Area cities all optimistic about growth in 2013

On the same day President Barack Obama gave the first State of the Union address of his second term, member cities of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce also gave an update on their own slice of America.

Anoka City Councilmember Carl Anderson talks about one of the many businesses that made multi-million dollar investment in the city last year.

Anoka City Councilmember Carl Anderson talks about one of the many businesses that made multi-million dollar investment in the city last year.

The chamber hosts the annual “State of the Cities” luncheon to give its member cities a chance to share with the business community what’s been happening their neighborhoods.

Coon Rapids is the newest city to join the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce, which also represents the cities of Andover, Anoka, Champlin, Dayton, Ramsey, St. Francis and Nowthen. The chamber recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.

Coon Rapids Councilmember Bruce Sanders told guests at the Harvest Grill about the city’s successful Home for Generations project, which is now going into its second phase of encouraging remodeling of the older homes in the community.

And he said according to a recent resident survey, 88 percent of residents said the quality of life in Coon Rapids was good or excellent.

New development along Coon Rapids Boulevard include new buildings for Mercy Hospital as well as the North Suburban Eye Clinic.

Sanders also explained how the city is using technology to do what he calls predictive policing.

By mapping where crime is happening, “we can concentrate on certain areas on certain times of day and certain times of year,” he said. “We know where police should be.”

For neighboring Anoka, Councilmember Carl Anderson talked about the changes the city has seen over the past several decades.

Coon Rapids City Councilmember Bruce Sanders told “State of the Cities” attendees that 88 percent of residents surveyed rate their quality of life as good or excellent.

Coon Rapids City Councilmember Bruce Sanders told “State of the Cities” attendees that 88 percent of residents surveyed rate their quality of life as good or excellent.

“At one time the city of Anoka was the only thing out here,” said Anderson. “We were the urban center. We’re proud of how we’ve grown.”

For Anoka, 2012 was a significant year for both private and public investment in the city. Development includes the new Volunteers of America Homestead at Anoka senior living campus, a new HealthPartners Clinic now under construction along with the expansion of ATK’s sporting division into the Enterprise Park, said Anderson.

The past year also saw the reconstruction of downtown’s East Main Street and the construction of a new Castle Field ballpark.

Anderson said the city’s future priorities include the redevelopment of the South Central Business District as well as developing some vacant land near Bunker Lake Boulevard and Seventh Avenue.

Andover Mayor Mike Gamache outlined a sizable list of small businesses that have set up shop in Andover, which will also be joined by retail giant Walmart in 2014.

But Gamache also spoke of the city’s priority to add things to improve the quality of life in Andover including more open space and a new 40-acre athletic complex. He also highlighted the city’s four-year-old community garden program.

“It’s been a great, great place for people to get together to grow some vegetables,” said Gamache. He encouraged other cities to look into adding a community garden if they don’t have one already.

With 58 plots, “it’s amazing the popularity this program has had in just four years,” Gamache said.

City Adminstrator Kurt Ulrich talks about progress in Ramsey, particularly in housing development.

City Adminstrator Kurt Ulrich talks about progress in Ramsey, particularly in housing development.

In Ramsey, City Administrator Kurt Ulrich said the city has seen an uptick in development activity, with numbers showing it is breaking out of the slump suffered by most cities during the recession.

In 2012 the city issued 3,386 building permits for a value of $47.2 million in projects, according to Ulrich.

“We’re getting back to that pre-2008 growth in Ramsey,” he said.

Development on the horizon includes a new McDonald’s restaurant, the construction of the Northgate Performing Arts Center along with a new townhouse complex and senior assisted living facility.

Last year also marked the opening of Ramsey’s own Northstar Commuter Rail station, which Ulrich said is seeing increases in ridership.

Up in St. Francis, Mayor Jerry Tveit talked about the city’s efforts to streamline services and cut costs.

A new public works building that also houses St. Francis’s fire and police departments was a step in that direction, said Tveit.

St. Francis is also now offering building inspection services to nearby Nowthen. It, along with five other nearby cities, are also investigation the potential of a joint fire service.

“I’m a big advocate of shared services,” said Tveit.

Across the river in Champlin and Dayton, both cities have seen big changes on their city councils, including the election of new mayors.

In Champlin, Mayor ArMand Nelson told chamber members the city is making the most of its riverside location, going ahead with phase one of the Mississippi Crossings project to bring in a mix of new commercial and residential development.

A recent survey also showed Champlin residents support investing in the clean up of the city’s Mill Pond as well as the $3.4 million redesign of the Elm Creek Dam.

Nelson said Champlin is seeking $7 million in aid for improvements to Highway 169, “to find a way to get traffic moving better.”

New Dayton Mayor Tim McNeil said the city is moving toward better long-term budgeting and is looking for ways to deal with long-term debt when the city borrowed $23 million to invest in infrastructure when it anticipated 1,200 new homes would be built in the community. But only 12 came under construction.

But in 2013 the mayor said the city is anticipating a new 200-home development.

“The future in Dayton is starting to look bright again,” said McNeil.

He said the city is also excited about the possibility of an Interstate 94 interchange.

Dayton’s population has remained below 5,000 and has not grown rapidly like its neighbors because of a lack of freeway access, according to McNeil.

Discussions about a possible river crossing in Dayton also continue to take place, McNeil said.

Mandy Moran Froemming is at editor.anokaunion@ecm-inc.com

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