My wife's hometown is Anoka, Minnesota, which is also Garrison Keillor's hometown and the inspiration for his ode to life in a small community, Lake Wobegon. Anoka hosted the first Halloween parade in 1920, and in 1937 city officials persuaded Congress to officially grant
their city the title of Halloween Capitol of America. It has become a sort of de facto template for small town America. We traveled there this past weekend for a wedding, so the next few posts will explore Anoka and surrounding environs.
Here's a 2003 "pre-revival" image of Downtown Anoka I found at "Todd's Photo Galleries." The city has since done much to energize their main street, so it's anything but dead at this point (as always, click for larger pictures):
However, Anoka is a growing community and not immune to the pressures of far-flung residential and commercial development at the expense of its main street.
A new branch of the Anoka County Library was recently completed and dedicated. But it's not located in the downtown area - - it's about two-and-a-quarter miles away (as the crow flies):
Plopped down in the middle of nowhere. Had I done a full 360-degree circle, you'd see more of the same emptiness with the exception of a high school across the highway. Desolate and uninviting. A single-destination car trip.
I've circled the library site in yellow below, and from this aerial perspective you can see what the city planners might have had in mind. Creeping in from the periphery are subdivisions that may or may not eventually come into closer contact with the library property (none of these residential areas, unfortunately, are currently within the quarter-mile radius -- or "five minute walk" -- that represents the transculturally-common distance that the average person is willing to routinely travel on foot).
One thing is fairly certain, however - - the entire area is likely zoned to prohibit commercial development, so the only public space that might possibly join the library would be parks and play structures. In other words, the library is sited for automobile access:
For further perspective, here's a view SOUTH, showing where downtown Anoka is situated in relationship to this library branch as well as the next closest branches (the Rum River and Crooked Lake Libraries). Perhaps there is a library branch downtown that is not listed (I consulted the Anoka County Library web site); if not, so much for making downtown and main street a community crossroads:
Anoka's downtown also faces pressure from a purgatorial commercial edge-node called Riverdale Village, which clings to the highway a few minutes east of town in Coon Rapids. More about that particular gem in a later post ...