Friday, June 30, 2006

"A work of love"

When students return to the University of North Dakota this fall, they'll notice several new additions to campus. The Wellness Center will be complete and two major construction projects - the new parking garage and a new student housing complex - will be well underway. Something will actually be missing from the campus, though. The Adelphi Fountain, a campus landmark for nearly 100 years, has been removed from its spot near the meandering English Coulee and is being shipped to California where it will undergo extensive restoration work. The fountain won't appear again on campus until sometime next spring.

The University calls the Adelphi Fountain "the first purely decorative" addition to the campus. It was presented to the University in 1907 by the Adelphi Literary Society. The society was the first student organization on campus. The fountain was first placed near what was then the center of campus. In 1911, the fountain was moved to a spot near Burtness Theater. It was then moved again to its current home on campus - a bend of the English Coulee - in 1928. In the many decades that it has sat on campus, the fountain has fallen into disrepair. Three decorative figures which used to adorn both the base and the top of the fountain have long since vanished (you can see these figures in the above image). Still, the fountain has remained an enduring "symbol" of the campus from generation to generation.

The recent announcement of The Danley Gift - a $10 million dollar donation from two now-deceased UND alumni - is what led to the culmination of a more than 25 year effort to fully restore the fountain to its grandeur. I recently received a wonderful email from a man named John Colle Rogers. Rogers is a sculptor and metalworker living in Oakland, California. In the 1970's and 1980's, his father, John H. Rogers, was Dean of the College of Visual Arts at UND and a professor of sculpture. It was first the vision of the elder Rogers, back in 1980, to restore the fountain.

The two men created a proposal in 2002 to restore the fountain in a joint father/son project. As with many things at a public institution, funding was always key to the project getting off of the drawing board and beyond the proposal stage. By late last year, the University was coming closer to getting their funding in order. However, by this time John's father had been diagnosed with Leukemia and passed away in November. John put together a new proposal with Jenny Cole, a friend and fellow sculptor, and presented it to the University. The Danley gift gave the University the chance to start the fountain restoration project, along with several other on-campus projects which will dot the landscape adjacent to the English Coulee.

John's love for his father and the beautiful campus of the University of North Dakota make this restoration project truly a tribute to his father and all of those who have come before us at the University of North Dakota. He puts it best in his own words:

"The bottom line is that this is a work of love for me. I grew roaming the halls of the Hughes Fine Arts Center and the fountain was as important a UND icon for me as the eternal flame and the hockey puck. When he was active in the 70's and 80's, my dad poured an enormous amount of energy into bringing world class modern dance, jazz, and art to Grand Forks, and into inspiring countless students to tap the depths of their creativity, so it fills me with great joy to be a part of this whole development which is aimed at bringing beauty to the campus. The spiritual center is indeed reminiscent of the plains churches, and tying it into the snaky passage of the coulee is a brilliant stroke."
"I just find it very special that this is happening, and that the quest for beauty can slip from generation to generation. As it should be."
This entire project truly appears to be a "work of love," not just on the part of John Colle Rogers and the late John H. Rogers, but also on the part of the late Elnora Hopper-Danley. Her lasting love for the beauty of the UND campus and the English Coulee made this project possible. The generous Danley gift will insure that the campus will be beautiful for years to come. Click here to read more about the Danley's lasting connection to the University and their legacy.

I'll be very anxious to see the work of John and Jenny next year when the fountain is back home again where it belongs - on campus. As John puts it, "It will reappear next spring, freshened up and festooned with its cadre of naiads and the crowning oracle." What a wonderful symbol the fountain is for the University and how great that there have been others who have realized this as well.

Click here to read the entire text of John Colle Rogers' email.
•Image from the archives of the University of North Dakota - made available here by John Colle Rogers.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Newsbits: Civic Auditorium, more Wal-Marts, new strip mall tenant

A tenant for the Civic Auditorium?
Tu-Uyen had an article in Monday's paper about parking issues that the downtown community is facing. In it, he mentioned that more parking spaces near the Civic Auditorium could be in jeopardy because the city is talking with a potential tenant. Except for the potential loss of parking spaces, I think that this is great news. The Civic Auditorium has sat empty ever since the Alerus Center opened. I would be very happy to see it have a new life as a retail establishment or office building. Since I think we are in need of more stores downtown, I would love to see a store use the space. Maybe a small grocery store? How about a drug store? Perhaps we can get Tu-Uyen to tell us a bit more about what he knows regarding this potential tenant...

Wal-Mart may be adding more North Dakota stores...
Rumor has it that Wal-Mart is thinking about opening a new Supercenter in Bottineau, North Dakota. This isn't exactly Grand Forks-related news, but I think it does show that the retailer is probably planning more stores for the region. If a town of just 2,336 may be getting a Wal-Mart, what about towns like Grafton or Beulah-Hazen? The retailer does seem to be showing interest in smaller communities throughout the state than in the past. Please don't think that I am endorsing the spread of Wal-Mart just because I am mentioning it here...we've already been down that road recently. I just think that it is worth noting that Wal-Mart clearly is continuing to open more stores locally...can a second Grand Forks location be that far off? I really don't think so.

