Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

What will you be doing this Halloween?

I'll be handing out candy to the half a dozen kids that make their way to my home. We used to get more trick or treaters, but the numbers have really dropped off in the last few years.

Whatever you do, please stay safe and keep the holiday fun for all.

Update - 11/1/2007 - 12:29 AM
Guess what...I didn't have ANY trick or treaters tonight. Pathetic! I suppose it didn't help that my house appeared to be the only one on the whole street that was giving out candy...bunch of cheapskates. Oh well, I hope the kids had fun at the Alerus Center. Still, nothing can quite compare to going trick or treating door to door...those were the days, huh?

UND/NCAA settlement

I haven't blogged about the UND/NCAA settlement yet. I know that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo brings out very, very strong opinions on both sides of the debate. I wonder how you, the readers of GFL, are responding to this settlement?

Here's a brief synopsis of what the settlement outlines. UND will have three years to gain acceptance among the state's Sioux tribes for the continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo. If, at the end of those three years, that acceptance has not come through, UND will retire its current nickname and logo and a new one will be chosen.

Do you think UND will be able to convince the state's Sioux tribes that the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo are neither hostile nor abusive? How do you think the tribes should fairly decide whether or not to accept the logo? What do you think about each tribe allowing each enrolled member to vote on the issue? If the current logo and nickname are retired, what do you think the UND athletic teams should be called? Would a new nickname and logo decrease or increase your level of interest and/or support for the UND teams?

I haven't personally discussed the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo on this blog to a great degree. I have made it clear that I am a supporter of the nickname and logo and that I do not find them hostile or abusive, but I have not exaggerated on my opinions.

My thoughts on the Fighting Sioux have evolved over the years. When I first went to UND, I was a supporter of the name and logo. Then, the proselytizing of one too many enlightened professors briefly convinced me that the name was bad and had to go. Now, I am back to being a strong believer that there is nothing inherently wrong with the nickname and logo and that it is used respectfully and should only serve to bring pride to the state's native people.

However, even though I remain a supporter of the Fighting Sioux, I have been growing weary of the fight as of late. UND does so many good things for so many people...notably for the state's native people...but the Fighting Sioux debate has become an undeserved burden for us. I believe that there is nothing wrong with the nickname and logo, but the fact that this debate has raged on for so long has given UND a black eye that distracts from all the good that the state's oldest and largest educational institution does. I will always be a supporter of the Fighting Sioux, but this debate must come to a conclusion soon. The finality of this settlement should ultimately put an end to this debate. UND encompasses so many things for so many people...we will be no less of a university if we must ultimately change our athletic nickname and put an end to the undeserved negativity that has been hurled at our campus.

Restaurant news

Two interesting tidbits from our city's restaurant scene...

A tipster informs me that Hooters is currently scouting for a location in the city of Grand Forks. This rumor has been circulated before, but my source has shed light on the company's attempts to find an appropriate location for the "delightfully tacky, yet unrefined" restaurant. According to my tipster, Hooters wanted to build on the empty lot in front of Kohls (at the intersection of 32nd Ave. S. and S. 34th St.), but the department store did not want that type of restaurant in that spot. I'm not entirely sure if that means that this lot is owned by Kohls. Now, Hooters is apparently trying to find a more appropriate location for their new restaurant. Any ideas where a more appropriate spot for a Hooters might be?

Also in local restaurant news, it looks like Grand Forks may soon be down to just one Arby's location. The Columbia Road location, which is the older of the city's two Arby's, is currently listed for sale. I assume that means that this building will no longer house an Arby's. If that is the case, this would make the 32nd Avenue location the only Arby's in town.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New poll: Fighting Sioux retirement?

Time for a new poll. The new question is "Will UND end up retiring the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo?" I await your answers. Happy voting.

Poll results: another grocer for Leevers

Time to close the old poll question "What do you think should happen to the old Leevers building?" Click here to view the results.

Another grocer 44%42
A large retailer 20%19
Strip mall 17%16
Other (discuss) 20%19
96 votes total

Monday, October 29, 2007

Open Thread #49

I apologize for neglecting this blog over the last few days. It's been a very busy and stressful week for me. For now, here's a new open thread to tide you over.

