive Vice President Rich Jacobson, who is a Woodbury resident himself.
Growing the City of Woodbury
Dwight says that the key to Woodbury’s growth and success was establishing a strategic master plan for longterm development. The first plan was established in 1980, with a 20-year lookahead. Over the past 40 years, Woodbury has had a consistent economic development strategy. The first phase was growing the city’s residential base, which was sitting at around 10,000 people. During that time, Interstate 94 was being constructed on the northern border. The city invested in two additional interchanges, which helped create a residential boom in Woodbury, and retail development soon followed.
Part of Woodbury’s strategic plan was only having one residential zoning district. This allowed single-family, townhomes, twin homes, and other types of housing to be constructed without having to go through a re-zoning process. 3M‘s international headquarters, located just a town over in Maplewood, was a huge win for Woodbury. Many 3M workers chose to live in Woodbury, bringing a diverse population that left a positive impact on the community.
Planning for the Future
Kraus-Anderson has been a longtime partner of the City of Woodbury, working closely on several key developments in town. CityPlace, the 100-acre site sitting on I-94 and Radio Drive, was developed with the intention to distinguish Woodbury from the rest of the Twin Cities. A partnership between KA, the City of Woodbury, and Elion, CityPlace has been acclaimed as “The Mall of the Future.” The mixed-use development has a forward-thinking design, with a combination of services like nail salons and fitness studios, office space, healthcare, and no big box retailers. It’s a shopping experience that was built for the internet age, with a proactive approach that models what has made the Woodbury community so successful. Now six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, the city is preparing for another shift as telecommuting becomes the norm. While things have been quiet, Dwight is confident that the City’s longterm planning efforts will help them successfully adapt in the coming years.
While the City has boomed with development in healthcare, retail, and office, Dwight’s start with the Woodbury Parks and Recreation department has shown through with the expansive lakes, trails and outdoor amenities for residents. Dwight has found that when residents move to Woodbury when they’re young, they often stay for the rest of their lives. They may transition from an apartment, to a house, to a senior housing facility, but the carefully planned development of the city allows anyone to thrive within the community. Now retired, Dwight has the opportunity to take a step back and enjoy the community he helped create.
To learn more about the City of Woodbury and Dwight Picha’s city planning process, tune in to the latest episode of the Build Me Up podcast.View Comments