Friday, August 31, 2007

IHOP coming after all

Friday's Herald has an article detailing a few of the new businesses which are coming to Grand Forks. Most of these projects - Denny's, Shoppes at Aurora strip mall, and remodeling the Gateway Hardees into a Subway/Little Caesar's - are not news to Grand Forks Life readers. However, one new business is a surprise: IHOP.

That restaurant chain is apparently coming to Grand Forks after all. The IHOP will be in the location that was previously mentioned as a site for an IHOP - 32nd Avenue just east of Village Inn. A new Denny's and a new IHOP both being built right next to an existing Village Inn...we must love pancakes in this town.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

New poll: WDAZ fav, part deux

I'm an equal opportunity blogger. WDAZ's ladies had fun voting for themselves this past week and now it's the men's turn. The new poll question is "Which male WDAZ personality is your favorite?" Somehow, I don't think this poll is going to be quite as popular or hotly contested as the last one. My vote? Well, it was a battle between Ernie and Terry...we'll just leave it at that.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Poll results: WDAZ ladies

Time to close that incredibly chauvinistic poll question "Which female WDAZ personality is your favorite?" The top vote getter was Christine Reid with 34% or 81 votes. Click here to see how the 236 votes break down.

Tornado pictures

We've seen images of the destruction caused by Sunday evening's tornado and now we are able to see images of the actual tornado that struck Northwood. Several UND atmospheric science graduate students were out storm chasing on Sunday evening and you can view their gallery of images.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Good morning, America!

UND's Photo on the Green will be featured tomorrow on ABC's Good Morning America. No word on exactly when the spot will air so you may want to record the entire show which airs from 7 to 9 AM.

Tornado strikes Northwood

A tornado struck Northwood, North Dakota last night at around 8:50 PM (Herald story). At least one person was killed and multiple people were injured. Early reports are that the town has been devastated by the tornado and that numerous structures are seriously damaged if not totally destroyed. A 19-unit mobile home park was destroyed. Winds were strong enough to tip over railroad cars and rip of the top of a grain elevator. Dozens of fire trucks and ambulances and literally hundreds of emergency responders were one the scene late last night. The town is without power and the lack of lights is preventing a thorough assessment of the tornado's level of destruction. The morning will shed light on just how destructive this tornado was and just how much assistance the people of Northwood are going to need cleaning up.

My heart goes out to the people of Northwood. Please feel free to use this thread to share your thoughts and stories of the tornado. Also, feel free to post requests for and offers of assistance here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Open Thread #40 thread #40. The GFL open thread is now entering middle age!

Friday, August 24, 2007

100,000 and counting

This blog has passed another milestone that I think is worth noting. Recently, the number of unique visits to Grand Forks Life passed 100,000 and the number of page views currently stands at over 187,000. I think these are decent numbers considering that this blog is still over a month away from its two year anniversary. Currently, this blog gets about 400 visits and 700-800 page views (aka hits) each day.

A while back, I told myself that I would be very happy if this blog grew to have an average of 500 visits a looks like that will actually happen quite soon. Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. Grand Forks Life literally wouldn't exist if there weren't people out there to read my posts and add to the lively comment sections that can be found here.

Adelphi Fountain back at UND

Adelphi Fountain - 2007

The Adelphi Fountain is back home on the University of North Dakota campus after a yearlong project to restore it to its former grandeur. As the school year gets underway, students and faculty are being greeted by the newly refurbished 1907 fountain. The restoration project was funded by a portion of the $10 million dollars that the late Roy and Elnora Danley left to UND. The above image shows the restored fountain along with those who restored it. From right to left are John Colle Rogers, Jenny Cole, and Lorraine Fenaille. John Colle Rogers was the restoration coordinator and did the iron work. Jenny Cole and Lorraine Fenaille sculpted the figures.

The fountain is a beautiful symbol of UND and the restoration work is amazing. Those responsible for this project deserve a big thanks. Click here for more background on the fountain and the project to restore it.

Below is an image of what the fountain looked like when it was new. Pictured are the outgoing 1907 President of the Adelphi Society and the incoming 1908 President and Vice President. The Adelphi Society presented the fountain to UND in 1907.

Adelphi Fountain in its early years

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Shops at the Aurora

The current commercial growth on the far reaches of South Washington Street is apparently set to continue. In addition to the new Aurora Hospital which should soon start construction in the Aurora Medical Park, a new strip mall called The Shops at the Aurora will be built just north of the Medical Park campus. Construction on the new mall could begin this fall.

