Saturday, December 30, 2006

Choice Financial to open second bank in GF

Choice Financial, which already has a Grand Forks bank on 42nd Street near the Alerus Center, is currently constructing a second location in town. The new bank is being built as a part of the new strip mall complex under development on South Washington Street across from Aurora Medical Park.

As some of you may remember, this is the same area that Wells Fargo has announced plans to build a new bank at. I'm not sure if Wells Fargo is still coming. For that matter, construction may be already underway and I might have failed to notice it. Either way, this part of town seems to be really heating up. There are currently two strip mall buildings going up; one of which is two stories. In addition, a new Valley Dairy will soon be built and a large new senior citizen apartment complex - called "The View" - will also soon call the area home.

Great to see a new commercial district being developed to serve the extreme southern portions of the city. I wonder what else might be on the way?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Denny's coming to Grand Forks

For those of you who haven't seen the classified ad in the Herald or who didn't notice the handful of comments under Open Thread #9, it sounds like the Denny's restaurant chain is planning to open a new location in Grand Forks within the near future. They are already looking for managers and assistant managers. No word yet on where the restaurant will be or when it will be opening. I'll have to see what I can find out. Great to see even more dining options coming to town!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas

Wishing you and yours a joyous Christmas!!!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

City Christmas decorations...

I was listening to Dakota Huseby on the radio today and she was talking with Kevin Dean about some new Christmas lights the city of Grand Forks is testing out.

As you're probably very well aware, the current Christmas decorations that the city has on streetlights throughout town are...well, horrible. They are decades old. Also, apparently it is impossible for the city to change burnt out light bulbs (certainly impossible to replace them with the correct color, at least) and they have clearly not been properly stored throughout the years. They are now bent out of shape, very faded and worn looking, and you'll be lucky to find one with half of the lights actually operating. In other words, they need replacing! (Read an earlier story about the city's decorations here.)

So that brings us to these new lights the city is testing. Apparently, a company that sells decorations for city Christmas displays has lent a few streetlight decorations to the city of Grand Forks to see what citizens think of them. The company is hoping that the city will, in turn, buy enough decorations for streetlights throughout town next year. I was excited to hear this news. New city Christmas decorations is something that I've been waiting for for years now. The lights on loan to the city are located on DeMers Avenue right east of Washington Street towards downtown.

The city wants to gauge public opinion on these lights. My opinion? Hmmm...can't we do better than this? Almost all of the designs are very unattractive, in my opinion. It is actually difficult to distinguish what most of them are. I'm just not very impressed with the designs. They are really very "small town" looking...something that I've thought we've always tried to NOT emulate in Grand Forks.

Really, the only design that seems halfway decent to me is the snowflake. I kind of like the snowflake. It is rather attractive and easily recognizable. Also, I like having something that doesn't scream Christmas. That way, the city can keep them up a while after Christmas without seeming lazy. Also, no one can accuse a snowflake of being politically incorrect. We are known for our winters here, so a snowflake seems like a logical design for the city to use as streetlight decorations for the winter months. I also want to point out that I think it is best for the city to stick with one design for all streetlights. Having many different designs throughout town would look cluttered and "small town".

So that's my opinion. The only design I would be happy to see the city choose is the snowflake one. Now, tell me what you think of the decorations. If you haven't had a chance, I encourage you to drive downtown and take a look.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Open Thread #9

What's on your minds?

Finished your Christmas shopping, decorating, baking, etc. yet? I'm guessing the answer is "No" I right?

Topics covered: RiverWalk Center troubles, Texas Roadhouse opening date, Denny's coming to town

More love for Smiley

Check out what Gordon Iseminger, a distinguished history professor at UND, has to say about Smiley's place in our community. Kudos to Iseminger for taking the time to put his feelings into words.

Some excerpts:

"In one breath, these individuals profess the need to make Grand Forks a destination city and, in the next, they call for the demolition of the very structures that make the city distinctive, the historic structures that would draw visitors and revenue to the city."
"Tourism is North Dakota's second major industry, and those in state government do not insist that historic landmarks and natural formations pay their own way. The Badlands and the Burning Lignite Beds do not generate rent. The statues of Sakakawea and Gov. John Burke on the state Capitol grounds do not return a profit. All, however, pay dividends by drawing tourists to the state."
"For the “bargain” price of $50,000, the cost of demolishing Smiley, the city will gain an unattractive, bare piece of ground, unsuitable for anything. For $200,000, the cost of preservation, the city will preserve a landmark that has greeted tens of thousands of people for decades and which will continue to do so as the city fulfills the dream of those who want to make it a destination city."

Friday, December 15, 2006

A war for a good cause

It's still not too late to get out there and support your favorite side in the Salvation Army Ring-Off challenge! The Herald crew will be at Michael's and the WDAZ crew will be at Home of Economy until 8 tonight. The onslaught of self-promotion by both sides has been almost impossible to miss so I'm sure this isn't really news to most people.

Still, remember that this isn't just about bragging rights between the two rivals. This is a good cause and the money that is (hopefully) pouring into both kettles will do good in the community.

So get out there and support your favorite Forum Communications media outlet. Yep, that's right...they're now both part of the same conglomerate, yet they still feel so competitive. It's kinda cute.

Update - 12/16/2006 - 4:20 PM
No word yet on the Herald site, but apparently the radio is reporting that WDAZ came out on top yesterday. Stay tuned for actual amounts raised.

Update - 12/16/2006 5:38 PM
The Herald is saying "Not so fast!"

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Open Thread #8

Since I'm too lazy to ever come up with any new content on here lately, I'll just make another open thread. This time, I'll start it off...

Topics covered: Olive Garden coming?, Boston's closing?, First Night, Mama Maria's, Suite 49, tipping and service in local restaurants, Winnipeg dining scene

Friday, December 08, 2006

"Da Boss" making changes at Capone's?

While driving down Gateway this afternoon, I couldn't help but notice that the sign on the old Capone's building and the sign in front have both been removed.

As you may remember, Capone's had a fire a couple of months back. They seem to have been spending the time since cleaning up after the fire. Now, with the removal of both signs, I can't help but wonder if the owner has come to her senses and ditched the kitschy name and theme.

I've never understood the whole idea behind Capone's: probably the most expensive restaurant in town locating themselves on ugly Gateway Drive across the street from the smelly Simplot factory and then choosing a "gangster" theme. Really, can't we make some better choices here?

Before you nag me for "picking on" a local establishment, keep in mind that the owner's daughter doesn't mind calling anyone critical of her mother's business formula a douche bag. I mean really, grow up. I just don't feel overly sympathetic towards people who treat their potential customers in this manner.

Regardless, I'll be interested to see what direction the restaurant will take when it finally re-opens under who knows what name and format.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Open Thread #7

About time for another one of these, huh?

Topics covered: "wish lists for Grand Forks", Jamba Juice, bagel places, GF triathlon?

Monday, November 27, 2006

Open Thread #6

As the semester starts to wind down at UND, I'm just too busy to do much blogging.

This will have to do for a day or so. What's on your mind?

Topics covered: downtown chimes, flags at Perkin's, Opera House Lofts, opening of Bobbie's, "Heels Boutique North", new Westward Ho tenant?, new downtown establishments

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Thanksgiving thread

What am I thankful for?

Right now, I'm feeling thankful for a few things...

First, how about those 720 people that LM Glasfiber will be employing in the coming year? That's phenomenal!

It's obviously closely related to something else I'm thankful for: Grand Forks' job growth. We went from being on the brink a few years ago to being a leader of the pack today.

I'm also thankful that so many people in the city seem to feel the same way that I do about Smiley the Water Tower.

