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ISSUE 118 VOL 8 PUBLISHED 11/12/2004

Rapid expansion persists in town

By Cate Grochala
Staff Writer

Friday, November 12, 2004

Since 1960, the population of the city of Northfield has more then doubled from 8,707 to 17,846 residents, according to the Northfield Chamber of Commerce. As an October 31 Star Tribune article noted, although signs welcome visitors to "Cows, Colleges, and Contentment," there have not been many cows seen around Northfield lately, as it is pushed further into the Twin Cities area.

Looking outside ones window at night, it is easy to see the glare of lights throughout Northfield and from the growing suburbs of the Cities, south of the Minnesota River. The proximity of the Cities is becoming increasingly apparent. Indeed, many St. Olaf professors commute daily from the Cities.

This growth and economic change in Northfield has resulted in new development, most noticeable during the past five years along Highway 3.

Target and Applebees opened a few miles outside of downtown at about the same time that current juniors and seniors were in their first two years at St. Olaf. In the past year, the James Gang Coffeehouse and a Wendys restaurant also opened along that highway, towards Dundas. More and more, it seems as though Northfields growth is reflected in the shift from locally-owned downtown businesses to larger chain operations, as evidenced by the plan for a Walgreens.

Growth near the outskirts has affected the downtown area of Northfield. Jacobsons, a clothing and fabric store, closed in part due to the increased competition from Target. This past year, the Art Store also closed.

While downtown is by no means vacant, much of it is occupied by specialty stores unique to Northfield and aimed at tourists which do not sell many of the daily supplies students and residents need. For example, while Oohlala and The Glass Garden are both quality stores, each with their own niche of goods (specialty bath goods and beads, respectively), they do not offer goods which are of practical use and modestly priced for the average college student.

For low-priced dorm room necessities, such as beanbags, lamps, desk supplies and snacks, students typically head to Target and Cub Foods, conveniently located next to each other.

Hannah Rumsey '06 enjoys biking or walking around town and has mixed reactions to the development she has seen in Northfield since her first year at St. Olaf.

"Im not saying its good or bad to have these new stores, but for anyone without a car, it becomes difficult," she said. "To get everyday practical things, you need to head out to Target or Cub foods. A lot of the shops downtown are gift shops. Econofoods seems to be the last store downtown for the everyday stuff I need."

Northfields growth shows no signs of stopping, though it might be slowed by the uncertain economy, with a 3.7 percent unemployment rate according to the Star Tribune.

However, new construction continues to be visible along Highway 19, along with signs for upcoming fast food chain restaurants and stores, such as Arbys and Walgreens Drugstore.

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