This new development is in addition to the other ongoing commercial developments across the street from the Aurora complex. Currently, the Homestead Grove development features a two-story office building, a strip mall, and a bank. A second strip mall and another financial institution are planned for the near future. Also, a new Valley Dairy convenience store is under construction in the area and a new Wells Fargo bank is planned. A set of new senior citizen residential communities called The View and Maple View will also soon be constructed in the neighborhood.

Lots of strip mall spots to fill...get ready for the Subways, cell phone stores, discount hair salons, and tanning clubs! Actually, I'm hoping we'll start to get some interesting tenants for some of these new strip malls around town...I'm crossing my fingers. I've heard about a couple of interesting restaurants that may set up shop in some of the new strip malls...guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Stop living in the 1970s, Herald

Today's Grand Forks Herald includes an article by our friend Tu-Uyen Tran about potential sites for that pesky landfill. The article includes an image showing the sites the city is looking at. It's interesting to see the potential locations, but something else about the map caught my eye. Look at the two versions of the image below. On the left is the version from the article and on the right is a version I altered to show the actual present day city limits of Grand Forks. Look at the difference between the two...what's the deal?

I know this is an odd thing to get worked up about, but this isn't the first time the Herald has used an incredibly outdated map like this. Almost every time they include a map of Grand Forks along with a news story, the city limits of the city are presented like this. I'm thinking the graphic artists at the Herald either need to drive around town more or need to stop living in the 70s. Literally, the city limits as presented in the Herald map are roughly the city limits of the late 70s. I'm not joking...Columbia Mall isn't even shown as being a part of the city limits. You could almost fit two of the city on the left into the city on the right...that's a little silly.

I know that I just got done saying that size isn't always everything, but in this case the Herald is so out of touch with what the actual city limits of Grand Forks are that it is just plain irritating. I wouldn't even bother to mention this if this wasn't a routine thing that the Herald does time and time again. Take this as some constructive feedback, Herald...put away those maps from the 70s and come up with a new map that accurately portrays the city limits. This is a real pet peeve of mine!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Aurora Hospital on its way

According to a source, the Aurora Hospital will soon be built in the burgeoning Aurora Medical Park on Grand Forks' south side. Forget about the fact that the Grand Forks City Council declined to grant them a tax break a few months back. Apparently, the Aurora group decided that their inability to secure a tax break from the city wasn't a good reason to scrap their plans.

When Aurora representatives made statements about having to "go back to the drawing board" after the tax break was voted down, I had a very hard time believing that the council's decision would really cancel the plans that the Aurora group had been crafting. I would expect to hear some concrete plans about construction of the new hospital in the near future. Stay tuned.

Does size really matter?

According to first day enrollment numbers at both UND and NDSU, the school to the south counted 276 more students than UND this year. In other words, for the first time in the two institutions' histories, NDSU is larger than UND. UND counted 12,011 students (a 2.5% drop from last year) and NDSU counted 12,287 (a 2.5% increase from last year). Read the Herald story.

Final fall enrollment figures for both universities won't be in for a few weeks and will likely show larger enrollment numbers. In the past, UND usually picks up more students before this final enrollment tally than NDSU does, so it is very possible that UND will still end up retaining its status as largest university in the state.

I'm asking you, do numbers like this matter? Would it be so terrible if UND ends up having a few less students than NDSU? Personally, I'm very fond of UND being larger than NDSU. In my opinion, UND is without a doubt the state's flagship institution of higher education and it is only logical that enrollment numbers should portray this fact. Still, I'm not too worried about NDSU having a few more students on its campus.

What I am more concerned about is if the current trend of small enrollment declines at UND will continue in the future. We've been slowly losing a few students each year for the past few years; that needs to stop soon. In all reality, I think the current enrollment trends at both institutions are liable to change in the near future. I wouldn't be suprised to see UND overtake NDSU again in a year or fact, I expect it. Get to work UND!

New poll: WDAZ fav

This poll has been suggested before and I was a little reluctant to do it. However, I think it could be a fun change of pace and I think it could end up being a very popular poll. Ok, so here's the question..."Which female WDAZ personality is your favorite?" Everybody knows that WDAZers are forced to go incognito on this blog, but I don't think that has stopped them from lurking...I hope they get a kick out of this.

