Wednesday, June 06, 2007

What about the Civic Auditorium?

A reader emailed me and suggested I post something about future prospects for the old Civic Auditorium in downtown Grand Forks. I would love to hear what you guys think could or should be done to the space. Share your thoughts in the comment section.

Personally, I would like to see the space converted into something like a Whole Foods, but that is probably just a pipe dream considering the relatively small number of Whole Foods stores there are out there and considering the fact that they usually go into larger communities (list of U.S. stores). Still, I've said many times before that I think a small grocery store of some sort - preferably upscale, ethnic, or something that sets it apart from what we already have in other grocery stores - would be a wonderful addition to the community and could be a boon for downtown.

As it is, people living downtown either have to drive to Leever's just south of downtown or they have to go several miles to find another grocery store. Having a quality grocery store in downtown would not only bring people downtown to shop, but it would also help those who live there to stay downtown and might also encourage more residential development there. People don't seem to like to live very far away from a grocery store. Amazing Grains is nice, but I think most people living downtown would like to see a full-service grocery store open up within walking distance. Also, I think a renovated, fully utilized Civic Auditorium building could be a catalyst for the expansion/redevelopment of the western downtown neighborhood that I've talked about before.

So, what would you like to see become of the old Civic Auditorium? Any specific ideas? Should the city tear it down (which would be costly, by the way) and try to sell the land to a developer? I would love to hear readers share their ideas for this property. The property seems to be located in a high-traffic, high-visibility area right in the center of town. It's really a shame to see it sit empty year after year.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

The civic has been on the market for so long anyone serious about buying it would have done so by now. I say eat the costs involved and demolish it then search for a developer to put up a multi story condo or apartment building. The first floor could be commercial such as a grocery or anything else for that matter. If the speed at which the Brownstone condo's on N. 3rd St sold is any indicator people want to live downtown. I think an empty lot would sell faster and be more attractive then an old armory built in the 50's then converted to a civic center.

Matthew said...

Just because no one in town wants to buy it doesn't mean there isn't a buyer out there. We need to contact some potential businesses about moving into GF with that possibility before tearing it down.

Anonymous said...

burn that mother to the ground!

Anonymous said...

Olive Garden

Anonymous said...

I agree with Matthew. I wonder if its availability is included in requests for information at Chamber and EDC.

Elucidarian said...

Will the cost of present and future repairs and renovations needed outweigh the benefits of new construction? I'm inclined to agree with demolition.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see a Trader Joe's. They have over 100 stores nationwide, with the closest store in the Twin Cities. Ordinarily, I don't think GF would be on their radar, but considering the proximity of the Winnipeg market, it could make sense. Canadians (not to mention UND and GF) would love it.

Reed said...

I think there are a few renters in that barn right now...certainly not enough to make it cash flow...

It would need so much work to make it into anything...lame split level entrance..

Anonymous said...

I would love a trader joe's as ell!

Anonymous said...

that would be well not ell, too bad I cant edit!

Anonymous said...

that would be well not ell, too bad I cant edit!

Anonymous said...

You can make a location request on the Trader Joe's web site. I just did. I encourage anyone else who's interested to do the same.

www.traderjoes.comlocation_requests_form.aspx

Matthew said...

Anonymous inspired me to go look up a few more location request forms for some random businesses that Grand Forks does not currently have. I started my own poll, and I'll continue to add to it as long as people have new businesses they want to come here. You cna find it at http://talk.campusdakota.com/index.php?topic=1431

MattFacingSouth said...

I've said it before: hit up Jamba Juice to open in GF. I make it a point to do so at least twice a year.

Anonymous said...

I sumbitted my request for Trader Joe's

vcsuvike said...

I would like to see a small grocery store or open market with fresh meats & fruits. Another great idea would be to turn it into a place like Playmakers, the city could use it to attract smaller concerts.

Anonymous said...

anon-olive garden blows!

ben said...

pretty sure anon was being funny - as that building is not suited at all for an Olive Garden. I think a lot of people forget the setup of that building. It is a split entry - you must go up or down, and it is much too big for a "little" grocery store people are talking about. The thing that makes it so big is the complete basement (which is much nicer than the top floor, as it was remodeled for the county courts when they went in there temporarily). The building is pretty much useless unless a private school or another event center moved in. I would like to see it torn down and sold for a mixed-use development of some type.

GrandForksGuy said...

Regarding tearing the Civic down...

I'm not sure if it would be cost effective, but it might not be the worst idea. That property is one of the most logical places in town to build a highrise of some sort. Whatever becomes of that block (with or without the Civic building), I think a grocery store in that part of downtown would be perfect. One problem that I see with the Civic is that it doesn't face DeMers. Perhaps a new structure on the property could be configured to face DeMers.

Anonymous said...

UND keeps talking about a downtown campus. What about the Civic?

GrandForksGuy said...

I've just been told that, coincidentally, Lacey Crisp will have a story about empty city owned buildings (including the Civic) on tonight's 6PM news.

Anonymous said...

Supposedly the city is trying to get Amazon to move downtown. They aren't using all of that warehouse space anymore, so they really don't need nearly as much room for a call center. Not to mention they got rid of the Tool Crib catalog that they bought back in 1999. The only way to buy the tools is online now. I think they lost a lot of business because contractors aren't going to go online to buy stuff, they usually call from the job site. I know as a former employee of the Tool Crib catalog.

Anonymous said...

