Saturday, April 15, 2006

Building the future of Grand Forks

This year's construction season in Grand Forks should be one of the busiest in recent memory. However, the many projects that are already underway or will start soon are not all just your typical construction projects. This year, we are finally seeing the culmination of so much planning and waiting over so many important projects - some projects which have been on the drawing boards for years. Also, many of these projects will have a major impact on Grand Forks and may forever change the city. Let's look at some of these projects which could help to shape the Grand Forks of the future.

Work is now well underway on the Canad Inns hotel and waterpark next to the Alerus Center. At times, it seemed like this project would never move beyond the planning phase. However, the foundation is now in and steel will soon rise on this project that could have more of an impact on the community than any of us realize. We can argue over just how big of an impact the hotel/waterpark will have on the Alerus Center's bottom line, but it seems clear that the Canad Inns will bring in more people to shop in the city. Grand Forks will see increased business and that should, in turn, bring in more business to the city.

While the Canad Inns is the most visible construction project in Grand Forks, it is certainly not the only project underway that should have a big impact on the city's future. Another important project is the UND Parking Garage. This project has also spent a long time on the drawing boards, but equipment is now on site and earth will be moved shortly. The impact of the project should be clear. UND students/staff have long complained about parking conditions on campus. This project should alleviate at least some of these concerns. Also, it is worth noting that, when finished, this will be a very visible building in the city (right at the intersection of Columbia Road and University Avenue). The impact of this project will be hard to deny. There are more signs of progress on the campus. Construction continues on the massive Wellness Center and earth is being turned for a major new housing development near the heart of campus. These projects will all impact the university and the city for a long time to come.

Another important project is the new Elite Brownstones development that ground was just broken for downtown. The piece of land that used to house the Security Building - the burned and flooded skeleton of which became the symbol of the Flood of 1997's devastation - will now be home to another symbol...a symbol of renewal. This project is a sign that people are finally interested in returning to the long ignored downtown area of Grand Forks. Even though construction has just started, the condos were all snatched up months ago. This project is just the start of a long line of residential and retail developments which should, hopefully, repopulate downtown and bring it back to its rightful place as the center of the city.

There are many other projects scattered throughout the city that are currently underway or will soon start construction. On Monday, ground will be broken for the new National Center for Hydrogen Technology at UND's Energy and Environmental Research Center and work should start this summer on UND's new Technology Park in southwest Grand Forks. These two projects should bring the city many high-paying jobs and the potential for even more growth in the future. On the city's extreme southern side, work continues on the Stadter Center Psychiatric Hospital and medical complex. This development will be a major competitor for Altru Health System and should bring the residents of Grand Forks more choices in healthcare. Just this past week, walls started rising out of the field where Kohl's will soon stand and work continues on the new Wal-Mart Supercenter down the road. Lastly, we shouldn't ignore the project which will likely have the biggest impact on the city: the almost finished flood control system. This month, we have seen the necessity of such a system and the assurance which it offers us. This assurance makes this project the most important for the city's future.

Everywhere I turn, it seems like the future of Grand Forks is rising up before my eyes.


JGS said...

Great write up, GFG! It also amazes my eyes as well. Grand Forks is growing and it's something I'm always looking foward to. Hopefully you can dig up and research more possible businesses coming to Grand Forks. ;)

Time for sleep now...

Anonymous said...

A lot of important construction that goes on that is often ignored is new apartment buildings. As a renter, you can never have to many of these. The higher supply means lower rent prices in the long run. The new 62 condo complex is now about complete near the Stadter Center. Two new 32 plexes are being constructed behind Hansen Chrysler (by Simplot) in connection to the two already completed last year.

With all that great news about construction. What does it really mean? The entire country and world is growing. These developments are natural. Grand Forks has always grown. So is this really that "feel good" type of news. The real question is how is construction and new businesses relative to other communities in the area. And to me it seems GF is doing better but still laging behind. Obviously Fargo (but they benefit from location of two interestates) but more importantly Bismarck is starting to leave GF in the dust (population etc).

ben said...

actually, if you look at and search the single-family housing starts in Bismark vs. Grand Forks, you will see that they were pretty close last year. I think the situation is that demographers are not looking positively at GF, even given the positive statistics. By the way...this may not be popular to say on this blog, but I hope GF NEVER grows as quickly as Fargo is now. Just look at the mess of urban sprawl they have now. We need better planning, more managed growth and sensible development than Fargo has seen. Fargo has seen sewer back-ups and other problems due to lack of adequate infrastructure. Hopefully we keep gowing, but at a manageable pace.

Anonymous said...

Exactly. GF and Bismarck are about the same now for single-family housing starts. GF use to be the leader but hasn't kept up with Bismarck's growth. Not Good.

JGS said...

Of course we havn't been able to keep up with Bismarcks growth... for the past 9 years. Duh, Flood of 97 gives you a clue. Not trying to be a prick or anything, by the way.

Grand Forks growth has been picking up more and more pace now over the past years. We will never be able to catch up with Bismarck's growth or population in a long time, unless the future UAV's brings in a flood of people.

I actually think Grand Forks is a lot better then Bismarck even if we have a few less thousand people. Grand Forks has better opportunities, more big "named" stores if that really means anything, and our name is out there. Really, just my opinion, but others might agree.

Also, we all probably forget the new jail on North Washington near completion, if anyone cares.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of what everyone has said, but would like to add that Grand Forks is uniquely positioned to take advantage of the Canadian market. And not just tourism. But we haven't been very good about developing business relationships with Winnipeg. I hope this blossoms in the future.

Anonymous said...

I am a native of Grand Forks, it's nice to see the city building and growing even if it's not at the same pace as Fargo and Bismarck. The flood of 97 was devastating yes. A lot of people (and city leaders) always use the flood as the reason why the downtown is so dead, but in all reality, the downtown area was dead even before the flood..... vacant buildings etc etc. I do want to see the city grow and it is growing. I'd also like to see some highrises go up downtown, whether in the form of apartments, a bank, office building whatever, have Grand Forks start to look like a city of it's size like Fargo, Bismarck, Sioux Falls etc etc do. Easier said than done I know.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be negetive but its important to be realistic with the Bismarck vs. Grand Forks housing starts thing: The city of Grand Forks may be somewhat close to the city of Bismarck but you have to realize that there's alot of housing units going up on Bismarck's perifery (Burliegh county, Linclon & Mandan) that you don't really see in GF. If you look at MSA wide housing starts, it isn't even close:

YTD as of August, the Bismarck MSA (Burliegh county + Morton county) had 636 housing units vs. 204 for the Grand Forks MSA (Grand Forks County + Polk County).

It was a little closer last year (486 in Bismarck vs. 318 in GF) but still not all that close.

I think the important thing though is that the growth in GF is still pretty impressive: If you figure 2 or 3 people per household, that's an increase of 400-600 people in just 8 months. Not that great but its not too shabby either.