I leave it up to you to decide what qualities you base your vote on. Since she's turned her back on us and skipped off to Appleton, our friend Lacey can't be in the poll even if she really wants to be. Don't worry, ladies...I suppose I'll have to do a "Which male WDAZ personality is your favorite?" poll in the future. We all know the winner of that one would be Terry Dullum. I'm an equal opportunity blogger.

Oh yeah...and have fun voting for yourselves, ladies! Really...

Poll results: high hopes

When asked "In your opinion, will the new EGF movie theater be a success?", a majority of the 172 voters answered "yes." Check out the full results...

Yes 56%97
No 13%23
Too early to tell 30%52

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

GF businesses spruce up

Recently, several restaurants and other businesses in Grand Forks have started projects to spruce up their aging buildings. It's interesting to note that the businesses that I list below are not located in fast growing commercial areas such as the city's south side or even neighborhoods such as University Village or downtown. Instead, the businesses are located in areas of town that haven't seen much building activity for years. Some are even in areas that are often thought of as blighted.

Personally, I think there are many businesses in town which need a thorough face lift. I'm always a bit puzzled as to why some business owners never bother to update their buildings. There are business in town which needed remodeling ten or fifteen years ago, but their owners still don't feel the need to make these necessary updates. "Updates" can be as cheap as a new coat of paint on a faded wall or as expensive as a brand new building to replace a dilapidated one. Often, it seems like some business owners are too cheap to even spring for that new coat of paint. That's one reason why I'm happy to see these particular owners invest in their buildings. I think of it kind of like the broken window hypothesis in reverse: one improvement will lead to another and on and on.

A few projects around town...
•The McDonald's restaurant at the intersection of I-29 and Gateway Drive was torn this summer and replaced with an entirely new building. The new building appears to be roughly the same size as the old one, but sports a modern exterior with colorful accents like yellow awnings. The old, dark brick building was a little depressing looking and clearly in need of some major upgrades. The new restaurant should open soon. With the construction of this new building, all three McDonald's locations in the city of Grand Forks have buildings that were built in the last ten years.

•Grand Forks' only remaining Hardee's restaurant, located on South Columbia Road, is in the early stages of a much needed upgrade. According to a manager at the restaurant, the exterior of the building is being remodeled first and an exterior remodeling will occur after that. The restaurant has never had a major remodeling project in its twenty some years. On a side note, my family used to eat at Hardee's on almost a weekly basis back in the 80s and early 90s, but now we haven't eaten there in years. I'm guessing we're not the only ones who don't go there as much as we used to; Grand Forks has gone from three Hardee's to just one in a matter of a couple of years.

•Just down the street from Hardee's, the South Columbia Road Subway restaurant has been temporarily closed for a remodeling project. I know there are a bunch of people out there who are sick of hearing any and all news regarding Grand Forks' burgeoning stock of Subways. least I'm not reporting about a brand new Subway opening up. A remodeled Subway is better than an outdated one, right?

•The Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant on South Washington Street is in the midst of a major remodeling project which includes the building's exterior and...I'm hoping...the interior as well. I like KFC, but that restaurant is ridiculously small and incredibly outdated. I know that tiny lot will prevent any expansion of the building, but I'm happy to see the building's appearance improved. I'm still not sure why KFC has never opened a second Grand Forks location...32nd Avenue seems like a very logical location.

•The old South Washington strip mall that houses Mexican Village is being extensively remodeled. I've heard others say this and I agree: it looks like a brand new strip mall was plopped down right on Washington. I'm very pleased to see really outdated buildings like this mall remodeled.

Am I missing any other major remodeling projects that are going on out there? What other restaurants or stores in Grand Forks need a good makeover? One that pops into my mind is Taco Bell. Our two Taco Bells are very, very 90s. I'm jealous of the new Taco Bell across from West Acres in Fargo...odd thing to be jealous over, huh?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Open Thread #39

Some of the more popular threads had 70-80 comments this past week...that's amazing. Can you keep it up?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Alerus Center: now what?

The Alerus Center has seen its share of headlines lately: the recent opening of the huge Canad Inns Destination Center, a couple of successful summer concerts, the announcement that the center will soon charge for parking, the departure of Compass Facility Management, and now the departure of Executive Director Charlie Jeske. Clearly, there have been both highs and lows...good headlines and some not so good ones. Some things seems to be going quite well for the complex. On the other hand, there are unanswered questions about the Alerus Center's future.

