With its burgeoning population and development, the northwest suburb of Maple Grove is often known today as one of Minnesota's fastest growing cities, a mecca of shops and restaurants, and a hub for recreational activity with its many parks, lakes, and trails. But all that growth started because of one thing about forty years ago: the opening of a new section of Interstate 94.
Here's three things that might surprise you about Maple Grove.
#1: Interstate 94 transformed Maple Grove
When a new section of Interstate 94 opened up in 1974, it was a game changer for the Village of Maple Grove. Prior to 1974, Maple Grove was a small rural township, 36 square miles made up mostly of farmland, fields, and 2,000 acres of gravel mines. The small village had just over 6,000 residents in 1970, but that all changed once I-94 came through Maple Grove four years later.
"The freeway came through Maple Grove, and all of a sudden people are saying, 'where did this community come from?'" said Maple Grove City Administrator Al Madsen.
By the end of 1974, Maple Grove had become a city, and by 1980, the population had more than tripled in size with 20,525 residents. Today, the city's population is around 62,000.
As residential neighborhoods popped up, the city had plenty of land to develop, a blank canvas of sorts for city officials to plan and map out what the future Maple Grove would look like, and where there's residential, retail often follows.
#2: A retail hub behind Bloomington and the Mall of America.
Today Maple Grove is home to more retail that nearly any other city in the state. While retail started to move in the 1980's, it was the creation of the Main Street shops in 2000 and the opening of the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes around 2004 that really got things going.
With the Fountains at Arbor Lakes and The Grove retail developments opening up in recent years, Maple Grove has well over three million square feet of developed retail space, and the city has about a third of its land still available for development.
While the city's many shops, restaurants, and services are well used by Maple Grove residents, because of its proximity to I-94, the city has also become a one-stop shop for thousands of people from upstate Minnesota and even neighboring places like Canada and North Dakota.
"We come here all the time," said Heidi Cloutier of St. Michael. "[It's] only about ten minutes on 94, so very quick."
Laurie Bammann of Sartell was shopping at the Shoppes at Arbor Lakes on a recent afternoon, and she said often opts for Maple Grove over further away shopping destinations likes the Mall of America.
"We don't have to go all the way to Minneapolis, it's just so pretty here, so we just come here," said Bammann.
#3: Weaver Lake Beach is one of the city's hidden gems
Depending on who you ask, Maple Grove's best kept secret may be its recreational assets with all its lakes, parks, and trails.
Weaver Lake Beach is one great example. Located on the city's west side and tucked within Weaver Lake Community Park, the beach is a spot that many Maple Grove residents have yet to discover.
"We've heard from numerous people over the years that they walk over the hill from the parking lot and low and behold there's this beach," said Mark Saari, Superindentdent of Recreation with Maple Grove Parks & Recreation.
With a fishing dock and concession stand, Weaver Lake Beach isn't new. It's been around since the 1960's, but it's the one beach owned and operated by the city, and it's a jewel to discover.
"We would love to see more [people] come out here," said Saari.
Alexandra Renslo reporting
Thursday, July 05, 2012