Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Bank Forward coming to Village

Bank Forward will soon be opening a new bank location in UND's University Village. It was just last night that I first talked about what appeared to be a mysterious construction project underway on the property. I can now state that this site will indeed be home to a Bank Forward location in the near future. Site preparation - which includes rerouting the bike path and removing many trees in the area - is now underway.

This will be the second bank on the University Village property. This will also be Bank Forward's second bank location within the city of Grand Forks. The bank, which is new to this community, has previously announced that they will open a location near the intersection of South Columbia Road and 47th Avenue South.

According to Grand Forks Life reader Jason Berberich, the University Village branch of Bank Forward will also include some sort of Starbucks. Cool...we can never have too many Starbucks!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Aurora starting hospital construction?

Anyone who has driven south of town on South Washington Street in the last couple of weeks has probably noticed that there appears to be the early stages of a construction project taking place on the piece of land where the proposed Aurora Hospital is to be built. The land, just south of the Cancer Center of North Dakota, has been cleared and there appears to be construction equipment and vehicles in the area.

Does this mean that, despite the Grand Forks city council’s decision to not give the proposed hospital a tax abatement, the hospital’s developers have already decided to go ahead with their plans anyway? I wouldn’t be surprised. I never believed that the loss of a tax abatement would derail plans to build a project of this scope. Even if the abatement had been fairly sizable, developers of a multi-million dollar project generally wouldn’t decide to forget about their plans just because an abatement fell through.

So, does this mean that the hospital is currently in its early stages of construction? I’m not sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

On an unrelated note, this is the 300th story posted on this blog. Cool!

More University Village construction?

It appears as though a new construction project of some sort will soon start in the University Village neighborhood north of UND. The bike path that follows the English Coulee is being rerouted in an area just south of Gateway Drive. Also, all trees within this area have been spray painted with big X's so it appears as though they will soon be removed as well. The area I'm referring to is bounded on the north by Gateway Drive, on the east by Ralph Engelstad Drive, on the west by the now-rerouted bike path, and on the south by the existing condo development. Perhaps I’m jumping the gun here, but these things do lead me to believe that something is planned for the property.

So, what can we expect to see constructed on this property in question? Maybe even more condos? What about that University Village hotel project which the University has been working on lately? Perhaps something we haven't even heard about yet? I'll be interested to find out.

Even if the proposed hotel isn't built on the piece of property I referred to earlier, I think we should expect to hear something about the hotel in the near future. I've heard various hotel chains mentioned, including Marriott. A logical location seems to be directly north of Suite 49. I'm sure developers would like to have a physical link to The Ralph, but I'm not sure if that's possible.

Construction on the second University Village strip mall is winding down. One spot in the mall will be a chiropractic office. None of the other spots appear to be taken yet. Any word on future tenants? I have heard that the University has also been working on a plan to build a larger mixed use complex on the northeast corner of University Village. It would be nice to see at least a 3 to 4 story building in that area.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Get those mowers out!

Driving around town today, I was a little disappointed in the way the city has been maintaining their property so far this spring. Is it that hard to mow properly? I know it's been a little wet lately, but many of the city-owned areas around town are getting to have very tall grass and weeds. There are certainly homes and businesses out there who also need to do a better job of keeping their yards neat, but the city isn't that much better really.

Some of the worst areas in town are the grassy medians on major streets. There is a median on 32nd Avenue in front of Sam's Club that has weeds that must be about two feet tall. Another poorly maintained area is the yard around the Public Works facility. Yes, the city-owned building that houses city-owned mowers has a yard filled with tall grass and weeds. Please! With all the tax money we pay, I would think the city could at least do a decent job mowing their property.

Also, what's the deal with areas around fire hydrants, street lights, and signs? I know the city uses some big mowers for most areas, but couldn't they send somebody back with a smaller mower or a weedwhacker? I wouldn't dream of mowing my yard, but then neglect to trim around a fire hydrant or a sign. I know I'm probably picky, but is it also impossible for the city to use a bagger when they mow? As it is, they seem to just blow grass all over the street. Very messy looking.

After all, the city clearly isn't out there painting new lines on the streets so they might as well do a decent job mowing the grass...

