Friday, July 13, 2007

What about that monorail?


The other day, I came across a Herald clipping from 2002. This particular story was about the giant complex of museums and other amenities that a group called the New Horizons Decade group first proposed back in 2002. The complex was supposed to go directly north of the Alerus Center and stretch all the way to DeMers Avenue. In addition to a hotel and water park, the complex was supposed to include a collegiate hockey hall of fame, a collegiate aviation hall of fame, an agricultural museum, an automobile museum, an indoor golf facility, and themed restaurants. Oh yeah...and a monorail was supposed to connect all the buildings and possibly go all the way to the Ralph Engelstad Arena.

Quite a complex, huh? Now it's 2007 and I'm left wondering what happened to the New Horizons Decade group and their grand plans. I've emailed an individual who used to be involved with the group to ask them these very question, but so far I haven't had a response. I've mentioned this as a possible news story idea to people at both the Herald and WDAZ, but no reporter has followed through. Tu-Uyen Tran wrote the article back in 2002 so maybe he could do a new article on where the group and the project stand today.

I realize that the hotel and the water park proposed in the plan have finally become a reality. Still, no museums or halls of fame line 42nd Street and I can't catch a ride on the monorail when I want to travel from the Ralph to the Big Al. Have the plans for the museums and other developments been cast aside? Was an effort ever made to raise funds for any of the buildings? What about all of that land between the Alerus Center and DeMers Avenue...is anything preventing the landowner(s) from selling it to commercial developers? If they were able to sell the land, wouldn't that be the last nail in the coffin for the New Horizons Decade complex?

I have to wonder if all of these museums really would have ever been able to make a go of it in a city this size. Still, I was thrilled back in 2002 to see local leaders planning on such a grand scale. When the story came out, I poured over the above picture and practically drooled over the proposal. I would love to see some type of complimentary developments fill the land in question adjacent to the Alerus Center. The Alerus/Canad complex is already huge...I would love for it to be a sort of "super complex."

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

Me thinks building anything close to a complex such as this is a tad bit of over reaching...

wendian said...

I've always wondered the same thing. Thanks for resurrecting the notion. I love all parts of the proposal except the monorail (frankly, I just don't think GFK is large enough to handle one).

I'm always a big fan of new ventures that appeal to visitors and tourism. I really adhered to the museum concept--except I'd like them to be integrated as one, instead of separates, and to add the children's science museum to the pot.

Keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

Monorail - cool, but an absolute money sucker. The museum concept is interesting, but can the area support it? They would be heavily dependent on outside visitors, and I would imagine that would be tough during the winter. Throwing in a kid's "discovery" center might ease that, but other than the college hockey hall of fame, I'm not sure if the rest are feasible. If it did work out, however, it could really jump start the city.

Jason Berberich said...

Whenever I heard talk of the proposed Monorail, I couldn't help but think back to the Simpsons episode when Springfield got one.

Ah, and the song! "Well, sir, there's nothing on earth like a genuine, bona fide, electrified, six-car monorail!"

Anonymous said...

A museum complex by itself wouldn’t really be the best use of that land. Somehow, a developer needs to combine office space, condos, and retail to really get the Alerus Center property humming with human activity. A private organization could then fund an atrium as a museum theme. If there was a large fitness center or indoor soccer-sized field for rental (shouldn’t the Alerus field be routinely rented out for UND or youth group practices?), the synergies could be tremendous. Remember the Renaissance proposal for downtown Fargo, which had office/residential/retail centered around a city-financed hockey arena? Although the hockey arena was turned down by Fargo voters, some of the needed dynamics could be achieved around the Alerus with private developers. What GF really needs is more corporate presence. If the UAV industry really takes off in GF, maybe Raytheon or other companies will spur a big demand for office space.

H.J.Simpson said...

MONORAIL! MONORAIL! MONORAIL!!! THIS TOWN NEEDS A MONORAIL!

Anonymous said...

Why does everything have to be NEW, NEW, NEW!
Can we support and improve existing programs first. GF already has empty buildings all over.

Anonymous said...