I was recently invited to syndicate Grand Forks Life on a new website that covers local, state, and national politics. The website,, is a part of the system. Visitors to will now see short versions of my blog posts and will be directed to my blog where they can read the full post and join in the conversation. I'm hoping that this syndication will bring new visitors to the local Grand Forks blogosphere.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Open Thread #48

Another Monday and another open thread...

Sunday, October 21, 2007


I've removed a few blogs from the "GF Blogs" section to the left. Each of these blogs hasn't been updated for a half a year or more so I see no real reason to keep them listed. The blogs that I'm removing include: Boyd Drive Follies, CulturePulse, GGFYP, and Maze of Feathers. If any of these blogs is regularly updated again, I'll be more than happy to re-list them. Also, any new posts to these blogs will still show up in the news feed on the left. I kind of hate to do this, but I want to keep this blog up-to-date. Next up, the "ND Blogs" list.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Fargo Farce

I agree with Mike Jacobs' editorial in Friday's Herald. Like Jacobs, I feel that by choosing "The Force" as the name of their new team, Fargo's hockey boosters are either incredibly stupid or - put quite simply - blatantly ripping off UND's athletic program.

It seems obvious that, while "The Force of the North" has become a new advertising slogan for UND athletics, it is also a very likely substitute nickname should UND decide to retire its beleaguered "Fighting Sioux" nickname. Kudos to UND for working on a backup plan...shame on Fargo's new hockey franchise for attempting to spoil those plans.

Surely UND has copyrighted "The Force of the North?" Doesn't "The Fargo Force" name violate those copyrights? Personally, I like "The Force of the North" as a potential new nickname for UND. UND should ensure that any plans they might have for "The Force of the North" are not spoiled or stolen by Fargo's upstart hockey team.

There goes those notions about Grand Forks always copying Fargo...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Postcard: UND in the 1920s

UND in the Roaring Twenties

Here's another vintage postcard that I really like. The card shows five scenes from UND during the 1920s. According to the UND website,

The 1920's were an exuberant time in UND's history. Greek life was flourishing, events like the Flickertail Follies became yearly highlights, and the football and basketball teams gained national prominence. Faculty were very concerned about student morals. In 1920, there was a ban on cheek-to-cheek dancing and "unnecessary clinging" or cuddling on the dance floor. A committee of secret observers was detailed to report any violations on the ban. But soon, the increased availability of automobiles and the proximity of the States Ballroom in East Grand Forks, with the scandalous Charleston and Black Bottom dance contests, made it nearly impossible to control off-campus behavior.

Parties were elaborate -- and expensive -- affairs. They had names like Spinster Skip, Junior Prom, Senior Prom, Military Ball, and Winter Wonderland. For example, the Shadow Ball used the entire Armory, in which all the walls were covered with black and white, with an archway concealing the orchestra. Invitations were sent to just 150 co-eds, selected on the basis of popularity. During this time, the campus variety show, "Flickertail Follies," began. In 1950, they attracted national attention and were featured in LIFE magazine

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Wanted: a skyline

After reading through all of these comments about what downtown Grand Forks is missing, I have to point out another element that Grand Forks lacks: a skyline. If you weren't overly familiar with Grand Forks and you took a drive down Washington Street, you could simply pass DeMers Avenue by and never realize that you were bypassing the city's core. Certainly no downtown building is currently able to be seen by motorists on I-29. I believe that Grand Forks needs at least a few few taller buildings in our downtown area that, when viewed from a distance, make a recognizable Grand Forks skyline.

I feel that Grand Forks lacks anything that could be remotely called a skyline. Currently, the only taller buildings we have in town are the State Mill, the Canad Inn, and Columbia Towers. Downtown Grand Forks is seriously lacking in anything over a few stories tall. I don't consider a true skyline to be a couple of 10+ story buildings a few miles apart from each other. I would like to see a concentrated cluster of taller buildings located in our city's heart.

It is true that we live in a part of the world where land is abundant, but that doesn't mean we should only continue to push out horizontally while essentially ignoring vertical growth. Although it is nothing like the skylines of Minneapolis or even Winnipeg, downtown Fargo has a few taller buildings that could effectively be considered a skyline of sorts. Why shouldn't Grand Forks - a city which I personally like to consider the most "metropolitan" in the state - have a city skyline too?

When I talk about a skyline, I'm not necessarily talking about such terribly tall buildings. Ideally, I think a cluster of a few buildings in the 10-20 story range would be a perfect skyline for downtown Grand Forks. Perhaps, farther off in the future, we could even have a 25 or 30 story building downtown. I also think that any taller buildings constructed downtown should be architecturally interesting and recognizable as "Grand Forks landmarks" for years to come...our own little versions of the Foshay Tower or IDS Center.

