Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Things will be great when you're downtown...

I was very excited to watch a WDAZ report the other night that talked about various plans to bring upscale housing to downtown Grand Forks. Of course, you should already be aware of the Elite Brownstones that will soon be constructed on the current Flood Memorial Park/Herald parking lot site. We have also heard quite a bit about the ongoing construction that is turning the old Metropolitan Opera House into the Opera House Lofts (very nice website, by the way). Now come reports of a new buyer for the old St. John's Block. The lower level is going to be turned into "gallery space" and the upper floors into either high-end apartments or condos. To top that all of, the WDAZ report said that the old Grand Forks Community Center (west of Central High School) has been purchased by a California developer and will be turned into upscale housing (hopefully this happens this time...this building has exchanged hands many times over the last few years and developer's plans have never become reality). Even more interesting, the report also showed a picture of the former Griffith's Department Store building and said simply that "this building" (didn't the reporter know what the of the more prominent downtown...had been in its former life?) has also or will soon be sold to a new owner and will become upscale housing.

For a downtown that has seen very little development for the last few years, all of these plans and projects are nothing short of incredible. I always knew that downtown would be turning the tide at some point. It has looked rough for years now, but I think that we are finally at a point where things are going to start getting better fast. In the next year, we should have multiple new upscale apartments and condos being occupied by those likely willing to spend a portion of their incomes in shops and restaurants in the downtown area. As reported earlier, we will also soon be having a new upscale restaurant/bar (The Toasted Frog...I was isn't an Irish pub...the actual format sounds much better) and a new artisian bakery. The old Opera House is getting a new restaurant on the ground floor, but I am not yet aware of just what the restuarant will be. I would be shocked if some more of those empty storefronts downtown won't also be getting some other new tenants as well.

Lonnie Laffen (a prominent local architect who is working on downtown housing projects) seemed very excited about the prospects for downtown, when he was interviewed for the WDAZ report. Downtown Fargo has been getting a new energy lately and, hopefully, we will be experiencing the same thing here in Grand Forks during this coming year. 2006 is going to be a very exciting year.


JGS said...

This damn town needs a better "downtown look" Our downtown needs some old buildings replaced with some high-end buildings that you can actually see from a distance, as in a sky scrapper. The only semi-scrapper in this town in those apartments near Columbia RD.

GrandForksGuy said...

Over the next few years, I think we will be seeing more development taking place downtown. People often point to all of the empty storefronts downtown. One thing that should be pointed out is that for several years there were plenty of empty storefronts throughout the entire city...not just downtown. Now, its seems like every little empty spot in town is filling up with something. I see the same happenning downtown.

As far as "old buildings" being demolished, I wouldn't want to see anymore historic buildings lost. We have lost too many in the past couple of decades. There are plenty of buildings downtown that are old, but not historic that I would love to see replaced with some newer (potentially taller) buildings. It would be nice to see taller buildings (10-15 stories) downtown. In my opinion, a 20-30 story building would look out of place right now because all of the other buildings downtown are not very tall. We need to build in the 10 story range before we can hit the 20 story range.

I haven't studied city code recently, but I'm not sure if taller buildings (like 10 stories) are "allowed" to be built in the downtown area. But, I'm sure that the city could probably make a case-by-case exception for developers willing to commit themselves to creating a successful downtown development.

JGS said...

Yeah a 30 story building in downtown would look very out of place compared to the other 5 story buildies. But 10-15 would be great to see. I see other cities across the country around Grand Forks population and you see 10-15 story buildies in their downtown and thats their average. But of course Grand Forks average building height is 5-8 stories maybe. Just kinda makes me feel Grand Forks is a little behind on some things.

UNDstudent said...

Well, the old buildings make the downtown. Where I am from, the historic district is VERY popular and condos there go for $250,000+ for a one bedroom little thing. Very hot spot.

As far as Fargo downtown--yes, even in big cities we have heard of it! My mom subsribes to Travel + Leisure (sort of a magazine that advertises $5,000 one week vacations and fancy and hip places to travel (I think likely geared toward baby boomers?). Anyhow, they listed Fargo as one of the top 10 up and coming cities. They feature the renovated Hotel Donaldson, Zandbroz Variety store, and some other things. I like Grand Forks more than Fargo because it doesn't stretch out as far (yet). I really hope GF can curb its southern development before the town just looks hideous. You can't have a great downtown if your population is so spread out. Protect the great farmland and make your downtown awesome at the same time, what a deal! I think downtown will be really popular with professors. Most of the "visiting professors" start off in UND's Gallery Apts, and if they stay another year they move downtown. Educated or hippy or liberal or cosmopolitan or city people seem to like downtown more than the Southern end of town. Plus, Amazing Grains is in downtown and if you can walk there, well, that's a lot better than driving 10 or 15 min from the other end of town.

Also, what is this about a new restaurant coming into downtown? I wasn't sure if "The Toasted Frog" is the name of a restaurant or a blogger you were responding to. Is this seperate from the restaurant which will be in the opera house? and who is opening the artisan bakery??? I was thinking this place was ripe for a REAL bakery, and lo and behold we will get one??? Oooo exciting. Sure beats getting real bread once a week in the summertime at the farmers market. We still need a French bakery. Every real town needs a place where a person can buy incredible french pastries.

GrandForksGuy said...

There are several new restaurants coming to the downtown area this year.

"The Toasted Frog" will be in the old Lola's North Italian Restaurant building on North Third Street (next to Joe DiMaggio's). From what I hear, it will be an upscale restaurant and martini bar.

"Dakota Harvest Bakers" is going in on South Third Street near Sanders. It will be an artisian bakery and cafe.

Also, there is some restaurant coming to the ground floor of the Opera House (which is being converted to some very nice loft apartments). I still haven't been able to figure out what kind of a restaurant it is or any name.

Anybody know of anything else?

UNDstudent said...

Thank goodness for your blog! I was doing an apartment search yesterday and just ran across it. I love food, and you've given me many great things to look forward to! Thanks!

I have a friend on the wait list for those operahouse apartments, but I'm a student and I can't afford to live there on my own :( I emailed them about rates, and they aren't too bad for being "luxury." They wrote, "Studios are $580, 1 beds are $680 to $730, 2 beds are $830 to $930 and the 3 bed is $1130" However, despite being "luxury" and actually because they are "green" the entire complex is electric only--no gas stoves=bad kitchen.

GrandForksGuy said...

Happy to be of service! :)

Interesting to hear the rates of the Opera House Lofts. Doesn't sound too bad. I'm glad to see more and more apartments coming downtown that are at least average price to above average price. We really don't need anymore low-end apartments down there...they do nothing to jumpstart the economic scene. We need something a little more upscale (which is what these apartments should be).

UNDstudent said...

I think I might go make an account here, I keep posting! I am hoping to find an apartment downtown for next fall... I want to be near a coffeehouse, sort of near amazing grains, and near some place that serves "adult beverages" (as my roommate calls them) smoke-free. However I am a poor student... tricky tricky!

GrandForksGuy said...

It would be fun to live downtown. From what I hear, nice apartments are snatched up very fast so you better start looking early.

Colter Anderson said...

I know there are all those apartments up in the actual blog part thing, but does anyone have actual websites that I can go to or e-mails of people I can get ahold of to get rates and what not? i am really looking to move into an apartment downtown, but I don't know what anything is called or anything. The Current told me that they can't have 2 full time students living in the same apartment so that is out. Thanks.

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