Monday, July 31, 2006

Thanks are in order

Just wanted to take the time to thank several blogs that have linked to Grand Forks Life recently. Thanks to the North Dakota Blue Blog for the link. Also, thanks to Vastlane for linking to GFL in there new "Blogs of Grand Forks" box. Lastly, thanks to the Say Anything Blog which came up with the creative idea to prominently include a box on their site listing the most recent postings on North Dakota blogs. It's always good when we link to our own kind. We gotta stick together!

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Ralph Kingsbury's monthly look at the local economy

The monthly Grand Forks Herald column by Ralph Kingsbury, local economist and former member of the State Board of Higher Education, came out in today's paper. Each month, Kingsbury looks at various aspects of the local economy to try to get a picture of where we are as a community. He also looks at regional and national trends that could have an impact on the community. Take a look at the column. I know I look forward to his analysis each month.

Some interesting points:
Again this month, Grand Forks building permits are another huge success story. Compared with June 2005, the permit values for June 2006 are up in excess of 83 percent. The significant factor is the increase is across all categories. There are not one or two huge projects that made the difference.

Single-family dwellings and townhouses are real nice figures for the year. Both categories, as I have mentioned before, bode well for a growing population for Grand Forks.

Looking at all the housing categories over the last several years, and knowing each organization's past history, I believe a census would come out with a population much closer to the Metropolitan Planning Organization's estimate of 53,000 than the State Data Center's 49,000.

From what I understand, different areas of the Grand Forks economy are doing well. Motel vacancies are low, and restaurant business is good.

We could see oil at $100 a barrel before winter. I don't know how much more the economy can absorb before it becomes serious trouble.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Texas Roadhouse may be coming to Grand Forks

Thanks to a tip/comment from an anonymous reader and a little research by our friend JGS, it sounds like Texas Roadhouse - a steakhouse chain with new locations in Fargo and Bismarck - is now planning a Grand Forks restaurant.

In a listing of career opportunities available with the company, a "Managing Partner" position is listed as being available in Grand Forks.

I wonder what site in the city they are looking at? Seems like there are more and more restaurants coming to town all the time...

Update - 7/26/2006
Our friends at WDAZ have been reading Grand Forks Life again. They just had a short story on the 6 PM newscast about Texas Roadhouse and the Pita Pit coming to town.

When Lacey Crisp was talking about the Texas Roadhouse, they showed the property right east of Boston's on 32nd Avenue South. She did call the land "right off of South Washington" or something to that effect though. The lot next to Boston's seems like a pretty good fit for the steakhouse.

At the end of the story, they also mentioned that Pita Pit is looking at the old Roma's Pizza building on South Washington. I wonder where they heard that? moving downtown?

The rumor has been out there lately that, which currently operates a large call center in Grand Forks' industrial park, is considering moving to the downtown area of the city. The city has reportedly been in talks with a potential tenant that is interested in moving into the old Civic Auditorium downtown. Could this be the building that Amazon is eyeing for such a move?

In a June 28 Growth Fund committee metting, Klaus Thiessen - president of the Grand Forks Economic Development Corporation - mentioned "the possibility of Amazon moving downtown". Read the minutes here. Thiessen's statement comes after committee member and city council member Doug Christensen asks about possible upcoming projects that the Growth Fund Committee may be approached with.

I would personally love seeing several hundred people working downtown on a daily basis. It couldn't hurt the stores or restaurants down there and may increase demand for housing.

I would be interested to know why Amazon is possibly considering a move like this. Better access for its employees? Better visibility?

I would expect to hear more about this soon...

Grand Forks rocks

As an incurable fan of Grand Forks and its (in my mind) incomparable event centers, I have been maintaining a list of concerts that have played in our arenas and auditoriums in the past five years or so. Yes, I probably could find something better to do with my time, but don't count on it anytime soon. I don't mind being a bit of a weirdo.

Why do I maintain this list? For one thing, sometimes its hard to remember what went on last week - much less five years ago - so this helps me out.

Secondly, doing this is some sort of twisted indulgence in my effort to promote Grand Forks. What other city of comparable size in the region can present a list of entertainers like this? It just proves (to me, at least) that Grand Forks is becoming more of a "destination city" than what many of us give it credit for.

