No Shortage of Development in the Halloween Capital

During the recession, the City of Anoka bought up properties, prepared the land, and quietly waited for the market to come back. Fast forward to 2017, and Anoka is booming. The City has many features that make it a development destination. Residents are served by the Northstar Commuter rail line and Highway 10 provides east to west connections. The historic downtown core has dining, shopping, and business amenities. There are plenty of recreational opportunities in the Anoka Nature Preserve, along the Rum River and Mississippi River or in the city parks.

Photo Apr 17, 8 15 18 PM

View of the Main Street bridge in Anoka

As a result of these features, among many other factors, developers are looking to Anoka to build housing and new businesses. This summer the town will see the construction of a wellness center, four separate townhome developments, a 44-unit senior coop housing project, and a new warehouse building in the Anoka Enterprise Park. The City was responsible for selling the land to enable these projects to occur. Two of the developments are made possible by platting unused portions of the city-owned Green Haven Golf Course.

Already underway is the expansion of the Vista Outdoors warehouse on Thurston Avenue and Highway 10. Another notable project completed in March of this year was the conversion of a vacant Kmart building on Highway 10 to the new Eagle Brook church. The project included infiltration basins in the parking lot islands and the addition of trees and extensive landscaping.

Future Eastview Meadows Townhomes on 11th Avenue

In addition to all the private development occurring within Anoka, the City is investing in its infrastructure. Two neighborhoods will receive street renewal projects and one intersection will be testing out a rare traffic installation: a mini-roundabout. It will be installed on 5th Avenue at the five way intersection that currently struggles to function properly. Only five mini-roundabouts have been installed in the state of Minnesota (Elk River, Shakopee, Savage, St. James, and Winona). The mini-roundabout features a smaller diameter than a standard roundabout to fit better into existing roadway widths. The design allows large trucks to traverse over the island to complete their turns, but maintains the continuous circular flow of traffic.

Shakopee Mini Roundabout

One of five mini-roundabouts in Minnesota

Another major project in the design phase is a reconstruction of Highway 10 through the city. Numerous traffic accidents, many resulting in fatalities, have necessitated the construction of overpasses at Thurston Avenue and Fairoak Avenue. The future overpasses will reconnect the neighborhoods currently cut off from each other north and south of the highway. The project includes the construction of Green Haven Parkway, a new road connecting to Thurston Avenue that will wrap around the north side of Vista Outdoors and through the Highland Park neighborhood. Phase I of the road is set to start construction this summer. One of the townhome developments likely to break ground this year is located along the proposed Green Haven Parkway with lots adjacent to Green Haven Golf Course. The entire road project will cost an estimated $78.8 million to complete. This investment is projected to reduce delays by up to 75% and crashes by 67%.

Anoka Solution

Anoka Solution Plan for Highway 10 upgrades

  1. Anoka is just one of many thriving cities in the metro area. Builders planning projects in the city are also working in White Bear Lake, Ramsey, Coon Rapids, and other suburbs. With the steady rise in city populations projected to continue, its imperative to plan for and design good projects. Anoka started back in 2007 when all they could do was plan and now they are reaping the benefits. They proposed townhome projects on underutilized sections of Green Haven Golf Course in the Greens of Anoka Master Plan and now are seeing them come to fruition. The development boom is great for cities, but planning for the impact is key.

About Stephanie Rouse

Stephanie Rouse, AICP, is a planner for the City of Minneapolis and the metro area director of APA's Minnesota Chapter. She is interested in preservation and water management.

6 thoughts on “No Shortage of Development in the Halloween Capital

  1. Joe ScottJoe

    Lots of problems here, but one thing I never thought I’d see on is someone uncritically reporting that a new road is projected to decrease delays by 75%.

    Whats with the boostery tone of this article? Is this a chamber of commerce press release?

    Is this golf course on a flood plain? Are new municipal sewer hookups going to be subsidized by the met council at the expense of productive tax base with 80 year old sewer mains? Based on the rendering, I doubt the expense of new sewers could be recouped from that development density before it needs replacing. Especially if low elevation requires pumping.

    1. Joseph TottenJoseph Totten

      I think this is actually a great post.

      The planning work that went into Anoka during the recession is allowing for a more urban design, and more homes than a lot of suburban developments.

      As for decreasing delays, this isn’t a roadway expansion is it? Decreasing delays and increasing safety is not a bad thing, and this is not the central city. The trips made are longer and the needs are different. Furthermore, having US 10 be at grade is worse for connectivity than simply admitting it would work better as a freeway and adding bridges without the existing supremely wide and dangerous intersections. So the project will lead to better connecting neighborhoods and Anoka as a whole, the question to urbanists should only be one of financial costs, and how this would affect other communities (I doubt much).

      1. Stephanie Rouse

        Yes I understand that highway construction projects are not desirable if they further divide communities, increase vehicular miles traveled and negatively impact residential neighborhoods. The Anoka Solutions plan does not increase road right of way but focuses on grade separated intersections which reconnect Anoka and eliminate the safety risks of traveling from one side of the highway to another. Too many pedestrian fatalities have occurred at these intersections not to consider this project necessary.

  2. Joe ScottJoe

    “The project includes the construction of Green Haven Parkway, a new road connecting to Thurston Avenue that will wrap around the north side of Vista Outdoors and through the Highland Park neighborhood…The entire road project will cost an estimated $78.8 million to complete. This investment is projected to reduce delays by up to 75% and crashes by 67%.”

    I’m confused.

    1. Stephanie Rouse

      I should clarify the design of the new parkway is replacing portions of existing city streets that currently lack sidewalks or bike infrastructure. The parkway will include a 12 foot wide paved trail that will make the pedestrian and bicycle experience safer and more enjoyable.

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