A framed drawing hangs on the wall of my living room. It’s a village scene with this caption: “If I can’t walk to get a latte, I’d rather not be there.”
It was a gift from Darci and Todd Juniper of Lakeville. As some of you might recall, they opened a coffee shop in downtown Lakeville that was known as Juniper’s Coffee Café. After a few years operating that business, they sold it to Tracy Hummelgard,who changed the name to Mainstreet Coffee Café.
I not only like coffee, but I like walking to a coffee shop from where I live and walking to restaurants and shops. That’s why when Ann and I moved to Lakeville in 1999, we settled in the downtown area. Heck, we even walked to the old Enggren’s grocery store to get our Christmas tree, which we carried home.
Time passes, and we moved from Lakeville to south Minneapolis, where my kids had settled, and we all lived near a commercial district that contains restaurants, shops and, of course, a coffee shop. So when we decided to sell the house in Minneapolis and downsize into an apartment, we wanted a walkable neighborhood with commercial amenities nearby.
We looked in downtown Minneapolis, but decided rents were too high and parking for guests unavailable. And since the kids and grandkids had moved from Minneapolis, to Eagan, we ended up in Dakota County’s largest city, at The Flats of Cedar Grove.
“The Flats” is a lovely new apartment building with all the features Baby Boomers want – a fitness center, a pool, on-site management, great public spaces for entertaining and meetings. But is it in a walkable downtown, like you find in Lakeville, Rosemount or even Burnsville?
When I was editor and general manager of Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune, I used to write about the cities we covered, and I wrote more than once that Eagan doesn’t really have a downtown. Farmington, Lakeville and Rosemount have “historic” downtowns, and the newer cities of Burnsville and Apple Valley built reasonable facsimiles of downtowns with their “new urbanist” developments near Nicollet Avenue and Burnsville Parkway in Burnsville and, in Apple Valley, along Galaxie between 150th and 160th.
But Eagan, I wrote then, missed the “smart-growth” boat. Smart growth is a movement to create urban places where suburban residents can live, work and play without getting into their cars.
Eagan officials had intended for the Cedar Grove area, near Highways 13 and 77 to be such a neighborhood, but development didn’t happen as quickly as planned. I’m happy to report that it’s now happened.
We can walk from our apartment building to a variety of restaurants ranging from fine-dining Jensen’s supper club to a burger joint called Silver Bell Diner to Hoban Korean restaurant. A friend who helped us move in said he was envious because we’re right across from a McDonald’s. We can walk a couple blocks and shop for clothing at Twin Cities Premium Outlets mall, and we’re a 15-minute drive from our old neighborhood in Minneapolis.
We can walk to the Cedar Grove station and take bus rapid transit to the Mall of America and, from there, take the train to downtown Minneapolis.
And I’m happy to report that the outlet mall has a Starbucks, where I can get my latte.
Larry Werner is the former general manager of Sun Thisweek and the Dakota County Tribune. His email is [email protected]. Columns reflect the opinion of the author.