Real funny to blow it up ! But the fire dept and police could use it for training and the Army Nat Guard too ! Use to have good car shows in there, plus the county had their offices there for awhile. Why not a large splash pool says Park Dept. head John S. Thats it. greenglass4.

Anonymous said...

Well, personally I think that the old building should be burnt down, it's nothin but a pile anyways. It doesn't deserve to be standing there and make people look at it's nasty self! Burn in hell old civic auditorium!

Lynsey said...

I'd second the Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, Whole Foods would probably put Amazing Grains out of business.

Coffee Guy said...

Trader Joe's will never happen until they build a closer distribution center. The closest one is in Chicago, and the way things are set up stores have to be w/in a day's drive, meaning Minneapolis is about the limit right now.

I was told that they will be in all of the lower 48 someday. Someday.

Maura F. said...

I think that Whole Foods is a terrible company and a terrible potential addition to Grand Forks. I think that it would be a better situation if Grand Fork's own co-op, Amazing Grains, were to expand and become a full service grocer. I am one of the many Grand Forks natives who has moved to the Twin Cities, and I LOVE my Co-op. It is a full service grocer, a bit larger than the Hugo's on South Washington, and I love it. Supporting local business is the best way to go in my opinion, and having a Whole Foods Market in Grand Forks would demolish Amazing Grains, which has been a local business for over 30 years. It would be sad to see them go under because of WalMart-esque Whole Foods.

Anonymous said...

I don't think Amazing Grains would lose their clientele, and Whole Foods would bring a much needed natural grocery option to Grand Forks. Try shopping for a family of 5 at Amazing Grains for every meal. As good as they are, there isn't a lot of options. We usually end up buying the "natural" stuff at Super Target. Bring on Whole Foods.
I think the civic should be turned into an upscale hotel.

maura f. said...

"Try shopping for a family of 5 at Amazing Grains for every meal"

Um, that's why I said they should turn into a full service grocer. The co-op which I am a member of here (Valley Natural Foods) is just like any other grocery store, just with many locally harvested foods, natural foods, organic foods, etc. You could easily shop for a family of any size for every meal at Valley Natural Foods, and if Amazing Grains expanded to become a full service grocer, you could easily do the same there.

And yes, Amazing Grains would lose plenty of their customer base. Whole Foods is infamous for building their stores in communities who already have established co-ops and essentially stealing those co-op members away. It's no different from Wal-Mart, or other big name companies (bookstores, etc) defeating small businesses. It's sad, and it's especially sad to see that happen to a small co-op that vitalizes so many local farmers.

Anonymous said...

Relax, the chances of Whole Foods opening shop in a hick, isolated market in North Dakota are non existant.

Anonymous said...

Trader Joe's and Whole Foods cater to upscale surburban and urban areas. Neither have even begun to locate secondary cities like Salt Lake, Boise, Wichita, Oklahoma City, etc. All North Dakota cities and everywhere in Minnesota outside the TC's are third tier.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if US retailers looking for potential new opportunities in GF, take into consideration the Canadian visitors and the 1 million + Winnipeg market? That could-and should-affect their decision-making.

Anonymous said...

Maybe you're overlooking one fact...

They also have stores up there.

Anonymous said...

Whole Foods and Trader Joe's in Winnipeg? Hmm, that's news to me.

ben said...

most likely neither of those stores will come to GF...though it is good to dream. How about asking Hugo's or other locally owned stores to expand their natural food selection, if that is your wish. Let them know how many people are demanding that type of good, and who knows, they just might respond by offering more of those choices, without chain store competition for our local businesses. Certainly we are currently lacking in a full service natural food store. (although a Tombstone and a coke sound like lunch to me!(

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's too realistic either, but Trader Joe's seemed to fit the thinking that, hey, there's this empty Civic Auditorium; plus downtown needs a grocery store. But the only stores that made sense in that big space downtown would be those that drew from the entire community and beyond.

Anonymous said...

Maybe Best Western/Townhouse will buy the building and expand...

Coffee Guy said...

"I think that Whole Foods is a terrible company"

What do you think is so terrible? The fact that they have a salary cap limiting the pay of top executives, or that the founder and CEO John Mackey reduced his salary to $1 and decided to forgo all future stock options? Or is it the fact that even part-timers are eligible for stock options? Or is it that the most common hourly job pays over $25K, and salaried team leaders make over $75K? How much do Amazing Grains employees make?

Could it be the amazing selection of fresh fish? WF has a better selection of food than most of the co-ops I've ever seen. We're obviously not talking about a mistreatment of workers here, so I'm just not sure what you think is so terrible. So they attracted customers that had previously shopped at a local co-op. I guess the co-op should have worked harder to satisfy the desires of shoppers.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Civic...the City just needs to make another stupid deal and be done with it. Call in the Amazon boys and tell them they can have the property for a buck. Then, turn around and put out an RFP on the the property. The "winner" gets the building for one dollar. Then, the city is out from under the overhead, and the property will go back on the tax rolls. The only problem is, I suppose, the city will end up with another empty building...the one that they already gave them.

Think it's a dumb idea? If you'd like, I'll cite 10 other past deals that are/were dumber.

Anonymous said...

I'm not giving up on the dream of Trader Joe's. I LOVE that store. After living on the west coast for 6 years and now being back in GF I can't stand living without it. I plan to hit up the web site and put in a new store request. Thanks for the tip.