Who would build these buildings and what would occupy them? Keep in mind that I'm not talking about 50 story office towers functioning as corporate headquarters...I'm talking something more along the lines of 10 to 20 story mixed-use buildings filled mainly with apartments or condos. There seems to be plenty of interest in living downtown these days...perhaps developers could consider constructing taller residential buildings than what has currently been done with developments like the new Elite Brownstones or the Current Apartments. I really think residential buildings would probably be the easiest sell for taller buildings downtown. Currently, there are plenty of empty commercial spaces downtown, but I believe that there are usually very few empty apartments or condos.

Next comes the question of where exactly to build the types of buildings that I'm talking about. I've said it before and I'll say it again...there are very few empty lots downtown for any type of development approaching a larger scale. I really think the boundaries of what we think of as downtown need to be pushed out a bit to accommodate growth like I'm talking about. With all of the destruction that was a result of the flood and fire, who wants to see any further buildings razed downtown? Unless we want to lose more historic buildings to the wrecking ball, we need to make sure more space is made available on the outskirts of downtown for development. I agree with those who have stated that no buildings under a certain number of stories should really be allowed to be constructed downtown.

I'm not saying that we should expect to see a number of taller buildings rising out of downtown any time soon. I merely think that establishing a skyline and ultimately encouraging more compact, dense growth is something that we should be seriously looking at. I believe that considerations should be made and plans should be drawn up for building the Grand Forks skyline of tomorrow. A true city needs a skyline and I want to eventually see a Grand Forks skyline that I can be proud of.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What is downtown missing?

There has been plenty of development in downtown Grand Forks in the last few years. A number of previously empty buildings are now filled and formerly empty lots have been converted to residential uses. Today, Herald economist Ralph Kingsbury has an interesting opinion piece about downtown's renaissance.

However, the renaissance is not complete. While much has taken place downtown since the flood and fire of 1997, I still often hear sentiments like "Downtown needs (fill in the blank)" or "Wouldn't it be so great to have a (fill in the blank) downtown." I am pleased with how far downtown has come in recent years. However, like most people, I see room for more development and further improvements.

So what do I think downtown needs? One thing that comes to mind first is retail. I feel that a vibrant city center needs to have plenty of choices of where to live, where to work, where to eat, and where to shop. There are now many dining and bar choices for downtown patrons...far more than just a few years ago. New residential developments, like the Elite Brownstones and the Current Apartments, have also been developed at a fairly impressive rate. However, this increase in residential, dining, and entertainment choices downtown has not been matched with an increase in retail choices.

Truthfully, there are very few stores downtown for the average citizen or tourist to shop at. I fully realize that downtown will likely never again see a return of the retail heyday of the past nor will it probably ever be able to compete with 32nd Avenue, but that doesn't mean that there still isn't plenty of room for improvement. I would like to see a variety of stores set up shop downtown.

How do you get small stores to open up downtown when most other retail activity is located in the southern sections of town? I think a few "anchor" stores might do the trick. Just like a shopping mall needs large, anchor stores to bring traffic to the smaller stores, I believe a downtown needs a few larger stores that attract shoppers to the neighborhood. These larger stores wouldn't have to be national chains, but I also don't think we should discourage national retailers from setting up shop downtown. A Borders or a Whole Foods Market would certainly bring shoppers downtown. I think that, along with more shoppers, such stores would also bring more retail establishments to the city's core. I believe that the synergy of a few large stores downtown would create the impetus for a retail renaissance of sorts.

Now, I'm turning it over to you...what do you think downtown needs more of? What types of restaurants? How about stores? Are there different types of residential developments you would like to see downtown? Please, share your thoughts and opinions of how downtown can be made even better than it currently is.

Open Thread #47

What's on your mind?

New poll: how about Leevers?

Now that Leevers has left the Grand Forks market, their old building on South Washington Street sits empty. Although Leevers was a smaller sized supermarket, their old building is still a fairly large space to have sitting empty on one of Grand Forks' busiest streets.

Personally, I don't imagine that this building will sit empty for too least I'm hoping we don't have another Target on our hands here. Now the question becomes what should fill that empty space. I'm interested to hear what you think about this and that's why the new poll question is "What do you think should happen to the old Leevers building?"