Ok, your turn. What are you thankful for?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Love for Smiley

In the day or so since it was first announced that the city wanted to demolish Smiley, it seems as though things may be looking up for our old friend. Word about the proposed demolition has spread like wildfire and much of the community seems to already be saying that it would be a sad day in Grand Forks if Smiley no longer grinned at us as each time we drove down Washington Street. Read Tu-Uyen's story in today Herald.

I'm pleased to see that so many people are making their voices heard on this matter. Almost everyone seems to be speaking out in Smiley's favor. I have yet to hear from many people who don't want to see at least some effort put into saving the landmark. Dakota Huseby is proposing a "Smiley Days" benefit to raise money for restoration. That's a great idea. I think there are probably many great ideas out there for raising money. In the long run, a couple hundred thousand dollars is truly not that much for a city of 55,000 people to raise. I don't think it would be that hard to get people to shell out a few dollars to save Smiley.

Let's make this happen! Save Smiley!

Friday, November 17, 2006

New poll: Smiley

Time to change poll questions.

•Closing the old poll...
The old question was "Would you like to see smoking banned on the UND campus?" and there were a total of 65 votes. 58% (38 voters) answered "Yes", 38% (25 voters) answered "No", and 3% (2 voters) said they were unsure. Click here to check out the results.

•Opening the new poll...
The new poll questions is "Do you want to see "Smiley" saved?" Make your voice heard!!!

Save Smiley!!!

According to Tu-Uyen, the city is going to unceremoniously destroy our beloved smiley faced water tower (read his Herald story and his blog post).

Say it ain't so!!! Smiley is one of our few recognizable landmarks in Grand Forks and thousands of people think of Smiley when they think of Grand Forks. He is our old friend who grins at us as we drive down Washington Street. He has the welcoming smile that has greeted so many visitors to our city. If we lose Smiley, we lose a part of what is "Grand Forks."

Is there no way this can be stopped? Couldn't a plea be put out for donations? Maybe all of the school children could go door to door and raise money to save Smiley. Would it be possible to just let Smiley sit in his current condition until funds are found or raised? I just don't think we can stand to lose Smiley.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Open Thread #5

Ok, with the last open thread already at 44 comments as of this moment, it's probably time to start another one, huh? These are getting to be pretty popular...

Topics covered: Discontent, local entertainment scene, Segways on sidewalks

Bobbie's now open

Bobbie's, the new locally-owned women's clothing store, opened this past Monday in the new strip mall in front of Kohl's. It's great to see a non-chain store open in chain-heavy south Grand Forks and it's also great to see the store filling a void in the local market. I wish them success.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Open Thread #4

With last week's Open Thread getting around 40 comments, it's about time to start a new one, huh?

BTW, sorry I was blog-lazy last week. I had a big midterm...

Topics covered: service at local restaurants (emphasis on Boston's and the Bronze Boot), service in local banks

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Open Thread #3

I'm going to start having these about once a week...

Topics covered: gas prices, Hugo's losing business?, Grand Forks vs. urban areas, Westward Ho building

Friday, November 03, 2006

Hostile and abusive

The Dakota Student is openly calling the University of North Dakota a "hostile and abusive" institution. Read this editorial. They are also siding in with Gary LaPointe, a Native student who left the University last week due to his protest of the Fighting Sioux nickname.

I have to wonder why so much emphasis is being placed on LaPointe's departure. Many, many students leave the University for various reasons before finishing their studies. Why should we care so much more about LaPointe than any of these other students? I also think LaPointe's departure sends a very poor message to the Native community: If you don't like one (non-academic) aspect of your school, just drop out of that school. Why did LaPointe ever come to UND in the first place if he was so deeply offended by the nickname?

I think that openly siding with those who call the University of North Dakota "hostile and abusive" is one of the most questionable stances the Dakota Student has ever taken. I would think that the editorial board is supposed to be at least somewhat reflective of the UND student body as a whole...a sort of "voice" for UND students. It's clear that most UND students do not think of their school as "hostile and abusive" so why is the Dakota Student taking that very stance? The Dakota Student may be representing Gary LaPointe, but it is not representing me or thousands of other UND students.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Holiday decorations

Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the least at my home. Decorating for Christmas takes literally a couple of weeks. Yes, we really like Christmas. That's one of the reasons I always get depressed every year when the city puts up those ugly, dilapidated decorations on the light poles throughout town. They are several decades old and get a little worse for wear every year. It's gotten to the point where I wish the city would just stop putting them up. They are beyond repair...they need to be replaced.

That's why I was happy to read the minutes of this past Tuesday's Finance/Development Standby Committee meeting. The city is finally talking about replacing the city's holiday decorations. $38,000 dollars worth of new decorations are being talked about for this year with more decorations on the way next year.

This year's wish list includes:
•Holiday banners and wreaths on 80 light poles downtown = approx. $24,000
•Replacing the white lights on the tops of downtown buildings and the evergreens on Kittson Avenue with new LED lights which are longer lasting and are lower wattage = approx. $11,500.00
•Additional strings of lights for the tree on the west side of the DeMers Avenue overpass = approx. $2,400.00

As for those ratty decorations along the major thoroughfares...looks like we'll have to put up with them for one more year. The city is recommending that the same old red bells be put up this holiday season and then replaced next year with brand new decorations.

Since the project is over $30,000, the proposal will next have to go to the entire city council. Why wouldn't the city want to spend a relatively small sum of money to make the city so much more festive during the holiday season? Seems like a no brainer to me.

Carmike update

Remember my recent post about all of those seemingly forgotten movie theater projects that were once slated for Grand Forks? Well, it looks like at least one of those projects should be taking place after all. I recently received word from a corporate manager at Carmike Cinemas stating that the remodel/retrofit of the Carmike 10 in Grand Forks is still planned. However, no timetable seemed to be available. Still, the representative seemed genuinely sure that the project would take place in the near future. Let's hope so.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who has been complaining about the less than adequate movie theater experience Carmike has been providing the citizens of Grand Forks. I've heard that there have been several visits from representatives of the Carmike home office in Georgia to the Grand Forks theaters lately. I'm guessing that complaints have been rolling into the company in recent months as the theaters seem to be going a little more downhill all of the time.

I really hope the Carmike 10 project gets going before too long and I hope that the Grand Forks theaters can get there act together. Then again, I'm probably being far too naive...

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Love from F-M

The Blog Concierge, a Fargo-based blog on AreaVoices, has taken notice of the burgeoning Grand Forks blogging community. Take a look at the flattering post that blogger Alicia Strnad recently put up about her fellow bloggers to the north. Thanks Alicia! You're getting a link on my blogroll...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

New poll: smoke free UND?

Closing the old poll...
The old poll question was "Do you support UND's decision to sue the NCAA?". Click here to view the results. Of 126 voters, 52%(66) answered yes, 45%(57) answered no, and 2%(3) were unsure.

Opening the new poll...
The new poll question is "Would you like to see smoking banned on the UND campus?". Happy voting.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Open Thread #2

So what are we gonna talk about...

How about the "topping ceremony" for the Canad Inns? Maybe your thoughts on the 20/20 Initiative? Hey...whatever happened to that casino?

Topics covered: Canad Inns, New Horizons group, live music in Grand Forks, South Washington Dairy Queen, Jamba Juice, the Royal Fork "post Golden Corral", new South Washington Valley Dairy

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Where's the logo?

I can't help but notice that UND's "hostile and abusive" logo seems to be a little harder to find these days. Have you been in the new Wellness Center yet? There isn't a logo to be seen. That's right...while The Ralph is plastered with thousands of logos, UND's newest building doesn't appear to have even one logo. I thought that was very interesting.

