Drive along the west side of Lake Victoria any given day, and odds are you’ll see signs of Alexandria’s expansion. Movers unloading boxes. Workmen smoothing a new concrete driveway. Carpenters nailing down shingles on a new home.
Census data show that Douglas County didn’t grow as much as expected between 2010 and 2020, but Alexandria added about 3,300 new residents during the decade, both because the city expanded its boundaries and because of an influx of new residents.
“Alexandria has been my favorite community to develop in, so much that I moved my family here,” said developer Sam Herzog, who built apartments with 189 units during that decade and who is adding more. He said he appreciates the "energy and life" in Alexandria, and that he and his wife enjoy the couples they have met.
According to data from the city, the population was 11,070 in 2010 and in 2020, it's 14,335, up 29.5% in a decade. Alexandria finished annexing Alexandria Township in 2012, when it added about 1,383 to its population. The decade also saw about 2,000 new people being born here or moving to town, drawn by the lakes, jobs and what they heard about the city.
Jeanette Horn moved to Alexandria from Brainerd in 2019 after a divorce. Her daughter played summer basketball in Alexandria, so they were familiar with the community. Horn works remotely, so she is able to work anywhere that has a good internet connection.
"We saw these cute little brand-new apartments," she said, referring to one of Herzog's apartment buildings. They rented a three-bedroom, which provides space for her office, as well as a workout room and patio. Her daughter is a school paraprofessional, so her work is nearby, and she also studies at Alexandria Technical and Community College.
"Nice location," Horn said. "Love the area. I would definitely buy a house here."
Between 20010 and 2020, Herzog said, about two-thirds of the tenants moved in from somewhere else in Alexandria, whether it was another apartment building or they were moving out on their own for the first time. About a third, he said, were people coming from out of the area, with a little more than half of that from the Twin Cities. That has changed dramatically since the pandemic and the unrest in the Twin Cities; Herzog said his apartments now draw twice as many people from the Twin Cities as they did two years ago.
Down the road, in late October, Vern Wevley was supervising the unloading of boxes into his new home. A retiree from the U.S. Postal Service, he had attended Alex Tech many years ago and he and his wife always wanted to retire here. However, they stayed in Moorhead to be close to their three daughters and grandchildren.
After one of their daughters landed a job in Alexandria, he and his wife decided to finally make the move, buying a new house even before it hit the market.
He has plenty of connections in Alexandria, as he grew up in Morris, and many of his long-ago classmates now live here. A granddaughter is involved in sports in Alexandria, so he plans to load up on Cardinals gear and cheer on her team.
Another newcomer is David Hense, disabled from a long-ago head injury, who moved to Alexandria from St. Michael when his apartment there was slated for demolition.
He’d heard that Alexandria is a nice place to retire, and found a studio apartment in a nearly new apartment building. He said the people seem pleasant, but he hasn’t had a chance to make friends, because the pandemic hit shortly after he moved to Alexandria. He walks everywhere and gets a close-up view of ditches and roadsides; the amount of litter, he says, is "disgusting."
With all the development along Lake Victoria, the neighborhood definitely looks different for long-time residents Prudy and Frank Jackson. They have lived in their home for 24 years.
"When we bought this house, it was very quiet," Prudy Jackson said. "We had no neighbors. There was very little traffic going by."
She doesn't mind the growth, and even understands why it's a popular place to live. It's a 10-minute drive to everything and it's beautiful.
"How do I feel about this? I feel just fine," she said. "I feel like we should not want people to take advantage of the beauty of the area."
The development has been done right, she said, and the neighbors who developed the land have kept them informed through the entire process.
Said Frank Jackson: "It's a very good place to have a family and raise them."
The eastern edge of the city still includes a working farm near the interstate, where officials are planning to develop an exit ramp.
It's farmed by Roy Roers, who bought it in 1984 when there was a dirt road running all the way to Fleet Farm. How long will the farm be there? Not forever, Roers said. He had just heard from a real estate agent that morning and he's almost 65, just about ready to retire.
"Time to cash in," he said.