By Liz Collin

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It’s a place millennials are planting their roots with growing household incomes and families.

WCCO went in search of the Twin Cities fastest-growing zip codes, and found a thriving secret to the west outpacing the rest.

Six years ago, the Nielsen family was in search of a bigger house before welcoming two more kids to their crew.

“There was just this instant serenity in the area. The land, the openness, the fresh air that you get,” Nikki Nielsen said.

But, even pronouncing that place proved to be a challenge.

“When we were looking for houses I said to my husband, ‘Colognay? Where even is that?’” Nikki said.

A small city in Carver County, Cologne is 35 miles southwest of Minneapolis. It’s on track to nearly double in size in the next five years.

Herb Tousley, the University of St. Thomas’ director of real estate programs, helped us trace the hottest areas in the Twin Cities.

(credit: CBS)

“Their projection for 2024 they’re going up to 3,000 people,” Tousley said.

Woodbury, Blaine, Maple Grove and the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis all stand out as places people are moving in high numbers.

“The darker the area, the higher population growth,” Tousley said. “We’re seeing some of it spill across the river over into Hudson and River Falls.”

But, nowhere near the 6% growth in Watertown and 7% in Cologne. Tousley says it points to undeveloped land at reasonable prices in the western suburbs and a willingness to still drive.

Cologne Mayor Matt Lein believes those prices, along with expansion plans for Highway 212 from Chaska, are behind the boom.

“It’s very exciting,” Lein said. “You get a lot of first-time families.”

The average house in Cologne lists for $300,000, with an average household income of $100,000 a year.

Cologne’s largest employer might be another reason families are re-locating: A unique kindergarten-through-eighth grade public charter school with a waiting list to get in.

The city’s focus is on fixing roads and expanding new sewer systems to prepare for the influx.

“Very good problems to have,” Lein said.

Back at the Nielsen home, they’re fine sharing the secret.

“Like you’re in your own magical little wonderland,” Nikki said.

They welcoming anyone else ready to make the same move.

Tousley suggests anyone in the market looking to move should research census data like home prices, household income and projected growth as part of your homework.

Liz Collin