Locally-owned clothing store to open in new strip mall...
The new strip mall being built in front of Kohl's on 32nd Avenue will be the site of a new locally-owned women's clothing store. The store, which will be called "Bobbi's", will open in the so-called "On 32nd" strip mall this fall. The owner, Bobbi Beal, is the former manager of the Casual Corner women's clothing store in Columbia Mall. That store closed last year when the entire chain went out of business. Looks like Beal saw an opportunity to fill a void that was left after Casual Corner closed. It's nice to see more local businesses start up and it's nice to see one locate in a section of town that is otherwise filled with chains. I like seeing a mix of local and chain stores in Grand Forks.

Peder Rice's new blog

Former Ward 2 Grand Forks city council candidate Peder Rice has a new blog: The Progressive Palette. Currently, Peder has a post questioning what the city has planned for Merrifield Road and the prospects for turning it into the often discussed "Southside Bypass".

It looks like Peder and I have something in common...we are both big SimCity fans. That game and an interest in urban design and development seem to go hand in hand.

I'll be anxious to see what else this former candidate for city government and UND student has in store for us.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

"Here lies United Hospital" or "Let's go downtown to Wesley College"

Take a look at the map of Grand Forks that appears in the Yellow Book phone directory that should have shown up on your doorstep a few days ago. As reported in today's Herald by Eba Hamid, there are some really interesting landmarks on the map.

First off, did you know that United Hospital is still around and sits somewhere in Memorial Park Cemetery? At least that's what the map shows. And here I thought they changed the name to Altru Hospital about a decade ago and the building was a couple miles to the south...boy was I dumb!

The map also points out Wesley College in downtown Grand Forks. Of course, Wesley College was actually located directly north of the UND campus and went out of operation in the 1960s. But according to that map, it's still who am I to argue?

Also, did you know that St. James High School really didn't close down in the 1960s? At least that's what the map shows. And here Catholic parents have been sending their kids over the river to Sacred Heart all of these years for nothing!

According to this very informative map, Red River High School is actually just a figment of our imagination and doesn't really exist, but Central High School is still plugging along...on the south side of downtown.

Ok, I'm being sarcastic. I noticed these very interesting landmarks on the Yellow Book map when I got the directory the other day and was going to contact the company to point out the magnitude of their errors. Looks like Eba Hamid already beat me to it...they did hang up on him(?) though. I guess the map isn't the important thing about a phone book, huh? At least not to Yellow Book...

Friday, June 23, 2006

Population estimates

The U.S. Census Bureau just put out its most recent population estimates and several North Dakota cities are estimated to have lost population from 2004 to 2005. The Census Bureau claims that, in that period, Fargo lost 1,281 people (down 1.4%), Minot lost 359 people (down 1%), and Grand Forks lost 289 people ( down 0.6%). Those numbers have officials in all three cities mad - officials who have maintained that their cities are growing. Fargo is mad, Minot is mad, and Grand Forks is mad.

In Grand Forks, the Census Bureau claims that the population in 2005 was 49,792. On the other end of the spectrum, the MPO (Metropolitan Planning Organization) estimates that the Grand Forks population in 2005 was 53,230...up 1,066 from 2004. Why would the Census Bureau claim a drop of 289 while the MPO estimates an increase of 1,066? It may be reasonable to claim that both parties have something to gain out of spinning the numbers how they see fit. The Census Bureau has a history of underestimating local populations in years that an official census has not been taken. Estimates throughout the 90s showed a shrinking North Dakota when we, in fact, grew slightly during the decade.

I have to say that I put more faith in the MPO's estimate. I don't believe that Grand Forks lost any population between 2004 to 2005. However, perhaps the MPO's estimate of a gain of 1,066 is too optimistic. Still, how can I look at all of the residential developments that have taken place in the past few years and see anything but a growing city? At the same time that new houses and apartments are being built, older houses that are placed on the market are being snatched up quickly. In other words, we have more and more occupied housing units. That would seem to suggest a growing population.

I don't want to get so caught up in the population numbers, though. Grand Forks has much more to offer than a population estimate. I do believe that the population numbers actually are very good in Grand Forks, but I also believe that there are many other positive indicators. Regardless of some naysayers, we have a relatively high quality of life in Grand Forks. We have good schools, good parks, good healthcare, wonderful neighborhoods, a healthy business community, record numbers in building permits and sales tax collections, a booming university, a very low crime rate, and a vibrant art and cultural community. Those are the things that make a city...not dubious population estimates put out by a government agency.

Update - 6/26/2006
In today's Herald, Tom Dennis questions the estimates by the census bureau. I agree wholeheartedly. Richard Rathge and his gang at the State Data Center need to take a look at their procedures. Why have a data center that makes calculations that all to often turn out to be miscalculations? Not only does it make the data center look bad, but their inaccurate estimates that falsely show a declining population unnecessarily place a bad light on local cities. They say that local cities are shrinking when, in fact, many are almost certainly growing (some substantially). What good is a data center that can't get its act together and turn out objective and accurate estimates?

Thursday, June 22, 2006

More Grand Forks blogs

This is becoming a routine thing. I'm letting you know about a couple more Grand Forks-related blogs that have shown up on my radar...

Another Grand Forks Blog is the title of a blog started in May by Coffee Guy. So far, he has a plea for Chipotle to set up shop in GF, a mention of the theater lenses being stolen in GF right before the premiere of The DaVinci Code, and a post about the Grand Forks Herald's sale to Forum Communications.

Grand Forks, UND, and the unvoiced is the (slightly long) name of another new GF-related blog. Jeni M. just started it up last week. So far, she has some of her concerns over the new UND student housing project.

