Once a boomlet town, Hanover touts post-downturn balance

  • Updated: August 2, 2013 - 10:06 PM

City on western edge of the metro enjoys both measured growth and a quaint feel.

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Todd Bartels, Hanover Economic Development Authority chairman, works at Pearson Bros. Inc., which sealcoats roads in the Midwest.

Photo: RICHARD SENNOTT • richard.sennott@startribune.com,

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The far western suburb of Hanover straddles a river, two counties and a blend of identities.

The town is rural and suburban, pastoral and industrial, historic and new. Once on the verge of explosive growth, its current state is now balanced, residents say.

“The problems with the housing market gave us a chance to slow down a bit and make sure the community was the way we wanted it to be,” said Jim Hennessey, a retired Honeywell executive who has lived in Hanover for more than a decade.

Back in 1999, Hanover, which sits on the border of Hennepin and Wright counties, had no stoplights, three bars and restaurants with limited meals. Now there’s a new liquor store, a bank, a computer store and a 24-hour fitness center. The traffic near the light on County Road 19 gets backed up at rush hour, and waits are frequent for the lunch buffet and dinner at the River Inn downtown.

Some 30 miles northwest of downtown Minneapolis, out on Interstate 94 and through St. Michael, Hanover now has about 2,900 residents, up from 1,300 in 2000, when the first phase of the Crow River Heights residential development was moving ahead. Back then, City Council meetings could be contentious, because wary residents were concerned about the potential of life-altering growth in the town, which embraces the Crow River. Founded in 1891, Hanover has maintained a historic bridge over the river and a quaint feel unimpeded by big-box chains.

On one edge of town, an older development with split levels blends into the newer, mostly taupe homes without decks that back up to lush cornfields.

Out in the Bridges at Hanover development, where the homes come with bigger porches and garages, residents might see cows out in a nearby farm.

White-fenced horse farms are nestled down the roads from developments carrying inscrutably nouveau street names such as Mallard, Meadowlark, Meander, Kadler, Kaitlin, Kayla and Kalea.

It’s a blend, or as Hennessey says proudly of the mix: “You can still smell the manure.”

‘Nicest drive in the world’

The juxtaposition isn’t incidental.

“It’s not just about growing — it’s about how you grow,” said Todd Bartels, chairman of the city’s Economic Development Authority. Bartels doesn’t live in Hanover, but he works for Pearson Bros. Inc., a seal-coating company that moved into the town’s industrial park in 2005. The company trucks rumble in and out at all hours in the summer for the climate-driven business. Mechanics work in the back garages, and drivers sleep in trailers so they can log longer hours.

Chris Strong, who runs Pearson with her brothers, said Hanover welcomed the company’s heavy equipment on its roads. “Some cities, they don’t want you coming in with the trucks anymore,” she said.

Hanover also welcomed Pearson’s neighbor, Astro Engineering and Manufacturing. Owner George Ross moved the company out from Plymouth to get “double the space for less money,” he said. The property taxes are about a fourth of what he paid in the closer-in suburb, Ross said.

“They’re more lenient here,” he said. Ross, a Wayzata native, also enjoys the 20-minute river road commute from his home west of Delano. “I’ve got the nicest drive in the world.”

Settling into modest growth

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