Another noticeable absence...the Fighting Sioux Sports Network. The joint venture between UND and WDAZ has seemingly ditched artist Bennet Brien's logo for a much less "controversial" one.

Here's the old logo...
And here's the new logo...

I wonder if we will continue to see a decline in the logo's use by the University and by other entities? I'm thinking that if UND wins the lawsuit against the NCAA (I know...probably unlikely), there might be some sense of vindication there and we might see a little bit more of the logo than what we've become accustomed to. Who knows...

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Pita Pit

The Pita Pit is delicious. No, not "Deelishis" as in the girl that Flavor Flav chose to spend his life with on his reality show the other night..."delicious" as in yummy for my tummy. Yeah, I know...lame reality show reference.

Anyways, I went to the Pita Pit tonight and I really enjoyed it. I'm still a little confused why they chose to go into such an old building with such a small parking lot, but the fact that the restaurant sits on busy Washington Street does give the place good visibility and seems to be really bringing in customers. The place was packed and, at times, the line stretched to the door. They've gutted the interior of the building and it looks very similar to their restaurant in Fargo. Nothing fancy, but certainly a step up from the old Giovanni's Pizza.

I've heard some people say that the employees have seemed to be a bit confused and bewildered, but I think they've ironed out the kinks now. All of the employees I encountered were friendly and quite competent. The food was the big selling point for me, though. I had a chicken souvlaki pita...tasty and filling. I do think that prices are way too high at the Pita Pit. Call it "fast casual" if you want, but most people would come to this place expecting to pay fast food prices. $15-$16 dollars for two meals is too much.

On the minus side, the napkins were a little too thin and I couldn't help but think that the ambience might be a bit improved if each table had a little vase with flowers. Oh, sorry...I was channeling Marilyn there for a second. No offense, Marilyn...we love you!

Check out CoffeeGuy's review of the Pit.

Update - 11/1/2006 - 3:20 PM
Marilyn has reviewed the Pita Pit.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Bobbi's opening Saturday

Bobbi's Clothing, the new women's clothing store I've mentioned previously, will be opening for the first time this Saturday. It is located in the new strip mall in front of Kohl's. "Bobbi" was the manager of the old Casual Corner store in Columbia Mall. When that store closed, she decided to open her own store. The new store should sell coats, sweaters, career separates, denim, shoes, jewelry, etc.

I think it is great to hear of a new locally owned business opening up in the chain-heavy 32nd Avenue retail area. I like to see a mix of local businesses and chains. To me, that is indicative of a healthy business community.

Apparently, an "exclusive" shoe store will also be opening in the same strip mall early next year.

BTW, thanks to the GFL reader who sent me this tip by email. I always appreciate tips!

Update - 10/21/2006 - 3:00 PM
According to my tipster, Bobbi's is NOT open today. Guess all you professional women will have to wait a little longer....

Allied Health Facility coming to UND

The Dakota Student recently reported that, among other construction projects coming to the UND campus in the near future, work should soon start on a $20 million dollar "Allied Health Facility" directly south of the School of Medicine. I'm assuming that not everyone reads The Dakota Student so I thought I would mention this. I haven't seen anything about this anywhere else, so I was very interested in this article.

The building will bring several medical programs at UND together under one roof which should improve synergy and convenience between the programs. I think this is great news for the medical community at UND and great news for the University itself. I have always thought that having a medical school on campus is one of those things that makes UND seem like a truly "comprehensive" institution. In my opinion, it is important to keep the School of Medicine healthy and growing. It is a vital asset for the state of North Dakota (trains half our doctors), produces many of the country's Native American physicians, and is a leader in the area of rural health. It truly has a rich history and anything to keep it healthy is great, in my opinion.

Like the article states, this building will take up the exisiting parking lot at the School of Medicine, but the new parking ramp should make up for that. I'm thinking the University is going to have to start looking at that second parking ramp east of Columbia Road a little sooner than they figured...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Wal-Mart Supercenter grand opening

The new Wal-Mart Supercenter in Grand Forks held its grand opening today. Then again, Wal-Mart grocery stores have practically poisonous meat, offer nothing but junk food, and are filled with nearly retarded least that's what some of you think.

I for one am happy to see the project finally completed. Grand Forks shoppers now have one more choice available to them. Do you realize that there are now five grocery stores (Hugo's, Super One, SuperTarget, Sam's, Wal-Mart) just on the 32nd Avenue corridor? Wow.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

GFL "mailing list" up and running

Grand Forks Life now offers a "mailing list" of sorts. If you click on "Subscribe via email" on the left side of the screen, you will be prompted to enter your email address. After signing up, you will be notified daily when I have updated this blog and you'll get a portion of each post (you'll have to click on the posts's title to come to the blog and read the entire post). Some of you have requested this kind of thing in the past so I hope this works for you.

More construction in Kohl's development

I was using my $10 coupon at Kohl's the other day and I couldn't help but notice all of the activity taking place next to the new store. Work has really started on a brand new building right to the east of Kohl's. The foundation for the store is already being put in...and to think it was just bare dirt a week or two ago! It gives the impression of being a large building and it looks like it will actually touch Kohl's.

I'm still not 100% sure what the building's tenant will be, but I'm almost certain it will be the new Ashley Furniture store I broke the news on a couple of months back.

I think it is great to see so much commercial development taking place in Grand Forks. There are so many projects on the south side that have just been completed, are currently under construction, or will soon be under construction...32nd Avenue is really experiencing a building boom!

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Four new blogs

A few Grand Forks Blogosphere-related morsels...

•Conservative Yahoo, a regular on several local blogs, now has his own blog: TooMuchDogHair.

•Elucidarian has moved from his old Elucidarian's Nest blog to his new blog: Maze of Feathers.

Our friend Tu-Uyen has made a mini-blog about his recent trip to Scandinavia: Tuey's Travelogue.

•Tuey also has another blog, this one covering his thoughts on and experiences with all things edible: The Voracious Id.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

"Quite a comeback"

The Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has several interesting articles in their online "FedGazette" publication about Grand Forks and its recovery from the Flood of '97.

"High and dry"
"To save a city"
"Who needs downtowns, anyway?"
"Selected state and federal flood-recovery expenditures, Greater Grand Forks"

Open Thread #1

I'm going to blatantly rip off Dakota Huseby and start having an "Open Thread" from time to time. What can you talk about in an open thread like this? Anything you want! Use it like a message board and post anything that's on your mind. I think this might also be a good source of post ideas for me.

Comment away!

Topics covered: Grand Forks' new Kohl's store, southend traffic flow, GFK terminal

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

New poll: "Siouxing" the NCAA

Time for a new poll.

Closing the old poll...
In keeping with Grand Forks Life's one year anniversary this month, the old poll question was "In what month would you estimate you first visited this blog?". There were a total of 57 votes. Take a look at the results...

October '05 (4 votes, 7%)
November '05 (11 votes, 19%)
December '05 (0 votes, 0%)
January '06 (5 votes, 9%)
February '06 (6 votes, 11%)
March '06 (4 votes, 7%)
April '06 (2 votes, 4%)
May '06 (7 votes, 12%)
June '06 (3 votes, 5%)
July '06 (2 votes, 4%)
August '06 (4 votes, 7%)
September '06 (9 votes, 16%)

It looks like, of the 57 voters, 30 first visited this blog in the initial six months of its existence and 27 first visited this blog within the last six months.

Opening the new poll...
Here's the new poll question: "Do you support UND's decision to sue the NCAA?". I'll be interested to hear what you have to say about this issue.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Canad Inn pics

Canad Inns has been regularly posting pictures of their Grand Forks construction project on their website...take a look.

