Past obstacles to the Homestead at Anoka project

When the Volunteers of America (VOA) purchased the Anoka Good Samaritan Care Center in August 2001, it also obtained the right to build a new facility under the state-waived construction moratorium.

Bob Kirchner

Bob Kirchner

But what would it do?

Nearly a year passed.

Then, in July of 2002, VOA announced plans to construct a 120-bed skilled nursing facility with assisted living apartments on a 15-acre site.

Several more months passed.

Then, in November, VOA and Anoka city staff evaluated several sites but all were too small.

One month later VOA proposed splitting the project between a 60-bed facility near Epiphany in Coon Rapids and another 60-bed facility in Anoka. Other sites north and south of Anoka downtown were identified.

In January 2003 the Anoka City Council expressed opposition to the south site but left the north site in play subject to a developer selection process. The process dragged on.

VOA still preferred the south site at First Avenue and Madison Street near Riverway Clinic.

In mid-2003, with no progress in Anoka, VOA refocused on sites in Coon Rapids.

Months passed.

Then, on Feb. 23, 2004, VOA sent a letter to the city to reconsider the south site. It proposed a 60-unit nursing facility with senior apartments and underground parking.

But the city showed no interest.

Meanwhile, in early 2004, an 80-acre tract of state land just south of Anoka High School became available. VOA focused on this land, known as Tract B, as other developers converged.  VOA proposed a 15-acre senior care community including a 120-bed skilled nursing facility with senior twin homes, villas, brownstones and apartments.

But the city showed no interest.

In frustration, on Sept. 7, 2004, VOA requested a meeting with the Anoka City Council to discuss its serious situation. It pleaded, “This process has been drawn out with ample road blocks including, we believe, some opposition from council members.”

But, in December 2004, the city placed a 12-month development moratorium on Tract B subject to a comprehensive plan updateThat process dragged on.

Ultimately, the state struck a deal with Ryland homes for a single-family development on Tract B which the city later approved. VOA lost out.

In October 2005 VOA refocused on the 1st and Madison location again and proposed a joint venture with Riverway Clinic. The VOA plan was a five-seven story building including nursing, assisted and independent living with parking below and a “town center” connection to the clinic.

It requested a letter of support from the Anoka City Council and Housing and Redevelopment Authority (HRA) for this proposal. Neither responded.

But on Dec. 12, 2005 the Anoka Council put a 12-month development moratorium on this area.

VOA persisted. It completed a market study proving demand for the project.

But on April 10, 2006 Riverway Clinic said it had no desire to move, expand or connect with the VOA.

Then VOA revised its plan to a three-story building of 120 skilled nursing units and underground parking without a Riverway connectionBut on April 4 the HRA indicated opposition to that proposal too.

Undaunted, on May 18, 2006 VOA requested city council support for the revised plan.

But in a July 2006 meeting, Anoka’s mayor informed VOA of the city’s opposition to this site and proposal.

Silence prevailed. Several months passed.

Then, in November 2006, VOA proposed its project on vacant city land on 11th Avenue near Grant Street. Plans were prepared and soil borings conducted. But the borings indicated shallow groundwater. Another site was eliminated.

In February 2007 VOA proposed to purchase all or part of 45 acres of city-owned land on Seventh Avenue North near the Anoka County Library. The city declined.

Finally, in mid 2007, the city was notified that “VOA has reached a point of frustration and may build two small facilities in Coon Rapids.” Then silence. Five months passed.

In November 2007, VOA reported that it were looking at a site by Mercy Hospital along with possible rehabilitation of its existing facility.

Six months passed, then a year, with no discussions. The idea of a new senior care center in Anoka looked dead.

But then something happened to change the dynamic. We will consider the rest of 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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