Wednesday, February 08, 2006

More downtown housing

It sounds like there could soon be yet another new housing option for those who want to live in downtown Grand Forks. MetroPlains of St. Paul is proposing the Dakota Block apartments. The complex would sit on North Third Street at a location that is currently a parking lot directly north of the Uptown/Downtown building (formerly The Edge). The proposal is for a 40-unit apartment building worth $4.9 million. MetroPlains does some very nice work with new construction, as well as with renovating historic buildings. It's interesting to note that MetroPlains owns the 40-unit Ryan House apartments which are just across the street from the proposed Dakota Block.

I must say that the only thing I would question about the project is the fact that 30 of the units would be aimed at "lower income" residents. Shouldn't we be focusing our efforts on seeking at least middle-income or even high-income residents who would bring more money and more developments along with them? Downtown has long been seen as a "lower income" neighborhood. I would like to see it take on a more upscale atmosphere.

Update - 2/10/06
In today's Dakota Student, Councilman Glassheim says that the average rent in this building will probably be between $500 and $700. Also, the article states that the building will have five to seven low-income units. Why did the Herald report that 30 of the 40 units are low-income?

Another update - 2/10/06
The paperwork for this apartment complex states the following:
*16 one bedroom units: 6 @ $500/month and 10 @ $615/month
*24 two bedroom units: 10 @ $605/month and 14 @ $750/month
*Estimation that 25% of renters will be elderly
*Largest units on ground floor

Image - JLG Architects


UND Student said...

Well, hopefully if the building is mixed between higher & lower income units, it won't give off a "low-income" feel ;-) Actually when I was reading the article, I was quite happy to hear they needed to have X amount of cheap units to get the financial assistance. I think there are a lot of people who want to live downtown, but don't have the money. I have a lot of friends who like downtown, and I myself am looking for a way to move there. Unfortunately I'm a student, and I can't afford to spend $500 a month on rent.

Although it is important to get people with space cash to move downtown (and therefore spend money in downtown), it should not become an exclusive neighborhood. What makes a place trendy and cool is the atmosphere, and if you want an upscale atmosphere you do need people with some amount of money. I think people sometimes confuse wealth with class... you can be poor and save your money to spend at a martini bar, and you can be rich and chew with your mouth open.

I always use way too many words to describe a simple thought. Anyhow, I feel that a healthy Grand Forks downtown will be achieved through a "cool vibe" (Amazing Grains, farmers market, Sanders, Warehouse Apts, art galleries, new restaurants, bakery, and lofts) that is supported by both the wealthy and poor of the town.

In Seattle we get these AWESOME art neighborhoods, where rent is cheap and starving artists live. They make the neighborhood cool and funky, and consequently everyone wants to move into that trendy place, and they drive the rent up, and the neighborhood becomes a bland expensive place with no personality... just restaurant, bar, gallery, repeat.

Also, if you know of the names or websites of downtown apartment buildings feel free to make a comment in my blog :-D thanks!

GrandForksGuy said...

I hope I didn't give the impression that I'm against a mix of downtown residents. I realize that it is the young...often "lower income"...people who make such neighborhoods "cool". I just was a bit worried when I read that so much of this new building would be "lower income", but that probably wasn't very nice of me. It looks like a beautiful building and it should make an excellent addition downtown.

Although this building won't be ready for you to move into anytime soon, und student, it hopefully should open downtown to people who want to live there, but haven't had the money to do so.

JGS said...

It's good to see some housing projects looking to build downtown. Although I don't like that it's not somewhat of a "high rise", but at least it's a start of getting our downtown developing.

UND Student said...

Well, although it isn't a highrise, it's decent at what appears to be four stories. In Belltown (just north of downtown seattle) we have buildings that range from 3 stories to skyscraper condos (perhaps 50 stories? I'm not sure...)