The main hotel tower has now reached its full height of thirteen stories. Sometimes when they build tall buildings, the workers put a flag on the tallest point. Maybe they should put an American and Canadian flag on this tower? It would be kind of cool and I'm sure the Manitobans coming south on I-29 would like that...put 'em in a spending mood!

(Images - Canad Inns)

Friday, October 06, 2006

In our thoughts

Eliot Glassheim, senior member of the Grand Forks city council and a Democratic state representative, is in St. Alexius Hospital in Bismarck (read Herald story). It appears that he has spent some time in intensive care. Apparently, Glassheim has a history of heart problems.

This hits close to home for me because my father is similar in age to Glassheim and he too has had heart problems including two heart attacks. Mr. Glassheim will certainly be in my thoughts.

Update - 10/6/2006
According to the Herald and Tu-Uyen, Glassheim is doing ok.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Is it a sculpture or is it a sign?

Grand Forks' new Furniture Row development will include at least one very interesting sign. At the southwest corner of the property (adjacent to I-29 and south of Lowe's), a 25 foot tall sign will be built. This isn't your typical sign, will include a stack of 25 foot tall chairs. Yes, chairs.

Should be an interesting topic of conversation for visitors coming from south of town.

(Image - Furniture Row)

Groceries at Wal-Mart

On Wednesday, the new grocery section of Grand Forks' Wal-Mart Supercenter opened to customers for the first time. The official grand opening for the Supercenter is October 18.

I didn't have a chance to visit the store on Wednesday, but I hear that it was already very busy. I'm interested to know how their prices compare to the other grocery stores in town. I heard that they aren't yet stocking some perishable items (meat, bakery items, and produce).

I'm thinking that smiley kid in all of the Hugo's ads had a bad day.

(Image - [with a little editing])

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Grand Forks Life turns one year old

Today marks the one year anniversary of Grand Forks Life. In the past year, this blog has had 29,002 visitors and 60,296 page views. Thanks to all of my readers and I hope you continue to visit this blog in the future!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Grand Forks theaters: promises unfulfilled

The other night, I went to the Carmike 10 on 32nd Avenue South to see "The Black Dahlia". Aside from the fact that I came to the conclusion that there were only two (three at absolute tops) employees in the entire multiplex, I also couldn't help but think about all of those promises made to us about new movie theater construction and renovation projects in Grand Forks...all promises that have gone unfulfilled...

•A new 8-screen stadium-style theater attached to the Canad Inns/Alerus Center complex. It was originally even supposed to have full food service (eat a meal in your seat) as well as state-of-the-art audio and video.

•A new 12-screen stadium-style theater at Columbia Mall in the old Target store space. It was supposed to be a Wallace Theater. That would have been such a boost for the mall and would have created much needed competition for Carmike.

•A renovated Carmike 10 with new stadium seats in the theaters. Certainly needed!

•A revamped Columbia 4 turned into a discount theater. We need a discount theater in Grand Forks badly. I used to go to the old Plaza Twin at South Forks Plaza often...I wish I could still see a movie for $1 or $2 dollars. The Columbia 4 is far too outdated to expect people to accept it as a theater for first-run movies. It would be much better suited for a discount format.

And here we are...not one of these projects has happened. Carmike really needs competition and Grand Forks really needs more movie screens in much more modern theater environments. As it is, going to the movies in Grand Forks currently means you put on your old clothes (those seats...ewww) and pay way too much to sit through a movie with poor video and even worse sound. What a shame!

Rydell's open house

This past Sunday afternoon, I attended the open house at the new Rydell's car dealership on South Washington. Don't ask me why they chose to hold the open house so long after the building was actually completed. Still, I enjoyed getting to see what the new Rydell's looks like.

All in all, it is a nice structure. I like the giant, curved roof that seems to tower over your head when you're inside the building (reminds me of a stadium) . My only problem with the building is the lack of signage on the outside. They must have spent millions on this building, yet apparently they couldn't spend the money it would take to put up a sign that says "Rydell" on the building. I'm not kidding...there is no sign other than a red neon one that hangs inside behind a window and is only visible in the dark (and even then it doesn't stand out).

My favorite part of the open house? The free food! Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, cookies, and beverages. Apparently, the great Chef NarDane (aka Dennis Narlock) prepared the food. Yes, there is actually a chef in Grand Forks who has come up with his own "celebrity chef" moniker...think what you will. Anyways, thanks to the Rydell's for the free go put up a sign on the building!

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Local economy: not too shabby, eh?

Ralph Kingsbury's monthly look at the economy is in today's Herald...take a look at it. I always enjoy Mr. Kingsbury's insight.

Some interesting sections:

There is about a 30 percent increase in the permit value of single-family dwellings, and a 25 percent increase in townhouses. Both bode well for Grand Forks to continue to see an increase in population, the single most important factor in long-run growth.

I believe it is fair to conclude that Grand Forks has seen a significant increase in Canadian traffic and that the Alerus and Englestad play a major part in the Grand Forks economy.

I read about several new commercial buildings, including a major big box furniture store, and at least one new restaurant. Stories are interesting and exciting, but it is shovels in the ground that count.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Last day for Hansen Ford?

I can't verify this, but I have recieved word that today may be the last day that Hansen Ford of Grand Forks will operate under the "Hansen" name. Supposedly, they will close this afternoon and remain closed until next Wednesday when they will reopen under the new "Lithia Ford" name.

Thanks again to my source!

Update - 9/30/2006 - 3:45 AM
The change of ownership from Hansen Ford to Lithia Ford is now "official."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


You might have noticed that Grand Forks Life looks a little different. That's because I have been moving from Blogger over to the new Blogger Beta. Eventually, all users of Blogger will have to move their blogs over to Blogger Beta. I wanted to make the move early because I think that this version of Blogger has many new featues that I wanted to be able to use.

Managing and updating the template of my blog will now be much easier and quicker. Also, the blog is supposed to load much faster and that's always a plus. The most exciting thing for me is the "label" featue which I will soon be implementing. This will allow me to add "labels" to each post to categorize it. That way, a reader will be able to bring up all of my posts about the Alerus Center, the local economy, city politics, or any one of a number of different topics. This will take a while to complete since I'll have to go back and attach labels to all of the posts that I have put here since last October.

I ask you guys to bring to my attention any problems you see with the website or anything you would like changed (fonts, colors, etc.). Also, I always encourage ideas for making my blog better and more interesting. Let me know what you think!

Wet Seal coming to Columbia Mall

Wet Seal, a women's clothing store, will soon be opening a Grand Forks location near the center court of Columbia Mall. The store will be in the space formerly occupied by Casual Corner. There is also a Wet Seal in Fargo's West Acres mall.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

New poll: how long have you read this blog?

Time to change the Grand Forks Life poll again. I've been pretty lazy and you've been stuck with the same poll for too long...sorry! Still, this way I got a very large reponse to the poll question (108 votes).

Closing the old poll...
The old poll question was "What do you think about chain stores and restaurants in downtown Grand Forks?" and you can check out the results. Overall, most readers don't seem to have anything against a few chains possibly coming to the downtown area in the future. "Bring them on!" got 44% (47 votes), "Maybe a few..." got 31% (33 votes), "Not one!" got 24% (26 votes), and 2% (just 2 voters) were undecided. In other words, 75% of voters thought that a chain or two downtown wouldn't be that big of a deal. In fact, some of you (including me) seem to think that a couple of chain stores and restaurants might be just the thing to bring more activity downtown. My vote? Let's start with a Starbucks and then maybe add a sit-down restaurant or two.