I'm happy to see that we're still growing here in the Grand Forks Blogosphere! Keep up the good work everyone and welcome to the newest bloggers, Coffee Guy and Jeni M. I hope to see more interesting posts by these two new bloggers soon. Welcome to the gang!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Next stop: Division I

In an afternoon press conference, President Charles Kupchella announced that the University of North Dakota is moving all of its sports to Division I in the near future. Of course, both the men's and women's hockey teams have already been competing at the D-I level, but this will move all teams at UND to that higher classification. It will take money to make the move and it sounds like the money will come from alumni donations as well as a possible increase in student fees.

In my opinion, this should be a welcomed announcement. With our rich hockey tradition, we have had experience with D-I for quite some time and we were the "original" D-I university in the state. With NDSU's recent move to D-I as well as moves by other UND rivals, a move like this has seemed to me like an obvious one. There have been times when I have wondered if we should really be giving up our status in D-II by moving to D-I, but I have recently been fairly comfortable that this move is where our athletic future at UND lies. Ever since NDSU made the move, it has seemed certain that we would eventually be making a similar move. If we are going to make the move sometime, why not do it now? I don't like putting things off that could/should be done today.

Most coaches seem pretty happy with the move. I would be interested to see what you readers think about the move to D-I...sounds like a good choice for the next poll question, huh? I can see students (including yours truly) having some qualms about increasing student fees yet again. KVLY threw out the figure that a $100 dollar raise in student fees for each student would result in a total of $1 million dollars for the University. I hope that alumni are actively courted to make handsome donations before student fees are raised yet again. However, I know that, as a student, I would not grumble that much if my fees were increased moderately to pay for the move up.

I think that this will be a good thing for the University and for the community. Go Sioux!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Wal-Mart: Supersized

Speaking of Wal-Mart, has anybody been in the current store on 32nd Avenue lately? The project to convert the store into a Wal-Mart Supercenter is ongoing and the place can only be called a mess...and that's putting it nicely. It can take quite some time to actually find the departments you're looking for, much less the individual items in those departments. Sales have reportedly taken a hit, but that is basically to be expected when a project like this goes on. The Fargo store experienced a similar decline in sales during their remodel, but then have seen booming business ever since (daily sales compared with the previous, "non-Super" year were up as much as 60-70%). I've been in that store several times and it certainly looks like people have found their way back.

When completed, our Wal-Mart Supercenter will feature a full-service grocery store...that will be the biggest addition. However, there will be other additions too. The old Wal-Mart lunch counter is gone and is being replaced by a Subway. There is word that Choice Financial is going to open a branch in the store as they have done in Fargo. Also, we'll probably see either a hair salon or a nail studio open in the store. There will be a "Tire and Lube Express" on the southwestern corner of the store. If you've been to the store lately, you've likely seen that the garden center is also seeing a major remodel. Gone are the days of the old-school plastic covered green houses in the parking lot. In my opinion, that's certainly an asthetically-welcomed changed.

I love SuperTarget the most of the three major discounters (yeah, Kmart is still around so it is still "three major discounters") and nothing is going to change that, but I think I'm going to end up going to Wal-Mart quite a bit more after it has officially become a Supercenter. In the past, I have found it to be a tiring ordeal to brave the crowds and try to maneuver a cart through the narrow paths. It will be nice to have wider aisles and more room for the throngs to spread out in. Also, I'm anxious to see Wal-Mart provide a needed competition when it comes to grocery prices in Grand Forks. They can't hurt and will probably force Hugo's and some of the others to take a look at their pricing.

Even if you're one of the many who despise Wal-Mart and everything it stands for and declare that you will never set foot in the place even if it is "Super", you gotta admit that the store is at least going to look nicer on the outside than it has previously. It's nice to see that Wal-Mart decided to remodel both their Fargo and Grand Forks stores instead of leaving the old stores behind and building new buildings elsewhere in the outskirts. That is a practice that has occurred often in the past and has left many cities with empty buildings on major streets. I'm glad we're not being left with a defunct property that has to be filled. After all, we're still trying to fill up the old Target space five years later.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Closing one poll, opening another

I'm starting the week of blogging by closing the current poll and opening a new one.

Out with the old...
I'm impressed with the number of people who voted in this poll. The question was "Which GF dog park proposal do you support?" and we had 50 unique voters cast their votes. Click here for the results. Remember that this poll is unscientific, but it is set up so each voter can only vote once. It does provide a snapshot of sentiments of a group of people interested in the matter.

I was very interested to see the low level of support for the current proposed locations for the dog park. Only 8% voted for the fenceless downtown location and 20% voted for the fenced Lion's Park location (or whatever the Park District wants us to call it). That means that only 28% of the voters favored one of the current proposals...less than a third of all voters.

People seem to generally be ok with the idea of a dog park in the city, but they don't seem overly thrilled with the current proposals on the drawing board. 12% voted for another fenceless location and 30% voted for another fenced location. That's 42% of the voters who like the idea of a dog park, but don't like the current locations being proposed.

If we look at the fencing component of a dog park, 20% of voters wanted a fenceless location and 50% wanted a fenced location. Most voters (including me) seem to see fencing as a must for any dog park in Grand Forks.

Finally, 28% of the voters simply did not want a dog park in the city limits and 2% voted "Other". I'm not sure what "other" proposal that voter was thinking of, but I would be interested to find out.

