|Aerial of Apple Valley|
Back in the day, Orrin Thompson was a large residential developer. He had built over four thousand homes in places like Coon Rapids, Cottage Grove and Bloomington. Lebanon Township was an ideal location for his next big development. His homes back then were nothing fancy but still solidly built structures that reflected the skilled craftsmen he hired.
When we first moved to Apple Valley, Cedar Avenue was a two lane black-top roadway that could easily handle the daily traffic of our infant suburb. It edged alongside the bones of the old Eaton’s Ranch. Years earlier that abode to the fifties was the site of many high school hayrides and bonfire soirees. For my Cretin chums and me it was beyond the end of nowhere and about as far from Saint Paul as any of us had ever ventured.
The ranch was started back in the late thirties as a working ranch and cattle operation. For a kid growing up in the cities it was truly foreign turf. My only memories of those hay rides was freezing my tush off just to be cool and trying so hard to impress the girls from St. Joe’s Academy and OLP.
Back then new urbanism was all the rage among city planners. There was talk of creating small villages throughout the township at first. Eventually the intersection of Cedar Avenue and 42nd Street became the core from which retail and now multi-family housing spread out. It’s called TOD, transit-orientated development, and it seems to have caught on in a big way downtown.
There has always been new construction going on someplace in Apple Valley. Recently what little vacant land remained is beginning to fill in rapidly, especially in its downtown core. It’s been a long time in coming. The 2008 recession and poor financing on the part of various developers dictated a delayed timeline that the city would have liked to have accelerated but couldn’t.
At the heart of downtown is Kelley Park. It’s has been a proven winner since its inception. It compliments a city-wide system of parks and pathways that has shown the way for other communities to emulate. We’re at the stage now in our lives where our grandchildren love to use the park’s splash pad and playground.
Over the years, Sharon and I have served on several city and community organizations. I was on the Apple Valley Planning Commission for five years and spent several years on the cable commission. My previous company, Sharden Productions, Inc. provided cable programming for the Police and Fire Departments as well as a cable magazine entitled ‘Apple Valley Today’ for many years.
Sharon was on the city council for several years and together we’ve volunteered for a number of city events. It’s all part and parcel of being a member of the community. The city still has a good school system and a wonderful collection of neighborhoods.
We’ve been here for thirty-nine years. That’s longer than my childhood in the Highland Park neighborhood of St. Paul. We’re still in the same home we bought back in 1977 for $49,500 and were just glad we could afford the monthly payments. It’s the only home our kids ever knew growing up.
Our cul-de-sac has changed households many times over but we’ve always been lucky to have replaced them with new friendly neighbors. While many of our neighbors decided to move up in the world we chose to stay in our humble abode. It worked out pretty well for us, socially and economically.
Our home has evolved over the years as the kids grew up and then moved away. It has gone over a number of the obligatory make-overs, remodeling and adjustments. I needed a home office and Sharon’s art studio needed more space.
At this stage in our lives, a lot of our friends and neighbors are shifting over to an easier lifestyle. They’ve found someone else to do the shoveling, cut the grass and rake the leaves. In other words, an HOA or management company to do the heavy lifting. That still isn’t for us. I like my quiet porch and my old comfortable chair. Growing old in place isn’t such a bad thing.
Apple Valley was a good place for the kids to grow up and for us to grow old. Sharon has her art gallery on the walls and hallway. I have my office, my writing space, and a porch for my quiet time.
Our home is a reflection of our lives; ever changing, adapting and evolving. It’s our nest, our cocoon and a place to reflect on a life well lived. It’s our grandchildren’s second home and a wonderful gathering spot for friends. It is us and we are happy here. Isn’t that what it’s all about as this stage in our lives?