I am more interested to know what the next attraction that Canad is looking at. They said they had plans but didn't want to spill the beans just yet, and that was a while ago. Were they resurrecting the idea of a movie complex since Carmike dropped the ball, then had to reevaluate since the one is going into the Riverwalk? I would be interested to know.

GrandForksGuy said...

I think a major retail development might be a good use for at least part of this land. Access to the Interstate and the steady flow of Canadian cars passing by makes me wonder if an outlet mall or some sort of higher end retail project might be a good idea. What I wouldn't give to see a Shoppes at Arbor Lake in Grand Forks...

Anonymous said...

I am more interested to know what the next attraction that Canad is looking at. They said they had plans but didn't want to spill the beans just yet, and that was a while ago. Were they resurrecting the idea of a movie complex since Carmike dropped the ball, then had to reevaluate since the one is going into the Riverwalk? I would be interested to know.
Canad's owner, Leo Ledohowski, has a shown initiatives well outside mainstream hotelier's thinking:

From CBC:

The company recently purchased the Metropolitan Theatre in downtown Winnipeg and is said to be planning to turn it into a restaurant or nightclub showcasing the city's rock-'n'-roll history.

The long-vacant building, which has been designated a national historic site, must be restored to its early-20th-century glory, an undertaking that it's estimated could cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars.


He had worked with a museum group on a pure rock/roll history museum for the Metropolitan Theatre, but they parted ways when Leo had to emphasize the food/beverage business end to make a go of it.

Anonymous said...

An outlet mall would work a lot better in EGF - no tax on clothes...

GrandForksGuy said...

I really wish Tuey would do a follow up story on the New Horizons Decade group. It's odd that a proposal of this magnitude has been ignored by the media for years now.

Anonymous said...

It's been ignored because it was dead on the drawing board. No one is going to sink private money into a losing proposition. No taxpayer in his right mind is going to allow a public entity to shell out the money needed to build it. There is no way Grand Forks gets a college hockey hall of fame. UND may have one of the best college hockey programs in the country but so does Minneapolis and Boston. Where would you rather visit? Same for the college aerospace hall of fame or whatever that is. No one will come to a town of 50,000 in the middle of nowhere for that. Have you any idea how much the landowners think their land is worth over there? They're all on the crack pipe. I've heard the owner of that piece of garbage house that looks like a used car dealership south of the Alerus Center wants 1 million for something like 3 acres. Everyone needs to bring their heads out of the clouds before anything new happens over there. This isn't Grand Forks bashing, just plain common sense.

Anonymous said...

There is no way Grand Forks gets a college hockey hall of fame. I agree that these museums won't make a go of it as a stand alone attraction, but as part of a bigger development, there's a chance. There are numerous college hockey fans and Canadians that do go out of their way to tour the Ralph and attend a game there. Eveleth has the US Hockey Hall of Fame, yet Grand Forks can't get the College version of it? If a developer or retail/office/condo complex reserved an atrium or corner for such a museum/HOF, it could actually help business. Look at the business plan of Urban Plains: use a hockey arena complex to attract people to their retail/office/condo complex.

A College Hockey HOF would need to be in a community where the people would have pride in it being there. In Minneapolis, very few people would go to a stand alone College HHOF unless is was in the Excel or Mall of America as a side attraction: it just wouldn't be on a local's or tourist's radar. In Boston, there wouldn't be any interest either.



Have you any idea how much the landowners think their land is worth over there? They're all on the crack pipe. I've heard the owner of that piece of garbage house that looks like a used car dealership south of the Alerus Center wants 1 million for something like 3 acres. And when he sells it, who's going to have the last laugh? Other than the Bronson property, the real estate potential of the 42nd corridor is higher than any other GF area.

dale said...

Other than the Bronson property, the real estate potential of the 42nd corridor is higher than any other GF area.

With those real estate prices, I wouldn't be too sure. There will be some growth, but they may well be pricing themselves out of the market. My guess is that the real hot spots are going to be South Washington, around the Aurora, and Columbia Road south of 32nd.

Hey, to that end, in the past couple of days they've cleared out a big patch of land just west of the S. Columbia Dairy Queen. Anyone know what's going in there? Hopefully not more townhomes! If it's another restaurant or store, it can help anchor commercial growth off of 32nd.