This was an interesting poll and I found it to be quite telling. When it comes right down to it, people seem to want a dog park in the city (although nearly 1/3 don't want one at all), but the dog park must be fenced and neither of the two current proposals seem very popular. I agree with these results. I think a dog park is ok, but I want to see a new location and fencing isn't even a question any more.

For some of my thoughts on the dog park and reader's comments, see the following posts:
New poll: dog park
How to fund a brand new dog park and not destroy Lions Park in the process
Newsbits: Canad rising, dog park dilemma
Dog park petition

In with the new...
The new question is "Would you like to see a Wal-Mart on Gateway Drive?". I will be interested to see what everyone thinks about the possibility of Wal-Mart opening a store on Gateway. This comes from my post entitled "Gateway cleanup" and some of the comments from that post. Happy voting!

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gateway cleanup

Although it is one of the busiest streets in town and a major "gateway" to our community for travelers, Gateway Drive has long been a depressing stretch of roadway dotted with dilapidated buildings. This is a shame because Gateway is the first view that so many people have of our city and it could become a vibrant commercial neighborhood if given the chance. In my opinion, the worst eyesore on the stretch of Gateway that runs from the Red River to I-29 is the old Weekley's Auto Wrecking building. It is ugly and has long worn out its welcome.

Guess what...there are finally plans to tear down the old Weekley's building. Also, the neighboring Transport, Inc. building (now abandoned) next door is also slated for demolition. Apparently, this is part of an ongoing plan to improve the appearance of this neighborhood...which is something that I heartily applaud. This should have been done long ago.

I'm curious why both buildings are suddenly both going to be demolished. Does a developer have plans for the area? Could that be what's pushing this forward? I think some sort of commercial development would be perfect for these lots.

Hopefully we can see more redevelopment along Gateway in the near future. I won't be happy until it's nice enough to have a Starbucks on it. :)

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Newsbits: GFAFB future, campus housing, GFK ticket prices

I'm one of those crazy few who sometimes like to be one of the first people in town to read the day's Herald when it comes 3 A.M.! I did so this morning before going to bed and I was pretty happy with three of the stories.

A "Family of UAVs" for GFAFB...
On Tuesday, Governor Hoeven told the Grand Forks Council on Military Relations that GFAFB will soon be the home of a "family of UAVs" including Predators in 2009 and Global Hawks in 2010. We've heard this before, but its good to see that state leaders still feel so strongly about the future missions at the base. The relocation of our tanker mission will mean the removal of 2,645 jobs at the base and the new missions should bring around 2,000 new jobs to replace those. If that's the case, it leaves us with a net loss of 645 jobs at the base. Our leaders still sound pretty positive on the possibility of us getting a new tanker mission in the future. If that really happens, we would end up with a larger base than we started with before this BRAC round. I would consider that to be pretty good news!

Update - 6/17/2006
It's sounding like we can stop worrying about South Dakota getting our this article.

New UND housing complex...
Ground was broken on Tuesday for the new $20 million dollar UND student housing complex west of the Chester Fritz Auditorium. This is the costliest public project ever built on campus (not considering the $100+ million dollar Ralph which was built with private funds) and is part of a larger $50 million dollar campaign - which also includes the new Wellness Center and new Parking Garage - to make the campus a better place for students. I'm really impressed with the design that has gone into this new student housing. If you haven't seen the renderings yet, take a look at this post that I put up a few weeks back.

Suddenly, GFK is looking much better...
Tu-Uyen's Herald article says that ticket prices at GFK are suddenly cheaper than those at Fargo's Hector Field. This comes just days after Senator Dorgan and Grand Forks city council president Hal Gershman met with representatives of Northwest Airlines and pleaded with them to help the airport's dwindling business. I hope this is a permanent change on the part of Northwest. Lower ticket prices at GFK should have some sort of positive impact on use of the airport. I'm glad to see that something good seems to have come out of this meeting. Gee, wouldn't it be something if people from Fargo started to come to GFK for a change because we have cheaper ticket prices? Now, that would really be good news!

McNamara and Bakken win

Well, the voting is over and the results are in. My predictions were partially correct...

Art Bakken won in Ward 6 with 54% of the vote so my prediction in this ward was correct. I would have enjoyed seeing the new voice that the more liberal Tom Potter would have brought to the council, but Bakken - a former council member - should have a decent knowledge of how the city operates. I would have voted for Potter, but Bakken should be a decent addition to the council.

I was also right in Ward 4 when I predicted Hal Gershman would be returning for another four years on the council. Does it really make a difference that he was the only one that I could have predicted winning since he was the only guy on the ballot in Ward 4? Ok, maybe it does.

I was more surprised to see how things turned out in Ward 2. I had predicted a win by Tom Kenville, but it turns out that Mike McNamara's name recognition probably helped him more than I thought it would. He won with 49% of the vote. The next closest candidate - Jon Dorner - got just 19% of the vote. Maybe I'm being too critical, but I still don't really like the fact that McNamara will be in Iraq until fall and there is nothing that says he won't go back again in the future while still on the council. I would have liked to have seen a candidate who actually is in Grand Forks win a seat on the Grand Forks city council. Oh well, McNamara should make things interesting during council meetings. And just think of the boon this should be for his Grand Forks radio show!

It was fun watching the races this year. Since this was the first local elections that have taken place while I have had this blog, this is by far the council election that I have followed the closest.