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Poll results: you're pretty young

If you're reading this, you're probably fairly young. My recent poll regarding the ages of readers shows that only about 10% of visitors to GFL are over the age of 50. Around 37% of readers are in their twenties, making this demographic group the largest on this blog. Click here for the full results.

under 10 13%31
10-19 7%17
20-29 37%87
30-39 19%45
40-49 12%29
50-59 6%13
60-69 4%10
70-79 0%0
over 80 0%1
233 votes total

Monday, October 08, 2007

Open Thread #46

A new week and a new chance to have your say...

Friday, October 05, 2007

The future of University Village?

I recently came across several images of plans for University Village. All of the plans and renderings are from Icon Architects and they appear to be from a few years back. Click here to view a video of these plans.

University Village site plan

Some of the plans seem to have changed from when these proposals were drawn up. For instance, the plans show a new UND Alumni Center just west of Suite 49. Recently, the Alumni Association announced plans for a new center, but the proposed location is now near the President's House on campus.

Still, I think the plans are interesting. For instance, they show a potential location for the University Village hotel: just north of the Ralph Engelstad Arena. In the past, the location I had heard mentioned was just north of Suite 49.

Closer view...note hotel connected to the Ralph

One rendering also shows a proposed student housing complex. This has been mentioned before, but this is the first time I've seen any possible designs.

Note "Student Housing" in upper left

-All images Icon Architects

Thursday, October 04, 2007

GFL's second birthday

Thursday marks the second birthday of Grand Forks Life.

Let's look at a few numbers. Since October 4 of 2005, GFL has had over 120,000 unique visits and over 215,000 page views/hits. In total, this blog has had 387 posts by me and 6,648 reader comments. Let's break that down by year. In GFL's first year of operation, I put up 138 posts which drew a total of 1,514 comments (an average of 11 comments per post). In GFL's second year, I put up 249 posts which drew a total of 5,134 comments (an average of 21 comments per post).

However, these are all more than just statistics. These numbers show that a growing segment of local residents are making this blog a part of their daily lives. Some of you have been around from almost the beginning, while others have only recently discovered this forum for community interaction and information. I thank each and every one of GFL's readers. It has been very interesting getting to know all of you.

I believe this blog has evolved to have two complimentary purposes:

First, it allows any citizen the chance to share their thoughts and opinions of life in Grand Forks. The advent of "open threads" this past year has especially given people the ability to discuss a limitless array of topics. I believe this level of communication can be a very valuable tool for community leaders. Never before has it been so easy to gauge what people in this city are thinking and saying.

The second purpose of this blog is to get out information. Through my own posts and through the comments of readers, this blog has been responsible for breaking a wide assortment of local news stories. Readers of this blog will often get "the scoop" long before it airs on television or is printed in the paper. In fact, there have been a number of stories that likely never would have been mentioned in the local media had this blog not first published them. Click here to see just some of the stories that were on GFL before ever appearing in other local media. I'm happy that this blog is able to function as an independent, fresh source of news.

Thanks to all who read this blog and use it to discuss life in our community. You are responsible for Grand Forks Life's success.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Bank Forward @ University Village

Here's a look at what the new Bank Forward branch currently under construction at University Village will look like when completed. The bank should open next month. Back in May, GFL was the first to report about Bank Forward coming to University Village. Can anyone tell me exactly where that Starbucks is going to be located? My guess is on the left (south) side of the building.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

I Love Grand Forks one reason why you love Grand Forks. That shouldn't be very hard to do, in my opinion. Grand Forks may not be perfect, but I think even the most indifferent resident could come up with a list of things they love about this city.

I have a long list of reasons why I love living in this city, but now I want to hear why you love living here. So, I'm starting another new type of thread titled "I Love Grand Forks". Take a moment and name a few of the things about Grand Forks that you think make it lovable, livable, and maybe even unique.

These reasons can be as big as something along the lines of "the people" or as small as something like a favorite menu item at a local restaurant or a friendly cashier at a local store. Share as many reasons why you love Grand Forks as you care to. Rest assured that this will be a recurring type of thread so you don't have to share every reason just now.

We have a bit of an inferiority complex in this part of the country in general and in Grand Forks in particular. I think something like this will be a good way to point out the multitude of reasons why Grand Forks really is a pretty great place to live after all.