In 1999, Andy and Trisha Hartle were told that the roof on their Richfield house needed to be replaced. Instead, Andy patched it.
When he was told that the front steps needed a handrail, he delayed that job, too.
For years, the Hartles and their neighbors on two blocks of 17th Avenue S. have expected their homes to be taken for redevelopment. Years passed. Paint peeled. Kids grew up, and jobs morphed into retirement.
Finally, their wait is over.
Last week, the Hartles signed an agreement to sell their house to the city of Richfield. Eleven other homeowners who live across from the Home Depot and Target at Hwy. 77 and E. 66th Street are expected to follow suit. Residents will be paid between $145,000 and $180,000 for their homes, which will then be razed or moved.
Next year, a bike trail and a parkway will be built where the houses were.
The Hartles, who raised three kids in the neat home they have occupied for 39 years, are eager to leave. In 2004, their once serene cul-de-sac was transformed when homes on the opposite side of the street were torn down to make way for the retail complex. Thousands of cars and trucks now use 17th Avenue to get to the shopping center each day.
Long slated to be torn down for a senior residence, the houses on the other side of the street stayed when the development stalled in the recession.
When the Richfield City Council finally took up the issue again in January, Andy Hartle was eagerly waiting outside council chambers to finalize a sales arrangement with the city.
"There's a lot of relief," Trisha Hartle said. "And some bitterness, because it has taken so long."
With the area designated for development for more than a decade, residents were stuck. They could not sell their homes for a decent price and put other parts of their lives on hold. When development seemed imminent a few years ago, Andy sold the tiller he used to turn the soil for a big vegetable garden. After that, the Hartles' garden shrank to a couple of tomato plants.
Unwilling to spend money on the house, Andy kept ancient appliances going. The clothes dryer dates to 1968, the washing machine is circa 1974 and the dishwasher is from 1980.
Neighbors were more than willing to endlessly discuss their shared dilemma, but others grew tired of hearing about the latest twists and turns.
"It was worse than being on a roller coaster," Trisha said. "Up, down, up, down. The kids got frustrated with me. My daughter-in-law said, 'I don't want to hear about this anymore -- tell me when it is over.' I couldn't stop talking about the latest development."
Andy wore earplugs to bed because of noise from nearby Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, middle-of-the-night plowing of the parking lot and the occasional semitrailer that idled all night across the street. But Trisha said the shopping center and its landscaping have been well-maintained. With a laugh, Andy said their street was always one of the first to get plowed after a snowstorm.
Despite their frustration with 14 years of uncertainty, Trisha said city employees have always been responsive and sympathetic. "They're just fabulous," she said.
The Hartles plan to split their time between Richfield and Phoenix. Despite their relief -- they hope to be out of their home by the end of April -- tearing up their roots will be emotional.
Andy, a do-it-yourselfer, left signs of his craftsmanship on every room of the house. Now he has a list of 60 items to sell. The customized blower he built to shoot heat from a fireplace into the living room and a 45-year-old high chair are already gone.
Trisha is taking her orchids and other houseplants and has been thinking about packing tons of family pictures. Her relief at finally having a clear path to the future is tempered by four decades of memories in the blue house on 17th Avenue.
"I'll be sad if I visit Target and look across the street and see the house is gone," she said, her eyes brimming.
Mary Jane Smetanka • 612-673-7380 Twitter: @smetan