Great addition to retail scene

The other day, I had a chance to look around Grand Forks' newest furniture store, Ashley Furniture. I have to say I'm really impressed with the overall look and feel of the place. It's certainly a step up from what Grand Forks shoppers have previously found in furniture stores. The store has a very upscale feel to it, but at the same time, it seems to me that their merchandise is reasonably priced. They have some very nice stuff.

In my opinion, Grand Forks has really been needing a new furniture store lately and Ashley Furniture is a great addition. By the way, does anybody know if Furniture Row will be even bigger in size than Ashley Furniture? I was surprised by how big Ashley Furniture is, but the Furniture Row building looks huge.

Tough week for Slumberland, huh? First somebody drives into their store and then Ashley Furniture opens!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A landfill in our backyard?

Now that the city of Grand Forks is running out of options of how to replace its soon-to-close landfill, the city is starting to look a little closer to home. Efforts to build the new landfill at a more remote location in the country have been met with opposition and now the city appears to be leaning towards locating the landfill within the "extraterritorial" zone. In other words, the new landfill (and all the joys such facilities bring with them) may very well end up being built within a couple of miles from the current city limits.

According to a WDAZ report that aired on Tuesday night, the city is showing interest in locating the landfill just southwest of the city near Merrifield Road. Personally, that immediately shocked me. I can understand why the city may feel that they have to start looking at building the new landfill within their zoning jurisdiction, but I can't for the life of me understand why they would even think of building such a facility in this particular area.

For years, Grand Forks has been growing steadily to the south and a little to the west. Given the high levels of construction and development within the last few years, it seems hard to imagine anything putting a damper on the steady growth in these areas. Siting a landfill just a couple of miles southwest of the city would, in my opinion, be disastrous. Is there anything that would be more likely to discourage development than a landfill???

Personally, I'm starting to think a super-regional landfill of some sort (possibly shared with Fargo) would be the best option for the city, but if the city does come to the conclusion that they have to build a landfill close to the city limits, I would hope that they forget about locating it to the south or southwest of the city. The city shows no signs of growing much farther north so why wouldn't a landfill be built north or northwest of the city instead of south or southwest? Even thinking of building a landfill within a couple of miles of places like Columbia Mall, the Grand Forks Marketplace Mall, King's Walk Golf Course, and the explosive residential growth on the city's south side is crazy.

By the way, I should remind you that even though I am vocally stating that a landfill on the city's north side would make much more sense than a landfill on the south side, I live on the north side. I just realize that a south side landfill would make no sense whatsoever.

So I urge the city, please, if you must look within your zoning jurisdiction, look to the north or northwest. Building a landfill so close to our city's present day economic center and in the path of our city's future growth would be utter madness!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Poll: banning bloggers

Time for a new poll question: "Do you agree with the Turtle Mountain reservation's decision to ban a local blogger?"

Poll results: GF gets good grades

According to readers of this blog, Grand Forks' recovery from the flood of 1997 deserves high grades. When asked "How would you grade Grand Forks' recovery from the events of 1997?", over half of the voters answered either "A" or "A+". Check out the results.

A+ 18%18
A 33%33
B 20%20
C 18%18
D 2%2
F 10%10

Altru opens Truyu

Driving down DeMers Avenue the other day, I was surprised to see a big new sign on one of Altru's clinic buildings. The former "Altru Clinic - DeMers" is now called the "Truyu Aesthetic Center." Check out Altru's press release.

Truyu brings Altru's aesthetic departments - plastic and cosmetic surgery, dermatology, laser services, and vein therapy - under one roof. According to Altru, Truyu will not have a traditional clinical feel. Instead, they're billing it as a "spa-like" atmosphere.

By the way, speaking of Altru, has anybody heard anything about those five-year, $100 million dollar expansion and renovation plans lately? They made the big announcement a year ago, but it has been very quiet since...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Open Thread #25

Wow...this is the 25th open thread. Make it a good one!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Tavern United now open

Another restaurant has opened in the new Canad Inns Destination Center adjacent to the Alerus Center. According to Canad, Tavern United is "a new world sports pub." The theme is decidedly Irish and English.

