The announcement of Taco Bell coming to the city, as well as an update on commercial and residential growth, were highlighted during the annual Cambridge State of the City address.
The State of the City was held during the Feb. 16 North 65 Chamber of Commerce monthly luncheon at First Baptist Church in Cambridge and led by Cambridge Mayor Jim Godfrey.
Godfrey explained during the summer and early fall of 2021, the city council and staff engaged in a strategic planning initiative and also came up with a city mission statement.
“The purpose was to discuss our short term and long term goals for the city, but also to have staff understand what the action steps are to have this vision come to be,” Godfrey said. “We’re using the initiative as a guiding star, and with this we have an excellent blueprint to continue our success now over the next two to four years and beyond.”
Godfrey highlighted the core strategies within the strategic plan that include:
• Encourage and facilitate the revitalization and restoration of a vibrant downtown.
• Deliver exceptional public services.
• Connect opportunities to facilitate thriving commercial and industrial sectors.
• Be responsible in managing the city’s administrative functions.
• Foster engaged, informed and involved citizens and community.
• Enhance city’s presence as a regional hub.
• Provide diverse amenities for a high quality of life.
• Highlight and capitalize on natural resources.
“I teach at the high school. I know of students from Mora that drive down during their extended lunch break to come eat in Cambridge,” Godfrey said. “I think that’s an example of how we attract from around the region and not just from like a mile around us here.”
Godfrey said the city has established a redevelopment fund and over $2 million was established in February 2021 with the purpose of adding to the tax base and providing resources to tackle some significant community projects that the city has been unable to tackle over the last five to 10 years.
“So one of the big purposes of our strategic plan was to select the best track or pathways in general to utilize that redevelopment fund efficiently in such a way that it impacts the tax base and also regrows over time so we can keep reinvesting in the community,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey noted the city recently approved a purchase agreement with Kwik Trip to build a convenience store on the west side of town in 2023 near the Anoka-Ramsey Community College. He said a goal of the redevelopment fund was to purchase a parcel of land on the west side of town to be developed into a Kwik Trip convenience store.
“The growth of a Kwik Trip meets the need – and that’s the like the No. 2 request that as mayor I’ve gotten over the years – is can we get some type of groceries or gas station on the west side of town. I hear that over and over and over again,” Godfrey said. “And boy, when we announced that last week, Facebook blew up. People were overjoyed to hear that we’re going to have a Kwik Trip, or any kind of convenience store on the west side of town, and that also helps foster additional growth in that area of town.”
Godfrey said the redevelopment fund will also be used to help facilitate significant growth and restoration in the downtown business district.
A continuing focus for the city council is to lower the city’s tax rate.
“The tax rate is fixed, and we’re trying to get that at a lower and lower rate as time goes on so that both businesses and residents can enjoy the benefits of those increased valuations and not just have to pay more,” Godfrey said. “So our tax rate goal that we formally set – this is the first time we’ve had a tax rate goal ever in the city of Cambridge – we want to be down to the 50th percentile by 2027. So in other words we want to be in the middle of the pack in the state for what our tax rate is.”
Godfrey noted the city has diligently worked toward a 22% decrease in the city tax rate since 2015. For year 2022, the city’s tax rate was 70.4, putting the city in the 59th percentile.
“As you have more businesses and more properties in the city, the amount that any one property pays goes down,” Godfrey said. “As the pie gets bigger, you’re portion of that pie gets smaller.”
New business in 2021 were noted that included Harbor Freight, The Calico Moose, Will’s barber shoppe, 915 South Main Nutrition, Getaway Wellness, an expansion of Cambridge Floral and multiple expansions for the Gamer’s Den. New developments were also highlighted that included 64 new single family homes, 94 new townhomes, one 36-unit apartment building and a total of 1,136 permits were issued.
As far as 2022, new businesses opening include Minnco Credit Union’s new Minnco Credit Union Corporate Center to open on the east side of town by Labor Day; Taco Bell to be located by Sears; Busy Boy’s restaurant to hopefully open in 2022; and the opening of Kwik Trips on the east side and south side of town. Developments in 2022 include the Cambridge Cove consisting of 206 single family home developments; The Emerald consisting of 150 apartment units and 30 townhomes; Unique Properties consisting of 48 apartment units; plus more single family homes, townhomes and potentially one more apartment complex.
“We get calls all the time from entrepreneurs that say we’d like to do this, we’d like to do that, and we want to be open by such and such a date, so we can see this list, when I’m giving this speech next year, being quite a bit longer than it currently is,” Godfrey said. “We know that there are people creating opportunities in Cambridge already. We just can’t talk about them yet.”
Godfrey mentioned Allina Health is making a significant investment to replace Cambridge Medical Center with a new, state-of-the-art hospital and clinic facilities. The new facilities, which will include the Allina Health Cambridge Clinic, are anticipated to open in 2025.
“So that is a significant and exciting investment in the city of Cambridge by Allina and we look forward to that state-of-the-art facility coming online to serve our residents and the entire region,” Godfrey said.
Godfrey said the construction of a municipal campground along the Rum River is in the early discussion phase.
“This was a new thing that came out of our strategic planning, and I’m sort of curious for feedback on this, but one of the ideas that came out was to add a municipal campground along the river since you don’t have a whole lot of hotel rooms,” Godfrey said. “When they have a softball tournament there’s not a lot of places for the players to stay and they usually end up in Forest Lake. So why not capture their tourism dollars here and maybe one way we can do that is a municipal campground that capitalizes on the natural beauty down there, it should preserve it, we’re hoping. We’re really in the exploration stages there, wondering is it feasible, does it overly compete with businesses already in town, we don’t want to do that. I’m looking for feedback over time on that idea.”
Godfrey gave much credit to the hardworking city council and city staff. He noted new City Administrator Evan Vogel started in May.
“It’s the city council, it’s the city staff, it’s the city entrepreneurs and business owners that make all this possible,” Godfrey said. “I do want to say about the city council that we are here to serve you, so if you have questions or concerns or thoughts, new ideas contact us, but honestly most of us will say, ‘that sounds interesting, let’s talk to Evan.’ So if you want to cut out the middle man you can talk to Evan right way and he should be able to steer you in the right direction if nothing else. But the council is unique in the area I think that we work well together even though we have diverse opinions and sometimes votes split, but once the vote is done, everybody on the council supports what that new vision is for the majority.”