In its midcentury heyday, County Road 10 was a bustling strip of motels, family amusements and mom-and-pop storefronts stretching across the Twin Cities' northern suburbs.
But businesses along the roadway faltered as traffic moved to nearby Hwy. 10 over the decades.
Now the faded thoroughfare is beginning to make a comeback as developments pop up nearby with apartments, a grocery store and more than 100 new single-family homes, plus the possibility of a new hotel.
In several instances, cities along the way have bought shuttered businesses, demolished old buildings and assembled smaller lots into larger parcels in an effort to entice new development. After years of preparation and patience, city leaders along the corridor through Mounds View, Spring Lake Park, Blaine and Coon Rapids say shovels are finally moving.
"It's a combination of all the hard work we as cities have put in to make our cities more attractive to developers and the great economy we are experiencing now," said Spring Lake Park City Administrator Daniel Buchholtz.
Longtime Mounds View residents Jean and Dale Aukee said they're pleased to see some reinvestment in the area, especially the new Hy-Vee grocery under construction near Central Avenue and County Road 10 in Spring Lake Park.
No mini-golf, muni store
Jean Aukee said it will take time to get used to the transition, even though it unfolds slowly. The family used to play at a mini-golf course on Hwy. 10. Now, there are houses and apartments along the corridor.
"I think of going to Old 10 for the businesses. I think of going there for the restaurants and gas stations," Jean Aukee said. "I don't think of it as residential."
The new Hy-Vee replaces Spring Lake Park's shuttered municipal liquor store. The city closed it, sold the land to Hy-Vee for $1.15 million and exited the municipal liquor business altogether.
"We determined Hy-Vee would generate more property taxes than the liquor store generated profits," Buchholtz said.
The Legends of Spring Lake Park, a 194-unit senior housing complex, opened on County Road 10 last fall, replacing an old mini-golf course. It's already full.
The city offered the Legends developer financial assistance in the form of tax-increment financing.
In neighboring Mounds View, the city bought the old Skyline Motel near the intersection of County Road 10 and Interstate 35W for $1.3 million and demolished it, via controlled burn in August, with plans to redevelop it, said Mounds View Assistant City Administrator Brian Beeman.
Beeman said city leaders are relieved to see the old motel, which was blighted and had more than 160 police calls last year, gone. The city is open to several development scenarios, including a new extended-stay hotel that can cater to business travelers visiting Medtronic and nearby companies, Beeman said.
Developer MWF Properties is constructing a 60-unit workforce-housing apartment building on County Road 10, replacing an old gas station and trailer hitch business. The city is also actively marketing other city-owned lots along the corridor, named Mounds View Boulevard in the city, for redevelopment.
"The city has been active with buying businesses that have become dilapidated and figuring out how to redevelop them," said Dale Aukee, noting an old car wash is now senior living.
Perhaps the biggest resident concern is that the new development is balanced and doesn't lean too heavily toward workforce and affordable housing projects, said Aukee, who is on the city's parks commission.
Northtown Mall, one of the biggest draws on County Road 10, is also looking at renovations, including moving the mall's transit station to accommodate new storefronts, said Erik Thorvig, Blaine's community development director.
"It's an opportunity to dress up their front door," Thorvig said. "It looks a little tired right now."
Northtown General Manager Paula Mueller said they're exploring adding new restaurants, coffee shops and tenants that offer entertainment opportunities. "Things you can't do on Amazon," Mueller said.
Some projects are already in the works. Spire Credit Union will build a flagship branch at Northtown starting this fall. On the other side of County Road 10, the shuttered Kmart has been remodeled into an AutoZone and an Xperience Fitness, with additional trees and landscaping in the parking lot.
The empty Toys 'R' Us is being transformed into a Salvation Army secondhand store. A developer is interested in building a 90-unit apartment building on a nearby city-owned lot.
"Things are trending in the right direction," Thorvig said, noting that developers are often "playing it safe" in this area by rehabbing existing buildings. The city has been an active buyer along County Road 10 — it just purchased the closed Jimbo's Italian American Restaurant with an eye toward redevelopment, though it may take years.
Part of that caution is the demographics around County Road 10, Thorvig said.
Median household income for that ZIP code in Blaine is $64,600, according to U.S. census data — well below the city's overall median income of more than $80,400. Neighboring Spring Lake Park's median household income is $57,600 and Mounds View's is $60,200. (The Twin Cities metro overall median income is $73,700.)
"That is a challenge for attracting national retailers," Thorvig said.
But Northtown executives say the growth of Blaine has helped improve those demographics.
In Coon Rapids, work has begun on a whole neighborhood along Coon Rapids Boulevard, which years ago was U.S. Hwy. 10. Centra Homes will build 136 single-family homes on 43 acres.
The city assembled the parcel over the years and is selling the land to the developer. The city has also agreed to help cover some of the infrastructure costs of the area they are calling Port Riverwalk.
Over the past two decades, Coon Rapids has spent nearly $20 million purchasing, cleaning up and assembling land along Coon Rapids Boulevard.
"The site sat idle for a long time. Now dirt is moving, and people are excited," said Coon Rapids Community Development Director Grant Fernelius.
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037