The List:
•3 Doors Down
•Aerosmith (twice)
•Alan Jackson
•Anne Murray
•B.B. King
•Backstreet Boys
•Barenaked Ladies
•Bette Midler
•Big and Rich
•Bill Cosby
•Black Eyed Peas
•Blue County
•Blue Man Group
•Blues Traveler
•Brad Paisley
•Cats the Musical
•Cheap Trick
•Clay Aiken
•Cyndi Lauper
•Daniel O’Donnell
•Daryl Worley
•Dashboard Confessional
•David Copperfield
•Donny Osmond
•Full Monty the Musical
•Garrison Keillor (twice)
•Gin Blossoms
•Goo Goo Dolls
•Good Charlotte
•Jars of Clay
•Jason Mraz
•Keith Urban
•Kenny Chesney
•Lori Line
•Mannheim Steamroller
•Martin Short
•Martina McBride
•Michael W. Smith
•Montgomery Gentry
•Moscow Ballet
•Motley Crue
•Neal McCoy
•New Found Glory
•Ozzy Osbourne
•Point of Grace
•Rascal Flatts
•Reba McEntire
•Rent the Musical
•Rich Little
•Rob Zombie
•Rod Stewart
•Sawyer Brown
•Seinfeld (twice)
•Seussical the Musical
•Smash Mouth
•Steven Curtis Chapman
•Sugar Ray
•Tanya Tucker
•Thoroughly Modern Millie the Musical
•Tim McGraw
•Titanic the Musical
•Toby Keith (twice)
•Tori Amos
•Trace Adkins
•Will Rogers Follies the Musical

Not so bad for an outpost on the hinterlands, huh?

I may be forgetting an act or two. Please mention any others that you remember from recent times. Remember that the list only contains entertainers that have come to town in the past five years or so (2001: opening of the Alerus). After all, it isn't like there were very many major concerts in town before then...

Monday, July 24, 2006

"Roaming Paws" turns to the Internet and petitions

Roaming Paws, a "grassroots" group which favors construction of a dog park in the city limits of Grand Forks, has set up a new website entitled "Roaming Paws Off Leash Dog Park Community Connection". This group is also starting to pass around a petition in support of a dog park.

Why do I put the word "grassroots" in quotes? Well, I see on the front page of the website that Melanie Parvey-Biby, the Greenway Coordinator for the City of Grand Forks, is prominently listed as being a part of this group and a contact person for those wishing to join. Perhaps this isn't news to some people, but it is to me. Parvey-Biby is a paid employee of the city of Grand Forks. Why is she becoming heavily involved with a "citizens" group that favors construction of a semi-controversial project that would be funded by her employer...the city of Grand Forks? I personally just don't like the sound of that. What do you think?

BTW, I notice that the group favors a fenced dog park. Why then was Parvey-Biby so fervently pushing the city council a few months back to fund construction of a fenceless dog park downtown? Apparently someone realized that a dog park without boundaries wasn't exactly going to fly with most people.

Picky me, but couldn't Roaming Paws find some better pictures? Who found this creepy 1980s stock photo?

If you're interested in reading more of my opinions about the prospects for a dog park(s) in Grand Forks, check out the following links...

How I think a dog park could be paid for without taking neighborhood parks out of service and without requiring the city to put up the money.
The results of a poll I did about dog parks in Grand Forks.
Information about a petition being circulated by people who don't want a neighborhood park in southern Grand Forks to become a dog park.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Newsbits: restaurants

A couple of Grand Forks dining scene newsbits...

Dagwood's changes name...
Dagwood's Bar and Grill on North 42nd Street has new owners and has been renamed to the "Overtime Bar and Grill". I figured that this was coming because the sale has been in the works for a while and the liquor license was recently transferred over to the new owners. Not sure if the new owners and the new name will result in any changes to the establishment. I saw the new signs on the building the other day and was going to mention this, but I had forgotten about it. Thanks to GFL reader Matthew for emailing me about this and helping me to remember that I should put up something about it.

Pita restaurant coming to South Washington...
A GFL reader, Chuck, emailed me with the tip that a new pita restaurant is coming to the old Giovanni's Pizza/Roma's Pizza building on South Washington. This may be the new Pita Pit restaurant that has been in the works for a while, or it could be another pita restaurant...perhaps a local start-up? The Pita Pit website still lists the Grand Forks location as "in development" and the last time I emailed them they said that they were still picking out a location. Guess we'll find out soon enough. Apparently renovation on the building has already started. I'll have to take a drive by there soon.

Thanks again to GFL readers Matthew and Chuck for emailing me about these stories. I always welcome any news tips you can provide!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Yak, Yak, Yak

Wow. I just did a tally of how many comments I've gotten to the 115 or so posts that I have put up here on Grand Forks Life since last October. Guess how many comments there are now? Well, it looks like just on Thursday we had the 1,000th comment. You guys like talking, don't you? Keep it up!

Newsbits: Kohl's, Canad, Olive Garden, etc.

A few business-related newsbits...

Kohl's opening in October...
The Kohl's Department Store website states that the new Grand Forks store on 32nd Avenue will have its grand opening in October. This is also the month that the Wal-Mart Supercenter will be finished and when several new strip malls are supposed to open for business in different parts of the city. I'm still curious what we're going to see in the new strip malls.

