Why the Homestead at Anoka almost didn’t happen

This is the first in a two-part series.

When Good Samaritan won the right to build a new nursing home under a state legislative waiver of a statewide moratorium in the spring of 2,000 people excitedly anticipated immediate construction of a new facility. But it didn’t happen. Why?

Bob Kirchner

Bob Kirchner

Here begins a tale of a persistent vision dogged by obstacles, and more obstacles and more obstacles.

We pick up the story of the search for a new site for the Anoka Good Samaritan Care Center in April of 2000. Even as legislation was pending, Good Samaritan began searching for a new site in or near Anoka.

On April 6 Good Sam planners met with Anoka city staff to search for a new site. The project would include a new nursing home and assisted and senior housing requiring 10-15 acres of land. Several locations were initially discussed.

On May 23 Anoka city staff and a real estate agent working for Good Sam evaluated numerous possible sites.

On June 26 Good Sam Administrator David Hjortland reported the situation to the city of Anoka HRA, which responded favorably and directed city staff to keep looking for a site.

On July 21 Good Sam planners laid out their situation to city staff in detail. They proposed a project consisting of a 70- to 90-bed nursing home along with 30 to 40 units of assisted living and 60 units of independent living on a 10- to 15-acre site requiring a $3 million fund-raising effort.

At this time, Good Sam served 90 residents, employed 125 people with an annual budget of $4.4 million, but had lost $900,000 during the last three years. It had to do something.

At this meeting, Good Sam reported it was looking at sites in adjacent cities and the site search broadened to include publicly owned land in Anoka.

New site options included state-owned land south of the high school (which would come with bureaucratic obstacles); city-owned land north of Bunker Lake Boulevard (which would come with political obstacles) and the Allina property by Mercy Hospital (which turned out to be unavailable).

On July 24 the Anoka City Council considered the situation and directed staff to keep looking for a site within the city.

On Aug. 7 Good Sam and the city discussed sites on school district and state property on Seventh Avenue North and on the former Target site in Coon Rapids.

Ten days later Good Sam met with school district officials. Its proposal was for a new facility in front of the high school with a transfer of state land south of the high school to the school district as replacement. After some deliberations, the school district declined the proposal.

Good Sam then approached the city of Coon Rapids about the former Target site. The Coon Rapids Planning Commission responded favorably to its concept, although cost and land use covenants loomed as obstacles.

But on Sept. 5 the Coon Rapids City Council voted 6-1 in favor of another developer for this location so it was eliminated.

On Sept. 21, Good Sam planners met again with Anoka staff to review concepts for a new facility on state land in the vicinity of the newly constructed Anoka-Metro Regional Treatment Center. Subsequently, Good Sam met with state officials, presented the concept, but received a “not interested” response.

In mid-December Good Sam planners and city staff analyzed over 20 possible sites, mostly within the city of Anoka and surrounding communities. Most proved too small, unavailable or politically unsupported.

On Dec. 20 Anoka staff met with the Good Samaritan Family Advisory Council and a potential site in Ramsey was identified. The need for major fund-raising loomed large.

But then a telling silence fell over the project. Two months later Good Samaritan announced plans to sell its facility. It gave up on its vision.

So a new actor would come on the scene. What would they do? Would they pursue the vision or take a new direction?

And one other thing changed – an Anoka city election – which would further change the dynamic. How would the new council respond?

We will pick up the story next time.

Bob Kirchner is a local historian, seminary student and city of Anoka’s part-time community development director.

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