Once Upon a Time...Today, Overrated
I've lived in Northfield for almost 14 years now, owning my own home here the entire time. I'm originally from the Twin Cities, and moved to Northfield after several years spent in the Southwest. I'm currently in the process of relocating elsewhere in the country.
And here's why: Northfield has a historic and well-preserved downtown, it's got friendly people (as long as they're not in cars), it has a great alternative health scene, and it boasts an improving arts scenes. Yes, it has a good school system and two first-rate private colleges, five major employers (MOM, Ag Star, McLane's, St. Olaf, and Carleton), a few festivals, and a half-decent park system and greenbelt (although Northfield is the only portion of the path in an almost 100 mile trail that can't seem to finish its obligations so the path is completed for all towns involved.) But to hear Northfield described as "cozy" or "intimate" or "relaxed" or a "quaint little town" is ludicrous at this point. What Northfield has become in the decade-and-a-half since I moved here is a FRANTIC little town, one where stop-signs are optional, no one abides by the speed limits EVER, and where most people believe they shouldn't have to yield to pedestrians on bike or foot. This town has increased by almost 20% since 2001, and it's become little more than a bedroom community to the Twin Cities now. Then we have the fact that the average age of town residents is a mere 26 (there really is next to no one between the ages of 22 and 65 in this town) and that this town is located in Minnesota, where the winters routinely see two to three-week snaps where the weather hits lows of -15 to -25, and I just think a person can do so much better at this point. I haven't even mentioned the fact that there's not even a movie theatre in town anymore, no decent restaurants, no life on the streets downtown after 6:00, that the air quality--because of all the commercial farming nearby--is pure crap on any humid or damp day, and that 90% of the town's population is obese.
It's like this: Ten years ago, places like Austin and Asheville were savvy moves, but today they're rather passe. I think Northfield is suffering from the same plight. It's cute, the people are friendly (when not in their cars), but it's vastly overrated. So much so that you can drive down a couple neighborhood blocks in town and see no less than a dozen "For Sale" signs these days. EVERYONE is selling his/her house!! And there's a reason.