Canad Inns is getting taller...
This isn't really news for anyone who has taken a drive down 42nd Street lately, but the Canad Inns hotel tower is getting taller everyday. Right now, work seems to be focused on the 5th floor with some work also being done on the 6th floor. When all is said and done, the hotel will be 13 stories.

On a side note, Canad Inns is planning to build a new 19-story hotel in more here. Canad certainly seems to be on the grow.

The Ultimate Grind has closed...
The Ultimate Grind - a fixture in the local coffee shop scene for the past decade or so - has shut its doors in the Columbia Mall. If memory serves me correctly, in the past the owner sent several letters to the Grand Forks Herald mailbag where he criticized the local community and the business climate. In my opinion, that isn't exactly a way to attract business to your establishment. Still, I don't like seeing local businesses go out of business. The Ultimate Grind had a good run and was one of the first coffee shops in town.

The owner reportedly had the mall sign a contract years ago that stated that no other coffee shop could operate in the mall while his business was there. Starbucks apparently wanted to open a store in the mall's Dakota Cafe food court late last year, but couldn't because of this. I wonder if Starbucks will take a second look at the mall now?

Mysterious building site explained...
That mysterious construction site on 30th Avenue South near Columbia Mall and the hotels directly west of the mall has been bugging me for some time now. Today, I drove by the site and I think I know now what kind of a building is coming up there. There is a Greenberg Realty sign out in front that states that there is "office space for lease". So that's what it must office building. I'm guessing its going to be a two story building.

I would have rather seen a new restaurant, but the lack of visibility from 32nd Avenue likely would have deterred potential dining establishments from setting up shop there. Oh well.

Olive Garden on the way?
Coffee Guy has an interesting post at his blog - "Another Grand Forks Blog" - which suggests that an Olive Garden restaurant may be on the way to the new Kohl's development. I've heard this rumor before. Guess we'll have to wait and see.

OK...that's my business news fix for the day. I'm such a junkie.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Dreaming of January

It isn't just our air conditioners that are getting workouts from this summer's soaring temperatures. Pavement throughout the city is experiencing stress from the brutal conditions. Much like extreme cold can damage pavement, so too can extreme heat. Earlier this week, a portion of 7th Avenue South buckled and is in the process of being repaired.

A portion of the driveway directly in front of Lowe's has also buckled under the extreme heat. I noticed this on Wednesday night when I was shopping in the area. Crews were breaking up concrete near the store's eastern entrance and piling it up in large piles in the parking lot. This must be very disruptive because the concrete in question is right near the customer loading area. Maybe that's why Menard's seemed busier than usual...

And to think that in a few short months the temperatures could literally be 100+ degrees cooler. My yard is actually cracking up in places. I've heard plenty about the terrible heat the area experienced in the summer of 1936 (121 degrees in Steele, North Dakota). Let's hope things cool down soon. My air conditioner and the streets of Grand Forks can't take it much longer...

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New poll: downtown restaurants

Closing the old poll...
Time to close the old poll question, "Would you like to see the annual GF Fourth of July celebration become an alcohol-free event?". Click here to see the final results. Overall, most people don't seem to think there is a problem with having alcohol available at the event. 64% voted "No" while "Yes" got just 31% of the vote. 5% of the voters were undecided on the matter. For ongoing discussions about this topic, please see this post and this post and their respective reader comments.

Opening the new poll...
Now for the next poll question, "Which of the new downtown restaurants is your favorite?". What will it be? The Toasted Frog? Dakota Harvest Bakers? Joe Black’s? This should be less controversial than some past questions…or maybe not. The local dining scene always seems to bring out strong opinions. I’ll be interested to see which new downtown restaurant emerges as the top pick. Happy voting!

BTW, here's a look at what Marilyn thinks of these establishments...
Dakota Harvest Bakers
Joe Black's
The Toasted Frog

I wonder if the napkins were up to her standards.

Newsbits: Grand Forks Blogosphere comings and goings

JGS closes My Grand Forks...
JGS, one of the earliest readers of this blog and a prominent part of the "Grand Forks Blogosphere", has shut down his own My Grand Forks blog. Check out what he had to say to Tu-Uyen over at the City Beat blog. I think this is really a shame. JGS was a pioneer in the local blogging community. Hopefully we'll still see him around the other blogs. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that we won't lose any more blogs...

Culture Pulse blog up and running..., a website about the local art/cultural community, now has its own blog...check it out. It's not brand new, but I only recently stumbled across it. Good to see the local blogosphere grow...or at least hold its own.

Friday, July 14, 2006

VastLane comeback, the once very popular Grand Forks community message board and online gathering place, is back up again after a hiatus.

VastLane used to get many hits every day and was read by a large local following, but things started to die off a year or two ago. In ways, the "Grand Forks Blogosphere" that has emerged recently has become somewhat of a "replacement" for the old VastLane community.