Tavern United is located on the east side of the complex, next to the main Canad Inns entrance. Check out the menu.

On a related note, check out Marilyn's review of Aalto's. Aalto's is located just across the hallway from Tavern United in the Canad Inn complex.

Update - 5/21/2007 - 1:50 AM
Check out Dale's review of Tavern United.

Also, check out the Herald's rundown of local restaurant news. According to the article, the owner of Capone's says "she didn't feel like Capone's, a fine dining establishment, fit in with the Grand Forks restaurant scene." Well, if a fine dining establishment doesn't go over in Grand Forks, what choice do you have other than to move it to McVille, ND (pop. 470)? Sheer genius.

Ashley Furniture now open

The new Grand Forks Ashley Furniture HomeStore is now open on 32nd Avenue South. The store is located just east of the new Kohl's store.

This is just the first of two large furniture stores set to open in south Grand Forks this year. The new Furniture Row store south of Lowe's will open in the near future.

Grand Forks' retail scene seems to have been a little lacking in the furniture area lately. Hopefully these two new stores will give people more options than were available in the past. One less reason to go to Fargo, huh?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

ND blogger banned

Fellow North Dakota blogger Rob Port, whose Say Anything blog is one of the most popular blogs in this state, has been banned from the Turtle Mountain reservation. Why ban Rob? Because in a recent post on his blog he was critical of some aspects of life on the reservation. Yes, the reservation has actually banned Mr. Port simply because he said things that the tribal leaders did not like.

Free speech may be a right in America, but I guess that's not the case on the reservation. I don't agree with much of what Rob says on his blog, but the outrageous nature of this incident infuriates me. Rob was pointing out problems that he saw on the reservation. Instead of choosing to address those alleged problems, the tribal leaders ban Rob from their lands and try to discredit his statements. I guess Orwellianism is alive and well on the reservation. If you don't like what someone says, just pretend the problems don't exist and ban them from your lands.

Like Tu-Uyen Tran, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Rob on this matter. What a sad day it is when we remove dissenting voices instead of listening to those voices.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Shangri-La closing

According to WDAZ, Shangri-La, the longtime Chinese restaurant just west of UND, is closing its doors forever.

Campus Dakota board

Just a quick note to remind everyone that our friend Matthew has moved his old Dakota Roar message board for UND students to a new home. The new board is called Campus Dakota...check it out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Open Thread #24

The last open thread currently has over 70 comments. Can we beat that number if we leave out all of the inflated egos, name calling, and rehashing of past events that has been going on in Open Thread #23? Probably not!

Local blogosphere imploding?

What's going on with the local blogosphere? Last year at this time it seemed like I was announcing a new blog every other day. Now, it seems like another blog is shutting down every other day!

JGS hasn't been seen or heard from since late March. His My Grand Forks blog's last post was put up on March 29.

Dakota Huseby must be awful busy with her radio program because she sure doesn't seem to have much time for her Voice of Dakota blog. Blog posts have been extremely infrequent as of late and now comes word that the blog is "invitation only". How does one get "invited" anyways?

Also, the Culture Pulse blog hasn't been updated since February, the Greater Grand Forks Yuppies haven't posted since last December, and even the new Grand Cities Dining blog hasn't had a new restaurant review for almost a month. Dale, that blog showed such promise...keep it up...please!

Really, I don't know what the deal is, guys. Why start something and then just abandon it?

A busy summer at the Alerus Center

Just days after the announcement that the Alerus Center will soon play host to Nickelback, now word that Blue Man Group is making a return trip to Grand Forks (Herald story). Both of these concerts are in addition to the Martina McBride/Little Big Town concert scheduled for July at the Alerus Center.

A big country concert, a big rock concert, and a big [whatever genre the Blue Man Group is] concert - not a bad summer lineup for the Alerus Center, in my opinion. It certainly seems to be a better lineup than any event center in the immediate region has had for quite a while.

Now, if we could just keep having concerts like these all year, every year.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Old Hardee's may soon be filled

You know that empty Hardee's restaurant location on the corner of Washington and DeMers? A tipster tells me that it may soon become a Little Caesar's restaurant.