Opening the new poll...
The new poll question is "In what month would you estimate you first visited this blog?". Why am I asking this? Well, the one year birthday of Grand Forks Life is coming up on October 4th and I'm curious how long you guys have been reading this blog. I know it might be hard to remember the exact month you first visited me so just make a rough estimate.

Wal-Mart Supercenter almost done

The new Grand Forks Wal-Mart Supercenter is nearing completion. The remodeling/conversion of the old Wal-Mart store into the expanded format is almost done and the grand opening is scheduled for October 18. Shelves in the new grocery section are being stocked with dry goods and some frozen food has started to arrive.

The Grand Forks store will be the largest Wal-Mart Supercenter in the state and will feature a complete grocery store, expanded departments throughout the store, a tire and lube express, and several tenant spaces.

I know many of my readers are anything but fans of Wal-Mart. In fact, it seems like even a mere mention of Wal-Mart results in a red-hot comment section...popular topic. So for all of you haters out there, no I'm not such a big fan of Wal-Mart. I actually shop at Target much more. I just think that if we are going to have a Wal-Mart in Grand Forks, it is nice to have it remodeled and updated. And by the way, will you really feel sorry for Hugo's if they have to lower prices on a few items? I know I won't!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Hansen Ford to become Lithia Ford?

In case you haven't been following the comments under the "Subaru partnership" post, take a moment to scan through them. It sounds like Hansen Ford either has been or will soon be sold. Good Ol' Boy is saying that he has heard the new owner will be an out of state chain of car dealers known as "Lithia". So, we can probably expect to hear something soon about Hansen Ford becoming "Lithia Ford".

Thanks to Good Ol' Boy for providing this information. His comment was the first I had heard of this Lithia chain.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

"Large entertainment center" in the works?

I've heard rumors lately of a development eyeing a location on Gateway Drive near University Village. The rumors have some sort of "large entertainment center" being constructed near the former site of the Westward Ho complex. What I've been hearing is that the site that is being looked at for this development is the land where the derelict Transport Incorporated and Weekley's Auto buildings currently stand. You may remember that these buildings are slated for demolition in the near future. It seems that the owners of those buildings may want to tear down their properties so they can sell them to the developers of this new complex.

As far as what a "large entertainment center" is, I'll let you be the judge. Maybe some re-incarnation of the Westward Ho? The old Westward Ho motel recently changed hands and the new owners may be in on the plans for the new development. Perhaps the complex might include a brand new hotel? There does seem to be a desire to have a hotel closer to Engelstad Arena, but would anyone really want to build a new hotel just east of the Simplot factory?

I would love to see this area redeveloped. The buildings on this site are ugly and have long outlived their usefulness. A new commercial development of this potential magnitude might be just the ticket for starting the cleanup of Gateway Drive once and for all.

Remember, this is still just a rumor as far as I'm concerned. Still, I've heard plenty of talk of this and I've even heard that there has been some discussion of this amongst city staff. I guess time will tell.

Subaru partnership

Grand Auto Mart will soon start selling Subaru cars in a partnership with Ward Muscatell Subaru of Moorhead.

Does this mean that we can forget about that new Subaru dealership south of the Big Sioux Travel Plaza we've been hearing about? If so, that's a shame. It would have been nice to see a brand new car dealership out there.

Update - 9/19/2006 - 10:15 AM
BTW, has anybody heard anything further on the rumored sale of Hansen Ford?

Update - 9/28/2006 - 11:28 AM
Grand Auto Mart is being renamed "Grand Subaru".

Another furniture store for Grand Forks

You probably remember when I broke the story a while back about the new Ashley Furniture/Furniture Outlets USA store coming to Grand Forks. Now it looks like another national furniture store chain has plans for a Grand Forks location.

A chain called Furniture Row is planning a new store directly south of Lowe's. The new store will be just off of I-29. The company hopes to start construction yet this fall. The previously mentioned furniture store also intends to start their building this fall and open next spring. It looks like that by sometime next year, Grand Forks residents should have plenty of new options when it comes to buying furniture.

Furniture Row locations group together several specialty home and furniture store formats into one unified shopping center. Potential store formats in Furniture Row centers include Sofa Mart, Oak Express, Bedroom Expressions, and Denver Mattress. Some location include all four formats while others just include one or two of the formats. The chain operates a location in Rapid City that only includes a Denver Mattress store. It's still unclear exactly what kind of a complex they're planning for Grand Forks. However, it appears that most new locations include all four store formats so I'm thinking that this is the type of complex we'll be getting.

At Monday's city council meeting, the Furniture Row development was granted an exception to the city code pertaining to signs. The chain wants to build a monument style sign 25 feet high while code would otherwise only allow a sign 8 feet high. Since this store will be south of the Grand Forks Marketplace, I'm assuming that the new sign will be near the Marketplace's large sign. I'm personally not that fond of having exceptionally large signs in the city limits, but since this sign will be adjacent to the interstate and not a city street I don't think this is anything to get too upset over.

I'm very excited to see more retail growth coming to the city's south side. It seems like we're hearing about new stores and restaurants all of the time. More choices within the city should keep Grand Forks residents shopping here and should bring in shoppers from throughout the region. This is especially true when it comes to furniture stores. As it is, Fargo currently has more choices when it comes to shopping for furniture and some Grand Forks residents make the trip south when they're looking for new furniture. Two major furniture stores coming to Grand Forks should help stop this trend.

BTW, check out JGS's post about the new Furniture Row store.

Update - 9/19/2006 - 10:18 AM
Furniture Row is also planning a new location in Bismarck. That store was first announed back in May, but at that time a spokewoman for the company said "construction wouldn't likely begin until the first quarter of 2007". So if the Bismarck store was announced back in May but construction won't start until early next year, I'm doubting we'll see much work on the Grand Forks location before early 2007 either.

The Bismarck store will carry all four specialty store formats and will be 54,000 square feet.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Bye-bye, Bob

Tu-Uyen is reporting that Ward 1 Grand Forks City Council representative Bob Brooks is taking the job as the new city administrator in East Grand Forks. That means that he will have to move to the Eastside and will have to give up his seat on the council.

So, a (costly) special election will now have to be held to elect a new council member for Ward 1. I'm wondering, is anyone aware of someone who lives in Ward 1 who might make a good candidate for the council? Any names that come to mind?

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Gateway Drive D- Awards

As Tu-Uyen mentioned in his blog, the "Gateway Drive A+ Awards" were recently handed out to two businesses. The awards recognize businesses along the Gateway Drive corridor that have in some way improved the appearance of Gateway Drive - long considered to be the most blighted commercial area of Grand Forks. The winners were The Carpet Garage for exterior renovations to their building and Advance Auto Parts for their newly constructed store.

It's fine to recognize these businesses. They have both made their respective areas of Gateway Drive a little better looking. Still, most of the corridor can only be described as truly ugly. When you think about it, it's unfortunate that we have to actually give out awards to businesses that make improvements to their properties. When was the last time you ever heard of the "Columbia Road A+ Awards" or the "DeMers Avenue A+ Awards"? There would be no reason for such awards. The business communities along those arterials are, for the most part, much more interested in making their properties look as good as they can. The same cannot be said for many in the Gateway Drive business community.

For years, the city has talked about improving the corridor, but in reality it has mainly been just talk. There have been few improvements and the city has pretty much turned a blind eye to the business owners who neglect their properties. Many in the city and in the Gateway business community pretend like "that's what Gateway Drive is for...ugly businesses." I think that's silly. Almost all businesses can be properly taken care of in such a way that their mere presence doesn't feel like an offense to the senses for those who drive by them each day. As it is, we as citizens of Grand Forks are, for the most part, ashamed to have out-of-town visitors travel along Gateway Drive. What a shame.

