The report was unanimous: Things are on a major upswing for cities in the north metro.
Member cities of the Anoka Area Chamber of Commerce gave updates at the annual “state of the cities” luncheon hosted at Bunker Hills Feb. 14.
It is an annual tradition for representatives from Coon Rapids, Andover, Anoka, Ramsey, Champlin, Dayton, St. Francis, Oak Grove and Nowthen to share their successes over the past year.
“This our chance to hear what has, is and will be happening,” said Chamber President Pete Turok.
There was no shortage of triumph or progress to report.
For cities focused on growth, many are seeing gains in both housing and commercial or retail development.
Jerry Koch, mayor of host city Coon Rapids, highlighted forthcoming development around the Northstar Commuter Rail station, along with $110 million investment by Allina on the Mercy and Unity campuses of Mercy Hospital.
Coon Rapids’ largest private employer, RMS, went through a major expansion in 2016 adding 60,000 square feet to its facility, along with 100 jobs.
This spring will be the much-anticipated grand opening of Sand Creek Park on the Friday of Memorial Day weekend and the city’s first splash pad, to be located at Boulevard Park, will be under construction.
Coon Rapids continues to make gains on improvements to the city’s parks after the passage of a $17 million bond referendum.
In 2016, Ramsey welcomed seven new businesses and saw the expansion of five existing businesses.
This was accompanied by 86 new housing starts, according to Ramsey Mayor Sarah Strommen.
“There’s no doubt 2016 was a successful year for Ramsey,” she said.
Andover continues to see residential growth, attracting young families to the community, said Mayor Julie Trude.
She said residents continue to ask when the city will get more restaurants.
“For a city of 33,000, there are not very many restaurants in Andover,” she said.
In Dayton, housing continues to dominate development.
In 2016, the city issued 122 building permits for single family houses, the most permits in a single year in Dayton’s history, according to City Administrator Tina Goodroad.
There are currently six active new residential developments taking shape in Dayton.
The next big decision for the community will be whether or not to invest in a well and water tower in southern Dayton, which is served by Maple Grove.
Making infrastructure upgrades to keep pace with changing communities continues to be a challenge.
For cities like Anoka and Ramsey, lobbying efforts continue as local governments try to secure money for Highway 10 upgrades.
On the south side of the Mississippi River in 2018, Highway 169 between Hayden Lake Road and the Anoka-Champlin bridge will be upgraded and realigned.
The highway will be reduced to one lane in each direction for a full year while work is completed.
And in Dayton, the push and acquisition of funding continues for an interchange at Brockton Avenue, a necessary step before a new river crossing can be pursued, Goodroad said.
New Champlin Mayor Ryan Karasek also highlighted the changing face of the Champlin City Council. He went from being the youngest member on the council to one of the oldest in just a few years.
Newcomers to the council also include Jessica Tesdall, in Ward 1, who was appointed to serve out Karasek’s term when he was elected mayor; Ryan Sabas in Ward 4; and Nate Truesdell in Ward 3. The city will also soon appoint someone to fill the seat vacated by Ward 2 Council Member Eric Johnson, who after 10 years resigned due to a relocation.
Karasek likened the new council to “lightning in a bottle.”
In St. Francis, focus continues on the Bridge Street corridor of the city, where new roundabouts have been installed.
With 10,000 cars through that corridor a day, City Administrator Joe Kohlmann said improvements have made the area more walkable and improved traffic congestion around the high school.
St. Francis continues to look at options for trying to lower utility rates and increase commercial and retail development.
As Anoka City Manager Greg Lee talked about improvements coming along the Rum River, building demolition was underway on a group of Ferry Street properties to make way for a new river walk planned by the city. He said the linear park will create a much different feel at the city’s southern gateway.
2016 was a busy year for special events in Anoka. Along with traditional celebrations like Anoka Halloween, community tree lighting and Riverfest, the city also hosted the first issue of a series of Halloween-themed postage stamps, attracting visitors from across the U.S.
Transportation continues to be a top priority for Anoka as planning moves ahead on an overpass to separate vehicle and train traffic at the Highway 47 crossing.
In Oak Grove, local leaders have continued to work to preserve the rural lifestyle favored by its residents.
Mayor Mark Korin said the city’s “claim to fame” includes major restructuring that led to a 34 percent reduction in spending.
“We run the city as if it’s a private sector business,” he said.