Although I would like to see a downtown of semi-tall buildings, I think it's important for developers to be able to profit from investing in downtown. What I mean is, although a 10 story building would be awesome, it probably would not be able to fill itself with occupants, and they would loose money and in the end, would have to shut down the entire building.

I would like to see all current office & residential space be used up in downtown before the construction of high rises. Although, it would be nice if construction would lead demand so that the rent never gets exceedingly high, in hopes that it would draw renters away from South town and into downtown.

Also, I've heard parking might become an issue... I don't have a car so I'm not aware, but is parking a problem during weekdays? Anyone?

JGS said...

It can become a very big problem. With many businesses moving in, a highschool with over 1200 students and incoming residential housing, it is a very big problem. With these possible new housing units, that will demolish 50ish parking spaces. I am guessing they are either going to have to build another parking guarage (already 3.. all 3 are owned by companys and have private parking, upper floors are usually free to the public), or make under ground parking.

And I know that they just can't build a ten story complex and expect it to fill up, because it won't. But like I said, it's a good start for downtown Grand Forks. Down the road, say, 10-15 years from now, we will probably see taller upscale commercial and residential developing in downtown Grand Forks.

GrandForksGuy said...

I was hoping for a building a little taller than four stories too, but four really isn't too short. I feel that we won't see buildings in the ten+ story range until we first see shorter buildings in the four, five, and six story range. It would look out of place to have a downtown populated with three to five story buildings and then come in and put up a ten to twenty story building. That being said, I think, like jgs said, that we will see much taller buildings some time in the future.

I'm not sure if it is a part of the plan, but I wish the developer would put at least some commercial space on the ground floor of the new Dakota Block apartment building. I know that there are many empty storefronts downtown, but that will not be so in the future. When all of the currently empty spots are filled with stores and restaurants, developers will be clamoring for more street-level space for businesses. It would be good to act now and set aside space in this new building for businesses.

jgs - I don't think that any of the three parking garages are owned by companies. The old garage near Central High is owned by the city and I am quite sure that the Corporate Center garage is also owned by the city, as is the entire Corporate Center complex. From what I know, the one connected to the new county office building is owned by the county.

It is interesting to note that the site where the Dakota Block apartments will be built was once a short-lived parking garage during the 1960s. Before that, it was the Frederick Hotel. The intersection of North Third Street and First Avenue North used to be the home of three hotels: the Ryan Hotel, the Dakota Hotel, and the Frederick Hotel.

Amanda the Great said...

Hey! I just wanted to say, in regards to a past posting (I figured you wouldn't see the comment if I posted it under the original posting from October about students moving into residential neighborhoods and Animal-Housing-up the place), I totally agree with you.

I live with my folks (what? I'm totally cool...mostly) in a nice neighborhood near campus, and of course, the houses on either side of us have been purchased by some parents who figure they can break even on payments with rent (and maybe then some) if their precious lambies can pack in twenty of their closest friends. Let the good times roll.

When I was in college, I rented a house on University avenue, and yes, we partied down a lot in the yard and what have you. I now realize that no matter how many brownies I bake and bring over for belated peace offerings to my old neighbors, it won't bring back the nights of sleep they lost listening to the drunken pontifications of me and my peeps. Looking back, they were pretty patient with us, not like me now, with the situation reversed.

Is this karma?

One thing we never did, though, was throw-up into our neighbor's flower beds. My mother saw some guy stumble into her flower bed and give back to nature what he had taken from it, and I tell you, that guy got his ass chewed six ways from Sunday. That was the last of that.

As I wrap this up, I don't have any wisdom to bestow, or solutions to the problem. But it was interesting to see a student comment on the issue from the perspective of a home-owner. So, thank you. Whoever you are. ;)

GrandForksGuy said...

Thanks for the comment, Amanda! Nice to see that not everyone thinks that students have a right to "take over" the neighborhood with no thought given to how it must feel to those who have lived there for years. Too often, people think that when someone complains about some UND students, they are actually being mean to all UND students. Why would I want to do that? I'm a UND student! My qualms are with a very small portion of the student body who does things like this. I really don't think that the average student goes around urinating in other's flowerbeds. It is a small...and very vocal...minority who do things like this and then make the entire student body look bad.

