Friday, April 28, 2006

Another new Grand Forks blog

Another Grand Forks-related blog has popped up on the local blogosphere. Our friend Tu-Uyen Tran over at the Grand Forks Herald just started his own blog, Grand Forks City Beat. Check it out! Tu-Uyen is the city beat reporter at the Herald so I expect to see plenty of interesting stories and views on his blog. It's also interesting to see what goes into his reporting for the Herald. He's been covering the proposed UND germ lab for the Herald so his blog, in turn, has had interesting posts relating to the whole "Oakville Prairie" controversy.

Tu-Uyen even gave a little shout-out to me and Dakota Huseby in his first post...wasn't that nice of him! I know I'll be a frequent visitor to Tu-Uyen's blog and I hope you all follow suite.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Bring on the germs!

Big news: UND is seeking to build a 500,000 square foot germ research lab west of Grand Forks that would provide as many as 300 high-paying jobs. The National Bio and Agro-defense Facility would research both human and animal diseases as well as diseases that can cross over...bird flu anyone?

This lab could be a major boon for the local and the first year of operation would have a $500 million dollar impact! This is also the type of project that could bring in many private sector companies who want to set up shop near such a facility. Last year, UND failed in an attempt to get a similar (but smaller) lab. Hopefully things will turn out different this time around. UND also is going to start construction soon on a new research park on 32nd Avenue South west of the interstate. This park will also feature a small bio-research lab. Sounds like the life sciences sector of the Grand Forks economy is poised for explosive growth. This type of project offers exactly the highly-skilled high-paying jobs the city covets. It sounds a bit odd to be excited about germs, but I'm thinking...bring 'em on!

Update - 4/24/2006
You might be interested to see all of the recent news stories similar to this one that are on Google News. Looks like Grand Forks will have plenty of competition and is going to have to put forward a very good proposal if we really want to get this facility.

Update 4/28/2006
UND VP of research Peter Alfonso now says that the University will likely no longer seek to build the lab on the previously proposed Oakville Prairie site west of Grand Forks. This comes on the heels of intense criticism by the UND biology department which currently uses that land for research. I have to admit that it seems like someone (Rick Tonder at facilities?) seemingly goofed when they picked Oakville Prairie for the lab. Community support is so critical for the University to actually land the lab that it doesn't surprise me too much that Alfonso would so quickly announce that a new site for the lab will be sought. I'm a little nervous about building a huge germ lab on 32nd Avenue South in UND's new tech park, not because I think the lab is dangerous, but because of the potential that residents and businesses may not want to set up shop so close to such a huge facility that may be perceived to be dangerous. From what I've heard, UND owns large tracts of land all over the area. Certainly, the facilities department can find a suitable location. They better do so quickly.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A royal visit

It isn't everyday that royalty visits Grand Forks, but its happening on Wednesday. Princess Martha Louise of Norway is in town to promote her children's book entitled Why Kings and Queens Don't Wear Crowns. She'll be reading her book and chatting at the Chester Fritz Auditorium tonight from 7PM-9PM. The event is free and open to the public. Just don't expect to see any crowns...

Monday, April 17, 2006

Golden Corral coming to Grand Forks

I love finding out what businesses are coming to Grand Forks before others do and I think I've done it again. Golden Corral, a large national chain of buffet-style restaurants, appears to be planning a restaurant in Grand Forks as well as a location in Bismarck. We can always use more restaurants, in my opinion. As it is, the Royal Fork is the only buffet-style restaurant in Grand Forks. The way I see it, competition is a good thing. I look forward to another addition to the local restaurant lineup.

Update - 4/18/2006
Does the Grand Forks Herald read Grand Forks Life? You tell me. It sounds like this restaurant will be a part of the new Kohl's development on 32nd Avenue South. Watch for more stores and restaurants to announce plans pertaining to that same development soon.

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.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Candidates for city council

We finally have some new candidates for the Grand Forks city council. Dorette Kerian and Gerald Hamerlik are leaving their seats this June, and that leaves Ward 2 and Ward 6 looking for new representation. Ward 4 is also up for election, but no one other than incumbent Hal Gershman has announced their candidacy.

Here's a look at the current candidates...

Ward 2:
•Mike McNamara
McNamara is a local KNOX radio personality. A long time military man, he is currently serving in Iraq and won't be coming back at least until this September. He would be the only city council member who doesn't live in Grand Forks. McNamara has been an outspoken critic of city government for years. If he were to win, I can see some heated council meetings and higher ratings for his show. Maybe that's the idea...
•Peder Rice
Another outsider to city government, Peder (with a D) Rice is a sophomore at UND majoring in Computer Science. Originally from Minot, Rice has been the webmaster of Minot Public Schools. We can get to know him a bit better by looking at his postings at a Mac computer website...check it out. It's pretty cool how Google has made candidates for public office much more easily scrutinized. Rice should make an interesting candidate. Both McNamara and Rice have things going for them and things that will work against them. This should be an interesting race to watch.
Update - 4/14/2006
We now have two more candidates for Ward 2: Tom Kenville Jr. and Jon Dorner. Dorner is president of Northstar Insulation of Grand Forks. You can read about the Ward 2 race in today's Herald. Also, the article states that Peder Rice is chairman of the local College Republicans. That will probably either make you love him or hate him.
Update - 4/17/2006
One more candidate for Ward 2: Cameron Stewart.
Also, I'm able to clarify now that the "Tom Kenville" we are talking about here is Tom Kenville, Jr., Vice President of Business Development for the UND Aerospace Foundation. His father is also "Tom Kenville" and that was a bit confusing to me.

Ward 4:
•Hal Gershman (Incumbent)
Gershman is the incumbent and a prominent local business man. He is currently running unopposed...and that's fine with me. Mr. Gershman is a level-headed man who has Grand Forks' best interest at heart. I have personally been in contact with him about local concerns and he is a very friendly, very helpful representative. If you're reading this Hal, ever thought of running for mayor in 2008? I would vote for you, if that means anything.

Ward 6:
•Tom Potter
Potter is a minister and the husband of state legislator/GF realtor Weezie Potter. It sounds like Mr. Potter wouldn't plan on making any big waves in city government. He is currently running unopposed. We'll have to wait and see if he gets any competition.
Update - 4/17/2006
One more candidate for Ward 6: former city council member Art Bakken.

Check back with Grand Forks Life to see if anymore candidates announce a bid for a seat on the council. You will see plenty more as election day inches closer.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Springtime downtown

There is a nice article in today's Grand Forks Herald about all of the developments taking place in downtown Grand Forks. They also included a list of the individual projects. Of note, the article states that the new owner of the St. John's Block wants an art gallery and wine bar on the main floor and a grocery store in the basement in addition to the "funky, cutting-edge" New York-style lofts that will fill the upper floors. Also, the new renters of the Opera House Lofts started moving in this past weekend while construction on the new Elite Brownstones at the current site of the Flood Memorial Park will start later this month. Some tentative opening dates provided by new downtown businesses: Joe Black's bar and grill - mid-April, Dakota Harvest Bakers - May, The Toasted Frog appetizer bar and restaurant - "some time this spring".