I'm interested to hear what you, the readers of this blog, think about the future of the Alerus Center. How will things change after Compass is gone? What about that pay that going to be a big problem? What kind of an Executive Director would you like to see leading the Alerus Center in the future? Also, given the recent success of a couple of concerts, what acts would you like to see the Alerus Center try to bring in? There are many interesting things to talk about here, people. I'm looking forward to seeing what you have to say. The Alerus Center is always a fun topic!

Lacey's last day

As of today, Lacey Crisp is no longer a part of WDAZ. I, for one, am going to miss that girl. Now that she's no longer with the blog-hating WDAZ, Lacey can post on here if she wants to. Good luck in Appleton, Lacey!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Commercial construction in EGF

On Friday evening I happened to be driving around the north side of East Grand Forks when I noticed something interesting. You know that big empty lot right west of Hugo's and just south of the old Maury's building? It's sat empty for years, but a sign which reads something to the effect of "Coming soon - commercial space for lease" has just been put up on the property. There appeared to be some sort of building pictured in the background of the sign, but it was getting dark and I couldn't make out what kind of a building it was. I'm guessing it must be either an office building or a strip mall...probably a strip mall.

I know "they are going to build some office building or strip mall in East Grand Forks" isn't much of a news story, but it made me do some thinking. When was the last time that a new retail building was built in East Grand Forks? I'm thinking it was either the new video store or the new dollar store (both in front of Hugo's). The sad thing is, both of those projects were from several years ago. In other words, commercial growth - namely retail - seems to be almost non-existent on the Eastside lately.

Why have East Grand Forks' commercial areas sat virtually stagnant during the same period that huge tracts of commercial land have been filled in Grand Forks? I know there is some correlation between the activity in Grand Forks and the lack of activity in East Grand Forks, but I don't think it is fair to only blame Grand Forks' growth for East Grand Forks' commercial stagnancy.

Let's look at an example. Fargo and West Fargo obviously have booming retail areas, but the retail community in Moorhead is not stagnant by any means. There have been quite a few smaller commercial projects in Moorhead and now a new Mendard's is even going to open and there are more big name retailers on the horizon. What is Moorhead doing right that East Grand Forks is doing wrong?

I have to think that there is some reason why national retail and restaurant chains aren't eager to set of shop on the Eastside, but I can't figure out what that reason is. I think that a metropolitan area like Greater Grand Forks should have vibrant growth in all areas. That's why I think it's very unfortunate that the commercial community in East Grand Forks is anything but vibrant. What is preventing a Wal-Mart, a Target, or even something smaller like a Starbucks or a Taco Bell from setting up shop on the Eastside?

If I were in the city government of East Grand Forks, I would be very concerned about this stagnancy. I think it's really very sad when the recent big business stories in your town are the departure/bankruptcy of a craft store and the failure of a city-owned mall. Here's hoping that East Grand Forks sees more projects like the upcoming movie theater and the new building I mentioned at the start of this post. I think it's high time for the city of East Grand Forks to look at what is preventing real commercial growth from occurring in their community.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Pet Peeves #3

Ok, enough with all that talk about good customer service and all that nicey, nicey stuff. Once again, I'm asking my readers what bugs you?

My pet peeve:
people who don't know/care how to navigate parking lots.

I'm sick and tired of driving in parking lots when all of a sudden some vehicle comes out of nowhere and cuts right in front of me. I always go the proper direction in parking's not even a question for me. However, a good percentage of the populous seems to think it's a really smart idea to just drive any direction they
want to.

For whatever reason, some parking lots are worse then others. THE worst parking lot I've ever seen for bad driving is the Grand Cities Mall lot. At times, I think I'm the only person in town who bothers to drive the proper direction in that lot.

I don't understand the thought process behind this kind of behavior. I guess it boils down to...

Who cares if I'm the only car going kitty-corner through the parking lot? Those idiots going the proper direction will just have to wait for me and my big old pickup truck! My time is the most important thing! Proper driving etiquette and the safety of others be damned!