Again, while it's ok to recognize businesses that truly do make a difference along Gateway Drive, why do we ignore all of those businesses who can never seem to get their act together? Recognizing a few improvements, but ignoring a multitude of neglect...that's really a little too "North Dakota nice" when you think about it.

So, that's why I'm introducing the "Gateway Drive D- Awards". I can personally think of only a few businesses along Gateway Drive worthy of an "A+ Award", but I can think of many that should get a "D- Award".

I'm interested to hear what you guys have to say. Which businesses along Gateway Drive do you feel routinely neglect their properties and make Gateway the black eye on the city of Grand Forks that it currently is? In other words, who would you nominate for a "D- Award"?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Dakota Roar

The Dakota Student has an article in today's paper that mentions a website called Dakota Roar. This is a forum for UND students that was started a few months back.

Nice to see that website get a mention in the paper, but I'm left can we, the bloggers of Grand Forks, get free publicity like this too? Anybody have an in at the Dakota Student?

BTW, is it just me or is it confusing that the address for Dakota Roar is I thought this was a UND forum...why Bison? What's up with that?!?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

An early frost?

Only in North Dakota: 90 degrees on Thursday afternoon and the threat of frost by early Saturday morning.

As I write this, it is 40 degrees and the wind chill is 36. It's still early...I'm sure it's bound to get closer to the magic number of 32 in a few hours. Hopefully you all remembered to cover any plants that you have before you went to bed on Friday night. I just brought in our flower pots...all twenty-some of them.

Still, I can't help admit that I kind of like seeing Fall settling in upon us. I've always loved this time of year. The crisp days, the vibrant leaves. Gee...ain't I the romantic type?

Update - 9/10/2006 - 2:17 AM
On Saturday morning, the low was 40 at the Grand Forks NWS office, 33 at the airport, and 32 at the base. Seven degrees difference from the NWS office to the airport? Is that possible? Maybe this has something to do with urban areas retaining heat more than rural areas?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Newsbits: Prairie Pundit, Herald

Prairie Pundit has made the move over to the Area Voices site. Tu-Uyen Tran did it a few days ago and now Tom Dennis is following suit. Once again, these moves are taking place because Forum Communications, the new owner of the Grand Forks Herald, wants to consolidate all blogs by Forum employees on the Forum's own blogging site. So be sure to change your links to point to the new address for Tom's blog. Good luck to Tom with his new home over at Area Voices!

The Herald seems to be in a rather vigorous mode of expansion. After years of layoffs, the paper has had many ads lately advertising various positions with the company. I think it's great to see the Herald finally able to "spread its wings" instead of always cutting back.

Keeping with my apparent fascination with all things Herald, I see that the paper's At Home monthly magazine is going to be changing to a weekly magazine. They even have a position out for a new editor. Since I like architecture and love seeing inside of other people's homes (especially the historic ones they often show) I always enjoy At Home. Seems like yet another sign that the Herald is growing and expanding into new areas. The Herald's monthly women's magazine also strikes me as something that has lots of growth potential. The Area Woman magazine in Fargo-Moorhead seems to be very popular in that community...perhaps the Herald can use that as a model for their own women's publication.

Ok...enough with all this free advertising for the Herald!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Mac is back

Mike McNamara is back from Iraq and tonight he sat in on his first city council meeting where he was able to be physically present and not just calling in from the desert.

I have the distinct feeling that NcNamara's presence on the council is going to encourage some heated (and probably lengthy) debates. Even tonight, there seemed to be a certain level of tension between McNamara and some of his new colleagues...especially Mayor Brown. Then again, they did buy McNamara that cake with the American flag on it...

What do I think of McNamara's presence on the council? I realize that this was only the first council meeting where he could be physically present, but if tonight is any indicator of what may be to come, I think McNamara could end up being the lone dissenting vote on plenty of council votes. He just seems to be setting himself up as an outsider...something that might sound good during the election, but means something different after the election.

McNamara's seemingly insatiable desire to cut city taxes (without giving much thought to the fact that further cuts may hurt valuable city services) is dangerous and short-sighted, in my opinion. Department heads work hard to trim their respective budgets as much as they feel they can and McNamara's criticism seems like micromanagement...something that I thought McNamara would be against. I also have the nagging feeling that this a drawn-out advertisement for "Mac Talk", but hopefully I'm being too cynical. I guess time will tell.

BTW, did anybody else notice that Mike's name placard on the desk is spelled wrong? It reads McNamera instead of McNamara. Funny.

Update - 9/7/2006 - 12:52 AM
Check out Tu-Uyen's opinions of Mac's presence on the council.

Update - 9/8/2006 - 12:27 AM
I forgot to post this earlier. Check out this audio interview with councilman McNamara from the Say Anything blog.

New Herald website up and running

Take a moment to look at the Grand Forks Herald's new website.

Overall, I'm pretty pleased with the new site. It is almost a carbon copy of the Fargo Forum's website, but I've always liked the Forum's website quite a bit so I'm satisfied that the same template was basically recycled for the Herald. I haven't registered yet.

The only thing that I can immediately say I don't like about the website is the huge ad banner on the top. This is similar to the ad banner found over at the Forum's site. I don't have a problem with a moderate amount of advertising on a website, but why is this ad banner so much bigger than the Herald's logo?

Also, I think the Herald's blogs deserve a more prominent spot. Maybe Tu-Uyen can talk to somebody about that...

Update - 9/7/2006 - 11:25 AM
Could this page with links to about a million news stories be any longer or harder to navigate? I hope the Herald's website guy figures out how to organize the stories a bit better and maybe only show stories from the current day on this page.

Kohl's development coming along nicely

The other night I did a little trespassing. Ok, I guess it wasn't really trespassing. I drove into the parking lot of the new Kohl's store on 32nd Avenue. I parked right in front of the store, got out, and plastered my little face up to the windows of the store. It looks like things are going pretty well in there. The building itself is entirely finished and the store looks totally "fixtured". Now, all that's left is to stock the store...which I'm sure is no small task.

It looks really nice inside and I'm excited that Grand Forks shoppers will be getting yet another shopping option. One less excuse for going to if we could just get an Olive Garden to satisfy Grand Forks' apparently insatiable appetite for over-priced pasta. Kohl's is supposed to open sometime next month.

While I was trespassing in this area, I decided to take a look at the new strip mall being built in front of Kohl's. I parked by it and walked all around it. This is going to be a very nice looking strip mall. I'm impressed with the design of the place. Hopefully some other developers will see that something as simple as a strip mall can look nice and appealing to the eye.

I'm still wondering what all is going to go into the strip mall (and the others being built around town). I've previously mentioned the new "Bobbi's" women's clothing store that is supposed to be moving in and I've been meaning to mention that I hear Computer Renaissance is also planning a move to this strip mall. I'm not quite clear whether or not the new Golden Corral restaurant is going into this strip mall or an as-of-yet-unconstructed free-standing building west of the strip mall. I've heard both potentialities. The southern half of the strip mall does have that portion that sticks off to the west and it is a very large spot...probably large enough for a restaurant. Anybody know if Golden Corral is going to have their own building or if they're going into the strip mall?

I'm excited to see what else might come to some of the vacant land in this whole development. Like I mentioned earlier, Ashley Furniture seems to be planning a new store in this area. I wonder what else might be on the way? This is prime retail real estate.

Monday, September 04, 2006

New Grand Forks Herald site almost here

The long-awaited debut of the new Grand Forks Herald website seems to be suddenly on our doorstep. Sunday's Herald reported that the changeover from the old Knight Ridder website should happen this coming Tuesday afternoon. The article says that the new site will offer more local control over content and overall look.