Check out Tu-Uyen's Herald story on the election results.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Forum spends $65 million for Herald

Forum Communications is paying $65 million for the Grand Forks Herald and $70 million for the Duluth News Tribune. Wow, I didn't realize that Forum would have this kind of money just laying around. The Duluth paper has a higher circulation than the Herald so that's why they are worth $5 million more. As someone who didn't really know what newspapers are worth, I'm pretty impressed that the Herald went for $65 million. That isn't exactly spare change.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Election 2006

Tomorrow is the big day for local candidates. In Grand Forks, voters will be (or should be) going to the polls to vote for their choice of new city council members in Wards 2, 4, and 6. Citizens will also vote for park district and school board candidates.

While I don't think I'll take the "easy way out" like the Herald and refuse to actually endorse any candidates, I won't actually "endorse" either. I'm just going to tell you who I think will win and who I think should win. I'm not telling you how to vote...I leave that up to you.

Ward 2
It will be interesting to see who wins in the city's hotly contested Ward 2 race. This ward makes up a major chunk of the north end of Grand Forks. There are five candidates: Jon Dorner, Thomas Kenville, Mike McNamara, Peder Rice, and Cameron Stewart.

While I originally thought that McNamara would be the frontrunner, Tu-Uyen's recent poll - and my instincts - show otherwise. McNamara has a decent website, but how many citizens even know about it? I just don't think Grand Forks is ready to elect a council member who is currently overseas (Iraq) and will be so for the near future. He will not promise that he will not re-inlist if elected. Also, I'm thinking that there are people out there who, like me, see problems with a council member having a daily radio show. How would he prevent himself from using his show to promote his personal agenda for the city? Peder Rice is an interesting candidate, but I think voters will see him as too much of a newcomer to Grand Forks politics. Also, why must he call the Alerus Center a fiasco? That's not exactly going to win him my vote...not that I can vote in Ward 2. Jon Dorner has run in the past, but hasn't won so why would this time be any different? I'm sure he's a fine candidate, but I don't see him winning. Cameron Stewart has no chance, in my opinion. A candidate who has fallen asleep at a city council meeting, appears confused about local issues, and "didn't have time" to speak with the Herald's editorial board doesn't seem to show much interest in actually representing the people. This leaves us with Thomas Kenville. I think that Kenville has the best chance of winning the race because he should appeal to those in the ward who are connected to UND and he has a background in both the public and private sectors. I'm still not 100% sure what his agenda for the city is, but I would like to find out.

Who will win: Thomas Kenville
Who should win: Thomas Kenville

Ward 4
With only the incumbent, Hal Gershman, running in this ward, I think I'll be clever and forecast another four years for Hal. Heck, I know I would vote for him if I lived in that ward. I would vote for him for mayor, if he ever chooses to run.

Who will win: Hal Gershman
Who should win: Hal Gershman

Ward 6
There are two candidates seeking the seat in Ward 6: former council member Art Bakken and relative "newcomer" Tom Potter.

Although I think I would like to see Potter win tomorrow, I feel that we're going to be seeing Bakken return to the governing body he left a few years back. I don't appreciate Bakken's feeling that he doesn't need to campaign. It is unfortunate that a candidate who doesn't feel that he needs to actually try to win will probably ultimately be the winner. It seems lazy and overly confident. I'm not too hot on Potter's idea to freeze property taxes because I see that causing many hardships for the city and a general weakening of the quality of life in Grand Forks. However, I do like the new voice that Potter would bring to council meetings. I'm not really that hot on either candidate, but I think I would go with Potter.

Who will win: Art Bakken
Who should win: Tom Potter

So I urge all of you to go out and vote tomorrow. You can't really complain about city government when you haven't participated in the election process.

Take a look at Dakota's comments on the city council candidates and the candidates for park district and school board. Good work, Dakota.

Newsbits: Dakota Cafe, mysterious construction site, Sam's Club strip mall

I noticed a couple of business-related things around town this weekend so I thought I would put together a quick Newsbits about them.

•It looks like Columbia Mall's new food court, the Dakota Cafe, has lost a tenant. Little Caesar's appears to have vacated their spot. It's too bad to see a restaurant leave the food court so soon. There are still a few empty spots in the food court and now this is another spot that the mall will have to fill. The mall initially had trouble filling the food court, but then they seemed to be doing quite well with finding tenants. However, the food court has not gained any new restaurants in quite a while and now they have lost one. Word is that Taco Del Mar is interested in the food court so hopefully something happens with that restaurant soon. Little Caesar's was operated by the Conneran family of Grand Forks who own and operate many restaurant franchises throughout town. In the Dakota Cafe, the Conneran's operate every restaurant except for Magic Chopstix. Let's hope their other food court ventures are going over better than Little Caesar's. Check out my recent poll about what readers want to see in the mall's food court.

•I'm really curious what is under construction on 30th Avenue South near all of the hotels west of Columbia Mall. I hear that the property is owned by Art Greenberg. The site doesn't have the best visibility from major roads so I'm not sure if we can expect anything too exciting, but I guess we'll have to wait and find out. Does anybody have any information regarding this building site?

•There is a new GameStop coming to the strip mall in front of Sam's Club. I'm not sure what this means for the exisiting GameStop in the strip mall in front of Target. Also, I have heard talk of a liquor store setting up shop in the Sam's Club strip mall.

Dog park petition

It looks like some of the people who live in the neighborhood around the corner of 24th Avenue South and South 34th Street aren't so thrilled that the city wants to convert a small park at the intersection into a new city-owned dog park. The owners of the Carrington Court apartment complex directly north of the park are circulating a petition for renters to sign. WDAZ-TV has a story on the petition.