I find it very interesting to hear from someone from one of the neighborhoods in question. I always wonder how some of the students who are living their own little Animal House-life here at UND would feel if their parents' home back in Minneapolis, Denver, Seattle, etc. were suddenly surrounded by college students who gave little to no respect to their neighbors, parked anywhere they wanted (lawns...), and partied all night long in the front yard. If the shoe were on the other foot like this, I don't think these students would want to see...umm, people like themselves...move into their old neighborhood back home.

Ben said...

I think that four stories is about the max. for our downtown right now. There seems to be plenty of demand out there for downtown lofts, though. I can personally say that parking downtown (especially overnight) is a nightmare. Hopefully either the city or the developer can come up with a solution to that problem. But wow - what a beautiful looking building!
PS - Grand Forks Guy, thanks for the site! I will be back lots...

GrandForksGuy said...

It seems to me like there is a lot of demand out there for all types of downtown housing: apartments (lower end and higher-end), lofts, and condos. I think we will continue to hear about more and more residential projects going in down there. I'm also glad to see this new apartment project looks like it would really fit in with the style and scale of downtown. A while back, there was a proposal for this same site that would have seen only 2-story condos go up on the side facing North Third Street. A 4-story apartment building is a much better project.'re welcome! I love being able to have this site. :)

JGS said...

Agree, it's better to see a 4 story then a 2 story. I guess I shouldn't be the judge until I see it actually built and standing to make an opinion. But I am sure they will look great and will fit great into the downtown scene.

UND Student said...

I just had another thought, or more like, question. Why is it that all apartments in Grand Forks are huge? I haven't seen a small apartment yet (unless it is an "efficiency") I would like to see some developer build an apartment building that has large and small units.

I don't have a lot of stuff (nor the money to buy lots of furniture!) so I would really like an apartment that's minute, but cool. Like I would take one of those Opera Lofts and instead of paying $730 for 950 s.f., I'd pay $300 for about 250 s.f. I suppose it is the kitchens and bathrooms that make the initial cost of unit so high, so that s.f. don't make much of a difference, but still, I wish someone would make a stylish unit that's affordable (and therefore small).

btw Amanda, are you Icelandic?

UND Student said...

Hmm interesting about your update! That makes sense though, 20 out of 40 units being low income seems like it would be tough financially on the apartment owners.

The article said they aren't going to be fancy, yet rent is 500-700... I wonder if the $700 is for a two bedroom then? Opera House rates: "Studios are $580, 1 beds are $680 to $730, 2 beds are $830 to $930 and the 3 bed is $1130."

I am hoping the $700 is for a two bedroom...

Ben said...

It seems like the rent rates are right about average for new construction apartment buildings around town...if not a little less. I was hoping that would be the case, and that the developers wouldn't take advantage of the high demand for the downtown units. Really encouraging news, if you ask me.

JGS said...

I am curious what will be the deal with utilities?

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the deal is with the utilities...
I did hear, however that there was a slight uproar at the 2-13-06 city council meeting about downtown parking. Seems as though lots of other residents and businesses are upset about the current lack of parking, and the fact that this building will be put smack dab on a parking lot. Can't say I blame them too much, as street maintenance ordinances keep people from parking on either the avenues or the streets every other night. Some solution should be come up with before the apartments are built, in my opinion.

recent graduate said...

I started working downtown about 6 months ago, and my co-workers are already complaining about lack of parking, so we are worried about all these upcoming building projects with no apparent solution to the parking dilemmas. Parking can't be created out of thin air! Now I'd like to move downtown to be close enough to walk to work. If I wasn't working downtown, I wouldn't consider moving there, because there will be no place to park. At least this way, I suppose I could park in the company parking lot if nothing else was available.