Good, the old site has been severely lacking for years and has paled in comparison to the Fargo Forum's website. I'm hoping that, since Forum Communications is the new owner of the Herald, they've put some of their people to work on building the new site.

One thing that makes me a little uneasy is the fact that the article states that the new Herald site will require readers to "register" before they're able to access content. That's similar to what the Fargo Forum has done for several years so I'm assuming that's why this is being implemented on the Herald's new site. I'm no big fan of requiring readers to offer up personal information before they're allowed to access your website's content. It seems like just an unnecessary hassle for people trying to read a story or two. Still, I guess it should be just a one-time thing for readers so hopefully it shouldn't be too big of an inconvenience.

I'm intrigued by the article's mention of new partnerships between the Herald and WDAZ. The story also states "There also will be staff weblogs and weblogs from people in the community in Area Voices." Interesting...can we expect other Herald writers to pick up the hobby of blogging? I hope so. I'm happy to see that the Herald doesn't seem to be scared of blogging...which is more than I can say for some other local media outlets.

Overall, I'm very excited to see the advent of a new Herald website. I think a new website, if designed and managed well, could be an excellent asset for the community and a tool for all citizens wanting to keep informed. I'm eagerly waiting for Tuesday afternoon.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

City Beat moves to Area Voices

Tu-Uyen has finally moved his The City Beat blog to Forum Communications' AreaVoices website. I'm sure a similar move for Tom Dennis' Prairie Pundit blog can't be that far off.

I personally have serious reservations about AreaVoices, but this is just a part of the buyout of the Grand Forks Herald by Forum Communications. It seems like Forum thinks they can do better blog hosting than the big guys. Mainly, I'm a little worried that locating a blog at something other than one of the big blogging sites will limit the blog's audience.

Still, I know that I for one won't be visiting The City Beat any less now that it is over at AreaVoices. I hope all of you, the loyal readers of the Grand Forks Blogosphere, will check it out on a regular basis as well. Tu-Uyen does a great job with his blog and he produces a lot of good content. Good luck, Tuey!

BTW, I know I've been very lazy with the blog lately. I've just been a little busier now that college is back in session. I'll try to do better...I promise!

Update - 9/2/2006 - 6:44 PM
Looks like Tu-Uyen has gotten a site feed on The City Beat after all. Because of this, his new posts will show up in my "Grand Forks Blogosphere" box on the left side of this blog just like before.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Cirque du Soleil "review"

I wasn't lucky enough to get to go to last night's big Cirque du Soleil show at the Alerus Center, but that doesn't mean I can't be really ticked off at the Herald and writer Paulette Tobin for the ridiculous excuse of a "review" that appears on the front of today's paper.

First of all, what the heck is a review doing on the front page of the paper? Isn't the front page usually reserved for news stories or at least articles that aren't supposed to be biased or slanted? When was the last time you saw Marilyn Hagerty's restaurant reviews on the front page? Reviews belong elsewhere in the paper. Actually, this particular one would have been better off in the trash, come to think of it. Any past reviews that have appeared in the paper have gone deeper in...certainly not on the front page.

We all know the Herald hates the Alerus Center, but this is really sinking to a new low. In the past after major events like this, the paper has usually written up a short article that just contains the spin or "I didn't like the show because..." stuff. Why did the Herald decide to write a "review" of this event instead of the traditional brief story?

Why are we supposed to be so interested to hear what Ms. Tobin thought of the show? Is she a musical critic? The paper publishes Marilyn's restaurant reviews because she has been at the paper for years and has a following. Contrastingly, no one is very familiar with Tobin and I doubt few think of her as any kind of art or music critic. The "review" sounds more like a response paper from a high school student than a real review by a true critic. Using the Power Rangers and Jim Carrey as examples in a review? Yikes!

Also, what good does it really do to review an event that is over and already gone? When Marilyn reviews a restaurant in Grand Forks, it at least makes sense because the restaurant will still be there after the review comes out and people can use the review to decide whether or not they want to go there. Cirque du Soleil's Grand Forks stint is over and won't be happening again anytime soon so why do we really care whether or not Ms. Tobin liked it? Most of us weren't lucky enough to get a free ticket to the show...

Update - 9/22/06 - 2:21 AM
I couldn't help but notice that a review of Ms. Tobin's appears in today's paper. However, this time around the review starts with this little disclaimer: "This is a review and includes the writer's opinions." Hmmm, I think someone at the Herald (other than our friend Tu-Uyen) has been reading Grand Forks Life.

UND counts its students

The first day head count at UND was released on Wednesday and it shows a very small decline from last fall. I can't find an official news release, but I think the drop was less than 100 students. I'm sure the Herald will have a story in today's paper.

School officials don't seem to be too worried about the small drop. They say that larger than anticipated graduating classes the past three semesters and tougher admission standards for applicants are the likely cause. Still, the number of incoming freshmen this year is larger than what the school had been aiming for. With the tougher admission standards, UND hopes that it is getting better freshmen that are more committed to college and that will stay at the University until they graduate. If that's the case, it's great to see growth among the number of freshmen coming to UND since they will hopefully stay at UND for the full four (or five, or six, or seven, or eight...) years of their undergraduate career.

I would like to see a growing student body each year at UND, but I don't mind seeing the University become a little more selective in who it admits. UND is already literally exploding at the seams and the campus would simply not be able to house that many more students at this time. Hopefully the huge new parking ramp, the new student housing, and other campus construction projects will give the University more room to grow in the future. I really have no doubt that UND will continue an upward climb for the foreseeable future. We just have way too much going for us to imagine any other kind of evolution.

By the way, the initial first day head count is often different than the "official" head count released in a few weeks. Stay tuned to see how we "officially" add up.

I hope they remembered to count me...

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Downtown Grand Forks 40 years ago

A week or two ago I put up a postcard picture of downtown Grand Forks circa 1946. Interestingly, I have another postcard in my collection which shows downtown as it appeared in the 1960s...about twenty years after the other postcard. As you can see, this picture was taken from virtually the same spot as the earlier postcard's picture.

Clearly, not too much construction or demolition took place downtown from the 40s to the 60s. The days of "urban renewal" would come in the 70s and, of course, the flood would change downtown plenty in 1997. One interesting thing about this picture is how clearly it shows all of the buildings that used to sit south of Kittson Avenue on the river-side of South 3rd Street. As you can see, this stretch used to be lined with buildings. Now, the area is used for parking and the dike. Also, you can see the old grain elevator on South 5th Street. This area now houses the Police Department.

I just thought you might enjoy seeing this postcard since it is so strikingly similar to the other postcard I showed you, yet many details are even clearer and in full color.

Monday, August 21, 2006

No need to rush into this, k?

The Herald carried an article in today's paper about the pros and cons of dog parks.

A few interesting points:
•"In Boulder, Colo., large dogs have killed smaller dogs at the parks."
•"Matt Claussen, a park ranger in Boulder, said putting a lot of dogs together in a fenced-in area can create a pack mentality."
•"It can be very intimidating. I know of one where people won't go anymore because they say it is so scary."
"Some dog parks in Boulder once had nice tall grass and now are mostly dirt and gravel."

Yikes. This doesn't sound like anything that the city of Grand Forks should be rushing into without giving serious thought to location and design. And to think that if some people around here had their way, a major portion of the Greenway near downtown Grand Forks would already be an unfenced dog park!