I'm personally very glad to see this petition start up. As you probably know, I'm very much against a dog park at this location. Dog parks do not belong next to apartment complexes and single family houses, nor should an existing park which is already used by people be converted into an ugly fenced-in area for dogs. Dog parks are fine, but it is all about location, location, location when building such a facility and this proposed location is a very poor choice. I hope that the petition might spread to some of the other apartment complexes in the area and around the quiet residential neighborhood that borders the park.

I find it worth noting that the man who spoke in favor of a dog park at this location in the WDAZ report did not have his dog on a leash and was allowing him to run freely through the park. This is in violation of city law and, unfortunately, just serves to show that some dog-owners don't feel they need to follow city rules when they take their dogs out. If you're going to speak in favor of the city spending money for you to have a dog park that you can use, the least you can do is follow city law and have your dog on a leash!

New blogs: GF Teenview and Boyd Drive Follies

It seems like blogging is becoming the new hobby of choice in Grand Forks. Two new blogs have joined the local blogging community ("The Grand Forks Blogosphere" as I call it).

GF Teenview is a blog about Grand Forks ("A Teen's views on local news") started just last week by Rick Abbott. Rick is a production assistant at WDAZ-TV and the editor of his high school newspaper. It's great to see someone from WDAZ start a blog. Just last week I was mentioning how I would like to see blogs coming out of the station. We have newspaper and radio people represented in our local blogging community so why not television people too? It's great to see Rick start this blog. He has already posted some interesting things and I'm really looking forward to what else he has to say.

Boyd Drive Follies by Good Ol' Boy started up last month. In Good Ol' Boy's words, the blog is about "My points of view on whatever may pop up on my radar. My views are my own, often reflect a conservative world view, and are therefore instructive. Pay attention." Should be interesting.

I urge you to check out these blogs. Once again, it is so great to see more people start blogging in Grand Forks. Let's keep it up, guys!

By the way, I just alphabetized the list of GF Blogs in the sidebar on your left. It seems to be the most sensible way to organize the links. No offense to anyone if you got moved down in the listing!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

The Fargo-Moorhead Blogosphere has arrived!

Hey all you Grand Forks Life readers out there, I just came across something that I wanted to share with you. You remember my post the other day about all of the Grand Forks blogs that have popped up in recent months? Well, apparently someone from our neighbor to the south read it and didn't like it.

What follows is a post from something called "The Very First Fargo-Moorhead Urban Life Blog". Gee...I wonder where they got the idea of using the word "life" in their blog...

Here's what someone posted from a Grand Forks blog:

"When I consider the emergence of so many Grand Forks blogs, it makes me wonder where the "Fargo-Moorhead Blogosphere" is. Aside from a couple of blogs at the Fargo Forum's Area Voices website, there doesn't seem to be many blogs that primarily cover Fargo-Moorhead issues. I guess it's just another area where we have Fargo beat, huh?:)"

Funny, funny shit. Well, I all I have to say to that is this:

1) Grand Forks is a town that's on a fast 3:15 train headed to Nowheresville. There are NO well-paying jobs, the town is dirty, it's depressing, it's full of drunks, the population there is declining (unlike the boom we're seeing in F-M) and the place is about 99 percent white.

2) Putting the respective universities aside, there is absolutely NOTHING in ANY category that Grand Forks has that can even COMPARE with Fargo-Moorhead. F-M is on a completely whole other level than Grand Forks. The flood in 1997 did more damage to that town than people think. That flood pushed Fargo-Moorhead ahead of Grand Forks in almost every aspect more than any other instance in history. The F-M urban area has almost three times as many people as Grand Forks, and our metro area is more than twice as large. This is like someone from Oklahoma City telling someone from Minneapolis that they have the Twin Cities beat in most everything. Kinda sounds silly now, huh??

3) About the lack of Fargo-Moorhead bloggers: Well, we're here. And there's nothing to stop us.

I just figured you guys had to read that. It made me giggle.

Update - 6/19/2006
I see that the guy who started this blog is the guy known as "The Bisonator" at the website...check this thread out.

The Grand Forks Forum

It was "Ice cream bars for everyone!" on Wednesday afternoon at the Grand Forks Herald as Herald publisher/editor Mike Jacobs made the announcement that many had been anticipating: Forum Communications of Fargo - owner of the Fargo Forum, WDAZ TV, WDAY TV, WDAY radio, and numerous small regional newspapers - is buying the Grand Forks Herald. Check out the story at the Fargo Forum. There had been other interested would-be buyers, but Forum must have wanted the Herald enough that they were willing to put up the highest bid. It doesn't look like we'll know very soon just how high that bid actually was because Forum requested that the financial details not be revealed. Forum Communications is also buying the Duluth News Tribune. It's actually quite amazing how a relatively small newspaper (the Fargo Forum) has grown into a regional conglomerate that now owns three major newspapers and has major holdings in the television and radio sectors.

As someone who has never worked at the Herald and who admittedly doesn't really know that much about the other would-be buyers, I would think that this sale (in the words of one of my heroes) is "a good thing". The other bidders only saw the Herald as a entity that could possibly bring them money. In other words, if they had been the highest bidder, the Herald would have been marginalized by these other companies into being just another business endeavor. Instead, Forum has long, long ties to the region and knows Grand Forks very well. It has operated the only network affiliate in Grand Forks for several decades and, even if the Fargo Forum has occasionally enjoyed tossing a snide remark or comment at Grand Forks or UND over the years, Forum Communications understands Grand Forks and...maybe I'm being naive..."cares" about Grand Forks. The Herald will of course be a business endeavor for Forum, but I'm hoping (and thinking) that they see their new purchase as even more than just a new entity in their ever-expanding media conglomeration...I'm thinking they see it as an opportunity to continue the grand tradition of the Grand Forks Herald.