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Street construction update

I took a drive around town this evening and noticed that quite a few street construction projects are either completed, near completion, or at least well underway. This year, there really hasn't been any one huge project. Instead, the projects seem to be relatively small in scope and scattered all over the city. Of course, projects like these are often inconvenient and there are certainly more than enough people in town who like to grumble about street construction projects, but I for one am always happy to see projects like these take place. Some of these projects have been needed for far to long and others are essential if we want to continue to grow as a city. Street construction may be a bit of a pain, but it is a pain that I gladly endure!

Here's an update on where city street projects stand right now:

Columbia Road overpass - The reconstruction/repair of a portion of the overpass' south side is now complete (press release). The project's purpose was to repair a "finger joint" which had shifted a while ago. In light of recent headlines, it's probably a pretty good idea to make certain that bridges and overpasses are in good structural condition. This project reduced traffic on the overpass to two-lane, two-way traffic. A headache, but I'm happy to see the overpass once again in good shape.

University Avenue overpass - This reconstruction project is now complete (press release). The project entirely shut down the University Avenue overpass for much of the summer, requiring some rather long detours for motorists. Before the project, this was one of the bumpiest stretches of roadway in the entire almost felt like you were going to lose your engine or something...literally. Now, I'm happy to say that the approaches to the overpass are nice and smooth. In my opinion, it took way too long for this necessary reconstruction project to take place. I'm just happy that it finally did take place after many years of bumpy rides. My only problem is the fact that there is now a short stretch of University Avenue between 42nd Street and the overpass that is still all broken up and bumpy; I wish the city would at least mill and overlay that section so the entire corridor would be nice and smooth.

Columbia Road/24th Avenue - This busy intersection has always been one of the most confusing and dangerous in the city. This is probably the biggest street construction projects of the year and I'm guessing it still has a ways to go. By the way, am I the only one who is frustrated that all of the street lights around this intersection have been turned off all summer long? Do they really have to turn off the lights just because they are reconstructing the intersection?

40th Avenue South - It looks like this project still has a ways to go. When completed, motorists will be able to drive on 40th Avenue from Belmont Road all the way west to Ruemmele Road (south of Kohl's).

62nd Avenue South - Residents who haven't ventured into the far reaches of southern Grand Forks probably haven't realized that a future major arterial for the city, 62nd Avenue South, has been under construction this summer. The avenue received an overlay from Columbia Road all the way east to South Washington Street. I drove on 62nd Avenue this evening...nice and smooth. It is still just a two-lane road and will have to be fully "urbanized" in the near future, but it is in much better shape now then it was this time last year.

I think that's a pretty decent update on most of the larger street projects around the city. Any others?

Open Thread #37

Air your thoughts and opinions.

Friday, August 03, 2007

New hotel coming to town

The Canad Inn complex may have just opened, but now comes word that South 42nd Street will soon be home to yet another hotel. A sign has just gone up on the property between All Reasons Storage and Amundson's Funeral Home announcing that the site will be home to a Country Inn and Suites. The sign says the hotel, which is set to open in 2008, will be designed by Icon Architects and financed by Bank Forward. The County Inn and Suites hotel chain used to have a location in Grand Forks. That location, near Columbia Mall, became the Lakeview Inn a few years back.

Thanks to the Open Thread tipster who let me know about the sign. I just drove by the property an hour ago and I saw the sign myself. I hadn't heard anything about this hotel before. Very interesting to see yet another hotel coming to town. Personally, I think that there seems to be enough business to go around...especially in the busy south side shopping district.

I'm sure we'll be hearing about this soon in the Herald and on WDAZ. I'll be interested to know how many rooms the property will have.

Update - 8/7/2007 - 8:40 PM
I drove by the property again this evening and there was nobody behind me so I slowed down for a couple of seconds to look at the sign. The hotel that is pictured could be a prototype County Inn and Suites, but given the fact that the rendering looks very, very similar to other renderings that Icon Architects has put out, I'm going to assume that the hotel in the picture is the hotel that will be built here. The building appears to be four stories and looks quite nice. Again, I'm not sure how many rooms this hotel will have, but it seems like a four story hotel would have quite a few rooms, doesn't it?

Update - 8/8/2007 - 12:35 AM
It looks like the new hotel will have 100 rooms. At least that's what this ad for a general manager of a "high end nationally recognized hotel" states. The company who put out the ad is called "Yellowstone Management". That company currently owns several properties in Grand Forks including the Holiday Inn Express and several older strip malls.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Tragedy in Minneapolis

The thoughts and prayers of those in Grand Forks are with our friends and family in the Minneapolis area.

How you can help out.