When the Vadnaises decided to sell their home and scale down, they did not want to leave the northeast Brainerd neighborhood where they spent much of their lives.
A new housing option on Mill Avenue was the answer.
Helen and William Vadnais moved about four blocks from their old home and settled into a newly constructed multi-unit building, part rental and part homeownership.
On Wednesday, Vadnais family members from such distant spots as California and International Falls gathered for a patio reunion in the comfortably shaded front deck on a hot and sunny afternoon. The patios are attention grabbing even from the view of a passing car.
Compact comfort was a design element behind the new multi-unit building on Mill Avenue. The building, a mixture of rental units and home ownership, replaced an older home on the corner lot. Landscaped patios with privacy dividers have attracted attention from passers-by.
The Vadnaises have been in their new quarters less than three months. But Helen Vadnais said they are settling in and enjoy the location.
"We were lucky," she said, noting they were not the only people interested in the new building.
Hanging flower pots add color to the wooden patio dividers that afford residents a little more privacy while they are outside. The unit was designed with nearly everything on the main floor and a full bath and bedroom upstairs for overnight company. Builders describe the design as compact comfort.
William Vadnais enjoys the front patio and observing the cars that flow along Mill Avenue. Helen said when friends drive by and see him sitting outside, they'll often stop by and chat.
Of leaving her home this spring, Helen said: "It had a lot of memories that we had to leave behind, but then I had a lot to bring with me, too."
Andrea Marohn also had memories of the Mill Avenue site. She grew up in the house that used to occupy the corner lot. Four years ago she and her husband Robert built similar patio-style rental units across the alley where her grandparents' home once stood.
And when her parents were ready to downsize their own home, the Marohns repeated the venture, building her parents a home and creating one for themselves on the other side of the building.
For Marohn's parents, Jean and Ralph Avery, the move meant a change. But it also meant being able to stay on familiar ground and even retain the view from their living room window.
For the Marohns, the move from their Baxter home to northeast Brainerd was a bigger change. But it proved to be a welcome one. Andrea Marohn said 25 years ago the thing to do was to move to Baxter. Robert Marohn grew up in Baxter and the couple lived there for 20 years. Raising their children in the wooded area along an unpaved road was a good experience.
Now moving from a large Baxter lot, where mowing was done in hours, to Mill Avenue, where mowing is accomplished in minutes, has been a positive reversal.
They moved in June. Flowers and productive tomato plants are sheltered behind a fenced yard and the home is spacious, about the size of two apartments with basement storage and upstairs bedrooms.
Friends were skeptical of the Marohns' move and how they would like living in northeast Brainerd. There were concerns for a loss of privacy, for a scaled-back living space and adjustment to the neighborhood.
"It's been wonderful," Robert Marohn said. "None of that has been a big issue for us."
In fact, traffic noise is barely heard inside their home and a fence -- that did not seclude the Marohns from meeting and getting to know neighbors -- has provided privacy.
Andrea Marohn, who also has a beauty shop at her home, said she initially had a few questions herself, especially about the busy traffic on nearby Mill Avenue. Now after moving in nearly two months ago, she said the move has been one she's liked with the bonus of returning to an area where she grew up.
"It's been beautiful," Robert Marohn said. "We've had a lot of people tell us it's a nice addition to the neighborhood."
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