Ok, maybe I'm just being way too pollyannaish here, huh? I guess time will tell.

••Tu-Uyen Tran - a current Herald employee - doesn't seem overly-thrilled about joining the "Home Team" (how many jabs can he take at WDAZ anyways?), but he also doesn't seem overly "doom and gloom" about the sale either. He does say that there aren't any expected layoffs so I guess that means we can just call him "a Herald employee" and not "a current Herald employee", huh? Hey, I got no problem with a little friendly kidding now and then. Here's hoping Tu-Uyen's wishes for a better Herald website come to pass. I've always been jealous of the Fargo Forum's website.

••Dakota Huseby has some questions about possible antitrust issues that this sale may raise, but she does admire the Fargo Forum's "aggressiveness" when it comes to covering news and hopes that some of that might come to our fair city. I loved Dakota's revelation that this sale now means that, as far as news coverage in Grand Forks goes, there will Forum Communications vs. KNOX/Grand Forks Life. Hey, maybe that's not all bad. There should be plenty of Grand Forks residents who don't want to get all of their local news from essentially the same source so why not turn on the radio or...(crossing fingers)...check out what some guy on the Internet has to say?

The sale of the Herald to Forum Communications does raise a bunch of questions in my mind. Will this change anything with the Herald's coverage of UND/NDSU sports? How about future editorials on the Sioux nickname? Will Tu-Uyen and Tom Dennis have to move their blogs over to the Forum's "Area Voices" blog website? Will the Fargo Forum come to the realization that it doesn't need to mention what state Grand Forks is in when it mentions us in an article? Really, "Grand Forks" is fine..."Grand Forks, ND" is just being snide.

Update - 6/8/2006
Today's Herald has an interesting story on what the sale to Forum Communications might mean for the Grand Forks Herald.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Newsbits: Canad rising, dog park dilemma

••Take a drive down 42nd Street and look to the west...the walls are rising out of the ground for the lower floors of the Canad Inns tower. There has been plenty of work going on at the site for the past few months, but this past week saw the first time that any of the visible work was taking place above ground. I wonder when steel will start rising? Also, it looks like the foundation is pretty well in for the waterpark...can't be too long before the walls start to rise for that building too. There are so many piles of dirt and clay around the north side of the Alerus Center.

••Tu-Uyen says that the Lions Park (or whatever you want to call it) location is looking more and more like the spot for the new Grand Forks dog park. Great. You probably already know what I think about this.

Can't the city find a location that isn't right next to houses and apartments and that hasn't already been functioning as a park for years? What about my notion to fund a brand new dog park with some of the pet license fees in Grand Forks? Since the city deems the kind of dog park I'm looking for (one that isn't next to residential developments or isn't already a park) such an expensive undertaking, why not get creative with funding the project? As far as the location, what about Dakota's idea to locate a dog park adjacent to the Humane Society on North Washington? Seems like a good location to me.

If I were on the city council, I would think twice before locating a dog park next to major residential developments and on top of an already existing park. If they build such a facility, they are going to end up with some unhappy voters.

Update - 6/7/2006
I wasn't able to go to it, but a meeting was held on Tuesday about the Lion's Park the Herald story. The article makes it sound like a dog park at the Lion's Park (or whatever you want to call it) location is basically now a sure thing. This has to be one of the oddest statements I've heard in quite a while: "The location is as removed as you can get from residential in the city." That comes from Steve Mullally, Park District superintendent of parks. Removed from residential areas? This is one of the denser parts of town! The area is ringed with apartments and there is a quiet residential neighborhood just northeast of the proposed dog park. One of the residents of that neighborhood, Dan O'Shea, was the only proponent of the dog park to show up at Tuesday's meeting (where was GrandForksGuy when you needed him???). He suggested that a better location for the dog park would be Ulland Park and I couldn't agree more. Ulland Park is not surrounded by homes and apartments and there would be plenty of space for parking. Why not build there? The Herald also has a story about the new Humane Society dog park which will soon be built. Wouldn't it be best for the city to watch how that dog park works and then use what it learns there to work out the kinks and build a much better city-owned dog park sometime down the road?

The Grand Forks Blogosphere

I was thinking today about how fast the local "Grand Forks Blogosphere" - as I like to call it - has grown in the past six months or so. If I'm not mistaken, Dakota Huseby's Voice of Dakota was the first blog that covered local news, but several other pretty popular blogs have joined Dakota in the past few months. Based on the amount of readers and commenters on my site alone, it looks like there are plenty of people out there who are interested in blogs about Grand Forks.

When I consider the emergence of so many Grand Forks blogs, it makes me wonder where the "Fargo-Moorhead Blogosphere" is. Aside from a couple of blogs at the Fargo Forum's Area Voices website, there don't seem to be many blogs that primarily cover Fargo-Moorhead issues. I guess it's just another area where we have Fargo beat, huh? :)

Actually, I would like to see even more GF blogging. I would love to see some of our elected officials (Mayor Brown, City Council members, etc.) start their own blogs. Also, when is someone at WDAZ going to start blogging? I suppose I could count Terry Dullum's The Dullum File blog as a WDAZ blog, but it doesn't seem to have too much to do with Grand Forks. Milo? Cassie? Won't someone at 'DAZ follow in the example of your counterparts at the Herald and start a blog? Let's make the Grand Forks Blogosphere bigger...bigger is better.