It would be nice to see VastLane pick up again and become a part of the local blogging community. That's really what it is, in my opinion - a blog. However, instead of just one poster like most Grand Forks blogs, VastLane is a blog where many people are able to put forward topics or news.

I would encourage all Grand Forks Life readers to visit VastLane from time to time and bookmark it along with all of the Grand Forks blogs that I know many of you check out on a daily basis.

Elvis did it in '68, Bill Clinton was the "comeback kid"...why can't VastLane make a comeback too???

BTW, it was nice to see VastLane list all of us members of the Grand Forks Blogosphere. Thanks!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Newsbits: city website, Hansen Ford

Changes to city website...
The long-overdue update to the city of Grand Forks' website is finished. Check it out here. It's nice to see that the city realized that something had to be done to the city's depressing and inadequate website.

I haven't had too much time to check out the changes. However, at first glance it looks like a bit more effort could have been spent making the site more attractive and up-to-date. Still, I'm very happy to see that forms have been added for citizens to make requests about repairs to streetlights and sidewalks. This was something that I suggested to the city some time ago. Not sure why it took so long to implement...

I'll have to spend some time tomorrow checking out the site a bit more thoroughly. In my opinion, any changes were an improvement over the old site. However, the website should be as attractive and user friendly as possible...this is our official presence on the Internet!

Hansen Ford to change name?
Rumor has it that Hansen Ford is in the process of being sold and the name could likely change as a result.

Considering the Rydell family's penchant for expansion - and their fortune - could "Rydell Ford" be on the way? That's just speculation on my part, though.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Newsbits: GrandForksGuy's vacation, new downtown salon/spa

On holiday....
Just a quick note to let everyone know that I will be on a short vacation for a couple of days. Don't expect to see me back around until this coming Wednesday.

Another new business for downtown...
Looks like downtown Grand Forks is getting a new salon/spa. It will be located directly next to where the Red River Cafe/Deli used to be. I can't remember what the sign in the window said the place is going to be called. I think it's great to see more businesses set up shop downtown. We've gotten several new restaurants and bars recently. It's good to see service businesses coming to the area. Now I'm just waiting for some new retail down there.

Update - 7/14/2006
The new salon/spa is "Tranquil Escape Salon and Spa"...check out their website here.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

New poll: a dry Fourth of July?

Closing the old poll...
Time to close the old poll question, "Would you like to see a Wal-Mart on Gateway Drive?", which garnered more votes (77) than any previous poll on this blog. I'm impressed with the number of votes and the interest expressed from both sides of the debate. Click here to check out the results.

Overall, many readers don't seem all that keen on the possibility of Wal-Mart setting up shop on Gateway Drive. "No" received 57% of the vote, while "Yes" got 42%. 1% of the voters were undecided on the matter. Interesting results. Since so many seem to think I'm such a fan of Wal-Mart, I'll just leave debating the outcome up to you.

By the way, you're now able to easily access the results of all previous Grand Forks Life polls. Just click here. There is also a link right below the voting box on the left side of the screen.

Opening the new poll...
I'm taking the topic of my most recent post - consumption of alcohol at the Grand Forks Sertoma Fourth of July celebration - and turning it into the new poll question: "Would you like to see the annual GF Fourth of July celebration become an alcohol-free event?". Happy voting.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Fourth of July

I celebrated our nation's birthday where I always have ever since I can remember: at the Sertoma fireworks show and downtown "celebration" (for lack of a better term). I can remember way back to the days when the fireworks were at Memorial Stadium. Then came a year or two in the Columbia Mall parking lot, many years at Lincoln Park, the riverbank downtown, a post-flood show at the Bronson Property (pre-Ralph), and a few years near Ulland Park before the festivities were moved to their (permanent?) home...The Greenway. In other words, for me Independence Day=Sertoma fireworks.

While I love the fireworks show and appreciate the events during the day, I can't help but thinking that the whole thing could be a little more "family friendly" than it currently is. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of things for kids to do during the day and I know how they love the fireworks at night, but I would like to see the "atmosphere" of the event change a bit.

The First Night celebration each New Years Eve is an alcohol-free event. I've always thought that this is a great idea because it encourages people to do something other than drink on a night when drinking too much has become a tradition. Why should the Fourth of July be any different? Many people also celebrate this holiday by getting drunk. Why doesn't Sertoma (or whoever is in charge) make the decision to turn the Fourth of July into an alcohol-free celebration like First Night?

Grand Forks already has a bad reputation as being a town that likes to imbibe a bit too much now and then. I think that having alcohol so freely available at the Fourth of July celebration only makes that stigma worse for the city. I'm not so naive to think that if beer wasn't available downtown during the events that people simply wouldn't drink. No doubt that the party would just move to their homes. However, if the day's events were alcohol-free downtown, at least Sertoma and the city of Grand Forks wouldn't look like they were condoning turning our nation's birthday into another excuse to get drunk.