I think it's high time the city listens to people on all sides of this issue. Right now, there is a very vocal pro-dog park faction that is trying to make construction of a dog park in the city limits of Grand Forks seem like both an absolute necessity and an emergency. I really don't think it is either. Let's take some time on this and get the design and the location right. Otherwise, we could potentially end up with both unhappy dog owners and unhappy residents.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Newsbits: Area Voices, new GGFYP blog

Area Voices vs. Blogspot
Looks like the Herald's UND Hockey blog is moving from their old home to a new home at the Fargo Forum's "Area Voices" blog hosting site. The move is "part of the transition from former Herald owner, Knight Ridder, to the new owner, Forum Communications Company". Not the greatest move, in my judgement. I've never been a big fan of Area Voices. I hope this doesn't mean that the City Beat and Prairie Pundit blogs have to move to Area Voices too. Tu-Uyen? Tom?

New Grand Forks blog...
Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals have started their own blog, check it out. Our friend Tu-Uyen Tran is a board member of GGFYP and he has done all of the blogging so far...under the name "Tuey". Is this something that people really call you, Tu-Uyen, or are you just being cute here? "Tuey" does roll off the tonque a little easier than "Tu-Uyen". Anyways, great to see the local blogging community get bigger!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

You heard it here first

I scooped them again.

WDAZ had a story on the Monday night newscasts about "new restaurants and stores" that are coming to 32nd Avenue South in the near future. As it turned out, they were talking about one new store - Ashley Furniture/Furniture Outlets USA - and one new restaurant - Golden Corral.

Golden Corral coming to town is still a news story? Many Grand Forks Life readers may remember when I first mentioned this restaurant coming to town...back in April. After I "broke" the story, it only took a day for the Herald to report the news, but it took 'DAZ four months. Four month old stories being paraded as news? Yikes! (Tu-Uyen must be loving this WDAZ bashing...)

As far as Ashley Furniture/Furniture Outlets USA coming to it just me or does anyone else find it funny that this news seems to have been out there since early June, but 'DAZ airs a report less than a week after I first "broke" the story?

I've said it before and I'm sure I'll say it again: I don't mind WDAZ or the Herald using this blog as a source. Actually, I take it as a compliment. I get a little snicker every time I see the story I just "broke" on this blog show up on TV or in the paper the next day.

Ok, I'll admit that the traditional media outlets would find out about new businesses sooner or later even if there was no Grand Forks Life. However, sometimes it seems like it would be more "later" than "sooner" without this blog. How many times can I scoop you guys!

Friday, August 11, 2006

Downtown Grand Forks 60 years ago

A while back, I came across this old postcard of downtown Grand Forks. The postcard is used and the postmark is from 1946, so I'm guessing that's around the time this picture was taken. In other words, this means that we're looking at downtown Grand Forks as it appeared 60 years ago...right after the end of the war and before the time of "urban renewal".

When I look at the picture, I can see many of the same landmarks that are still standing to this day. You can probably pick out obvious structures like Central High School and the Courthouse. I can see many other familiar faces, too. The old First National Bank building is still downtown. So is the old Griffith's Department Store, St. Johns Block, and the Ryan Hotel.

However, it's clear that, while much of downtown looks close to the way it did 60 years ago, much has changed as well. Look in the back of the picture...where's the Kennedy Bridge? It isn't there yet. Where are the parking ramps? They wouldn't come for years. The old library would stand for a couple more decades before the first ramp would be built on that property. Other unfamiliar sights to us include the old Security Building on the north side of downtown. The fire which would devastate downtown 50 years later would start in the Security Building. How about all those buildings so close to the river? They would slowly vanish over the coming years and the flood would have the final say.

It might be confusing for some to look at the old postcard and pick out individual buildings and areas. That's why I made up this annotated version...

It's interesting to look at some of the areas that I have boxed off. These show whole sections of downtown that have succumbed to "urban renewal", new developments, or disaster over the years. Clearly, a good portion of downtown circa 1946 is no more. Kind of fascinating, huh?

(BTW, If you want to get a closer look at the pictures, just click on them.)

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

New furniture store coming to town

Furniture Outlets USA, a Sioux Falls-based furniture store chain that operates stores under several names, is planning a new Grand Forks store. The company currently operates the large Furniture Outlets USA store in West Fargo.

Besides the "Furniture Outlets USA" name, the company also operates stores under the name "Ashley Furniture HomeStore". A representative of the company tells me that they are still unsure of which format they will go with for the new Grand Forks store. Also, it is unclear where in town the store will be located. He did say to expect the store's arrival in Grand Forks hopefully by next spring.

As far as location...I'm guessing south Grand Forks. Maybe next to Kohl's?

New poll: chains downtown?

Closing the old poll...
Time to close the old poll question, "Which of the new downtown restaurants is your favorite?" The winner? Check out the results. It was fairly close, but Dakota Harvest Bakers won with 31% of the vote. They beat out The Toasted Frog which got 28% and Joe Black's which got 25%. 15% of voters had no opinion. Voting was pretty close between the three establishments. There doesn't really appear to be any resounding favorite out there. Interesting. I wonder how business has been at the three restaurants?

Opening the new poll...
Time for the new poll question, "What do you think about chain stores and restaurants in downtown Grand Forks?" I'll be interested to see what you all have to say about chains downtown. Should we be actively trying try to get chain stores and restaurants downtown? Should we let just a few in? How about a "chain-free" downtown? What are your opinions?

Walking the labyrinth

On Sunday, a friend and I had a picnic in a downtown Grand Forks park. After our meal, we took a brief stroll down 3rd Street and into the Greenway. We wanted to take a look at the new labyrinth that has been constructed in the Community Green area south of the Sorlie Bridge.

The labyrinth was dedicated on Saturday in honor of former Grand Forks Herald publisher Michael Maidenberg. Maidenberg has been credited for encouraging the revitalization of downtown Grand Forks after the flood, so the city wanted to express their gratitude in some way. Maidenberg had called for construction of a labyrinth in the Greenway a few years back.

I think the labyrinth is a great addition to the Greenway. It offers an excellent opportunity for residents to spend a few moments reflecting, praying, or meditating as they walk to the center of the labyrinth and back again. Something like this gives the Greenway a touch of class and was a unique idea. What better place to add a meditative spot than in the center of the city?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Chautauqua reborn

The century-old tradition of Chautauqua has come to the city of Grand Forks in the last few days.

What is Chautauqua? According to Wikipedia: "The Chautauqua was a popular educational movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States. When the Chautauqua came to town, it brought entertainment for the whole community, with speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers and specialists of the day."

The Chautauqua that's been visiting Grand Forks also has speakers, teachers, and musicians. Daily activities have been going on at the Myra Museum on Belmont Road and nightly activities take place "under the big blue tent" in Lincon Drive Park near downtown. Each night at 7 P.M., a speaker portrays a historical figure and gives a presentation about that individual. On Monday night, former UND professor D. Jerome Tweton will be playing John Jacob Astor (America's first millionaire).

I love seeing something like this come to Grand Forks. This recreation of the Chautauqua experience is a sentimental nod to a more innocent America of 100 years ago. It's also a chance for citizens to learn (the goal of Chautauqua) about the lives of influential Americans and our country's rich history.

I'm going to Monday night's lecture and I hope (::crossing fingers::) to see the place packed.

Update 8/8/2006
I went to Dr. Tweton's portrayal of John Jacob Astor this evening and I thoroughly enjoyed the night. What a great thing having something like Chautauqua pay a visit to our city. There was a good crowd at the lecture so that pleased me. It was such a lovely evening and Lincoln Drive Park is a wonderful place for events like this. The music before the lecture was great too.

There is one more night of Chautauqua left. On Tuesday night at 7 P.M., a man will be portraying York. I encourage you to experience Chautauqua while you still can.