Friday, June 02, 2006

How to fund a brand new dog park and not destroy Lions Park in the process

I've been doing some thinking about the proposals which have been floating around town lately for a Grand Forks dog park. As you may be aware, I'm against the proposal for a fenceless dog park in the Greenway and I'm also against the proposal to turn a portion of Lions Park into a dog park. Read some of my comments under this post to see why I feel the way I do. I'm not the only person who hates seeing a neighborhood park become a dog park...check out this story.

I can only come up with one conclusion: any dog park that is to be constructed in the city limits of Grand Forks should be a fenced park not placed on top of a current park, but should be placed in a presently vacant and unused part of town. I know what some of you (including some of our city leaders) will say when you read this proposal. "It's too expensive to buy a new piece of property and put up the necessary fence and parking lot." Well, why not find creative ways for funding such a dog park?

I'm unable to find statistics (maybe I'll email someone at the city), but I believe that only a very small portion of the dogs in Grand Forks are actually licensed and that means that local government is being cheated out of a substantial funding source for such a dog park. Let's crunch some numbers.

According to Wikipedia, there are 19,677 households in the city of Grand Forks. According to this table, 36.1% of North Dakota households have dogs and those North Dakota households with dogs have an average of 1.5 dogs each. Using these figures, we see that around 7,103 Grand Forks households have dogs and there are about 10,655 dogs in the city. The cost of a license for a spayed/neutered dog in Grand Forks is $5 and, if we pretend that all dogs in Grand Forks are spayed/neutered, we arrive at a grand total of about $53,275. This means that Grand Forks dog owners should be spending a total of $53,275 each year to license their dogs. Yep, $53,275 each year. How much do you think it would cost to build a brand new state-of-the-art dog park on a vacant piece of property in Grand Forks? Well, would something like $266,000 be enough? That's the minimum of what we could have for a dog park if every dog in Grand Forks was licensed and all of the money collected for five year's worth of licenses were put together and used to pay off the construction costs of a new dog park.

I think it may be time for the city/police department to look into enforcing dog licensing and use those fees to buy the dogs and dog owners of Grand Forks a state-of-the-art dog park. Do you really think it would be too much to expect a dog owner to pay the $5 (or $15 if the animal is not spayed/neutered) that they are already legally required to pay for each dog they have and get the benefit of seeing that small fee go towards the construction of a new dog park that they could use as much as they want? I don't think it would be expecting very much at all.

Or how about this, if you don't want to offend the dog owners of Grand Forks by enforcing licensing and using that as a mechanism to finance a new dog park, why not build a new dog park on a currently vacant piece of land and then charge a small sum to the dog owners who use the park after it is constructed? It wouldn't be the first time dog owners would have to pay to use a new dog park...check out this story. I don't think it would take that long to collect enough to pay off construction costs for a brand new dog park.

Perhaps a mixture of the two funding mechanisms mentioned here would be the best option for building a new dog park on a vacant piece of land instead of turning an existing neighborhood park into the dog park. I wish that city leaders would think about my ideas. We could end up with a state-of-the-art dog park and keep the Greenway and Lions Park as they are: valuable park space in an ever expanding city.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

New poll: dog park

Time to change the Grand Forks Life poll again. First, let's take a look at the results of the old poll question. The question was "What would you like to see more of in downtown Grand Forks?" and there were a total of 64 votes. The most wanted addition to downtown appears to be "Stores" which received 31% of the vote. "Restaurants/bars" was another popular answer with 25% of the vote. "Housing" and "Offices" tied with each other by both getting 19% of the vote. Lastly, "Other" got 5% and "Galleries" got just 2% of the vote.

It's interesting to see that people seem to want stores more than anything else downtown (that was my vote, too). I might observe that several stores have opened up downtown in the last few years only to later close likely because of a lack of customers. My feeling is that these stores weren't exactly what people were looking for when the were talking about retail establishments in the downtown area. In my opinion, interested parties should take a look at what kinds of stores seem to go over well in other regional downtown areas and try to repeat the same formula in downtown Grand Forks. With the recent influx of restaurants and - especially - housing, it will be interesting to see if stores will follow suit by locating downtown. It seems like there will be more and more people living downtown in the near future and all of those people are going to need places to eat and places to shop...right? Guess we'll find out soon enough.

Time for the next poll. The new question is "Which GF dog park proposal do you support?". Make your voice heard on this important issue. Don't think that city leaders don't "lurk" on local blogs to try to gauge feelings on local issues. Cast you vote right now!

Shameless self-congratulation

Yippee, the popular North Dakota-based Say Anything blog just listed me on their blogroll. How nice of them! For me, this is a nice end to a very busy month on Grand Forks Life. As I write this, the blog has now had 9,719 visits and 19,128 page views since its start in October 2005. I should remind you that Grand Forks Life wouldn't be a reality if it wasn't for the readers and commenters out there. It makes blogging worthwhile when I see people actually reading and commenting on what I have to say. I never thought that a little blog created by yours truly would amount to much or that anyone would care to listen to me. I hope you'll continue to read GFL as I report on life as I see it in our fair city.