Anonymous said...

The College Hockey Hall of Fame has zero chance to land in Grand Forks. As the previous poster said, visitation would be HUGE in the twin cities if it was attached to MOA or Excel Center. The Alerus Center isn't quite the same thing. Having someone check out a HOF atrium after a Martina McBride concert will not bring in the numbers. Also, I'm glad Canadian visitation/shopping is up with the Canadian Doller, but Grand Forks should not overbuild shopping & restaurants as if the Canadian Doller returns to 60%, the shoppers will not be here. A few months ago in the Herald it said Winnipegers were now 40% of GF shopping/restaurant dollers...

ec99 said...

"If it's another restaurant or store"

Subway? Valley Dairy? When are you guys going to recognize there is a glut of restaurants and stores in GF?

Anonymous said...

As the previous poster said, visitation would be HUGE in the twin cities if it was attached to MOA or Excel Center.
That's really not what I said. A Hockey HOF would really only have a chance in the Twin Cities if it was at one of those two facilities. It would hardly stand a chance as a stand alone museum in the Cities either. But in either case, it wouldn't excite the citizens of the Cities like it would GF. A college hockey HOF is a difficult draw no matter where it would be located.

river_man said...

I'm new to this site, but here are my thoughts on the subject. It's wonderful that Canad came to town, but I wish they would have added something like an observation deck or a restaurant on the top floor. It would of been nice to see greater Grand Forks and beyond from a perspective other than from my car or by walking. All the things that are being talked about is too grand for Grand Forks, even the Red River and the Red Lake River isn't grand. Grand Forks already has a few big things here, the Ralph, the Alerus, the Canad Inn, UND and I-29. You need a huge bank roll to fund something this grand. The city of Grand Forks certainly doesn't have a big bank roll and neither does North Dakota. Private businesses would have to be crazy to finance such a grand project.

GrandForksGuy said...

"Hey, to that end, in the past couple of days they've cleared out a big patch of land just west of the S. Columbia Dairy Queen. Anyone know what's going in there? Hopefully not more townhomes! If it's another restaurant or store, it can help anchor commercial growth off of 32nd."

I just noticed that today, Dale. I'm not aware of what ot could be. I'm also not sure if that land would be zoned commercial or residential...anyone know?

GrandForksGuy said...

"I wish they would have added something like an observation deck or a restaurant on the top floor"

I totally agree with you. I assumed all along that there would be some sort of space on the top floor that the public could view the city from. A martini bar would have been a nice fit up there...or what about one of the three restaurants...did they really need to all be on the first floor?

I'm also still wondering just how Canad plans to connect their current complex with whatever amenity they are able to get for the land north of the water park. l'Bistro is at the end of the big hallway that runs through the Alerus and the Canad complex...are they going to move l'Bistro in the future or what? I just don't see how a logical connection could be made now to another building...something would have to be redone.

Matthew said...

Screw the Ralph and the Alerus, I think a monorail system in place of the bus system would be incredibly hot.

Jeni.Ann said...

1 million dollars for the lot right off 42nd & 17th? Sounds about reasonable, especially when you look at what Greenberg and Crary are selling tiny little quarter-acre lots. Sadly enough, these real estate barons are enjoying a massive glut at the expense of affordable housing. It's amazing to watch a house get built, go up for sale within a 1.5 years, and then become a foreclosure because no one can afford to purchase it. Oh, and the excessive property taxes don't exactly help, either.

The idea of a monorail, or any type of light rail, would be a good thing for Grand Forks, if done properly. I can see running an initial rail from the Ralph Palace over past the Hilton, down along 42nd Street to the shopping corridor, and up (at least partially) 32nd Avenue to connect to the hotels and restaurant areas as a viable mass transit concept. Of course, this won't work because anyone who's coming into Grand Forks for entertainment and shopping demands to have their independence via their automobile, and god forbid we give up that independence as "commuters" in-town.

This is something I've thought about for a long time, both in and out of Grand Forks, but I think I'll rant about that at my place and not chew up your space.

Anonymous said...

Too Big Mistake is totally overrunning this town. Wait, watch and listen.
--CollegeDropOutStillInCollege