Chelsea Woods is a designed community located off the busy intersection of County Road 6 and Vicksburg Lane in Plymouth, Minnesota. More than 45 years after it was designed, the compact multi-family development remains a thriving community.
Situated on 94 acres of dense forests and pristine waterways, Chelsea Woods includes 224 units, 129 of which are attached townhomes and 95 are detached, patio-style homes. All were designed to blend into and take advantage of the surrounding natural setting and provide residents with views of the beautiful environs throughout the year.
When the developer purchased the property in 1971, it was considered an unappealing swamp. Surrounded by farmland, it was previously owned by a concrete company and used as a trash collection site that was polluting the wetlands. The site was also considered undevelopable because of a high water table and it served as the watershed for nearby Gleason Lake.
However, John Cuningham and his partner at the time, Roger Freidberg, saw this challenge as an opportunity.
“Together we made the key decision to make the most that the site lay at the center of that watershed of several hundred acres,” Cuningham said. “Water flowed into and through the site. Working with Barr Engineering we developed a master plan that captured water in lakes and wetlands.”
A hydrologist deepened the original swamps, allowing the homes to be strategically placed around connected community ponds. Today, the six waterways and three walking trails are year-round assets for residents.
“They didn’t bulldoze the trees like they do when they build now,” a long-time resident said. “They actually placed the buildings around the stands of trees. It makes it so there is something individual about each of the homes, which is unheard of in this day of mass production.”
In order to preserve as many trees as possible, Chelsea Woods single family homes were placed four units per acre. The townhomes are intentionally staggered and placed around private lanes and cul-de-sacs, providing residents with privacy, while still allowing views and access to the picturesque environs.
“When you are inside your home, it is so private,” a resident said. “You are never able to see any of the neighboring homes from inside. It’s like you are up north.”
A Tight Community
Perhaps one of the most impressive things about Chelsea Woods is how the community has maintained the same, intimate feel for 45 years.
“Plymouth is now fully developed with shopping centers, large residential developments and wide cul-de-sacs,” Cuningham said. “But when you drive into Chelsea Woods, the outside world goes away.”
Pathed walkways connect residents to shared outdoor spaces and amenities, including swimming pools and tennis courts, that are paid for with low association fees. “People use the trails every day,” a resident said. “You don’t have to walk on the street to get to the mailbox, you get to walk through the trails.”
Because the homes and streets were designed to preserve as many trees as possible, there is no through traffic, allowing pedestrians and children to safely walk and play on quiet curving lanes and cul-de-sacs.
“This community is for everyone. We have retired neighbors and young families,” a resident said. “There is something for everyone.”