I've wondered why it has taken so long to fill that building. This is the busiest intersection in the city (it has been said "busiest in the state"). Let's just hope that they plan to really renovate the building. This intersection in general - and this building in particular - is in need of a sprucing up.

I also recently noticed that there is no longer a "For Sale" sign in front of the other empty Hardee's in town...the one on Gateway. I wonder if there is a business planning on going into that space too? It's good to see empty buildings fill up.

Update - 5/23/2007
According to a Job Service North Dakota ad, a new Little Caesar's is coming soon to Grand Forks. I guess that must mean that the old Hardees building is indeed going to have a new tenant.

Subway's 50th Grand Forks location

Ok, not quite 50th...but we certainly do seem to have plenty of Subway restaurants in town. For those of you who haven't heard, a new Subway restaurant will soon be opening in downtown Grand Forks. Signs have gone up on the former Red River Cafe building on DeMers Avenue announcing the new location. Check out the Herald story and Grand Forks blogger Rick Abbott's post.

If you've been reading GFL for a while, this probably won't be big news to you - it's been mentioned in several comment threads. A new Subway restaurant in town isn't usually big news, but this time it's a little different. If memory serves me correctly, this will be the only chain restaurant in downtown Grand Forks. East Grand Forks has Applebee's, but Grand Forks' downtown has been basically chain-free for quite some time (as far back as I can remember).

I'm sure this will rehash the chain vs. local debate again. As for me, I'm happy to see yet another new business coming downtown. Recent additions to the downtown scene include Joe Black's, Dakota Harvest Bakers, The Toasted Frog, Gilly's, O'Really's, and Porpoura. On top of this, we've seen many new housing developments opening, under construction, or in the works. Downtown has been doing better lately than it has done for years. Many of the empty storefronts have been filled and I'm guessing there will be even more businesses coming downtown in the near future. It's great to see Subway filling a spot. Also, anyone working or living downtown has had to leave the neighborhood if they wanted to eat at a fast food restaurant...this should help change that. It's good to see a mix downtown (chains and locally-owned places, fast food and fine dining).

Canad Inn...wow

I've now had a chance to personally check out the new Canad Inns complex and I have to say that I am very impressed. The entire complex isn't quite done yet - two restaurants, an arcade, a "spa" of some sort, and quite a few of the guest rooms are yet to open - but I'm very pleased with what I see so far. I'm impressed with the attention to detail and the overall look and feel of the place. Also, the overall massiveness of the complex - and the fact that the complex is attached to the largest event center in the region - is hard to ignore. I wonder just how far it is from the main entrance of the Alerus Center all the way north to l'Bistro in the Canad? Any guesses?

I have to say that this place has to easily be the nicest hotel complex in the state/region. In my obviously biased opinion, it's part of a new trend in Grand Forks: we build the best. Ralph Engelstad didn't just build an ice arena; he built one of the nicest arenas in the world. Now, Canad Inns didn't just build a hotel in town; they built a 13-story hotel tower, the largest water park in the state, threw in a bunch of restaurants and bars, and attached the entire complex to the largest and most versatile event center in the region. The mere fact that a private company from outside the metropolitan area is willing to spend upwards of $50 million dollars to build such a complex in our little city personally makes me very happy.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Pet Peeves #2

In case you don't know what this thread is about, check out the first Pet Peeves I put up back in March. Basically, I mention something that bugs me. Then, I turn it over to you and you rant about things that bug you. The first Pet Peeves was quite popular so hopefully the trend continues!

My Pet Peeve: people who don't use turn signals

This isn't the country, folks. Nor is it Thompson, Manvel, Drayton, or any number of other small towns where using your turn signal might not be that important. This is Grand Forks and we have a fair amount of traffic on our streets. How hard is it to use your turn signal anyways? I'm not sure if this problem is worse here than in other places or not, but it's still out of hand. I'm sick of waiting for cars only to find that they are turning but just don't think it's worth their effort to put their turn signal on. It's a common courtesy folks and it only makes sense when driving in a town that has traffic. Start signaling!

Ok, your turn. What really bugs you?

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Capone's to reopen...

...in McVille.

Yep, apparently Capone's - the restaurant that couldn't make a go of it on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks - is taking over the "McVille Restaurant" location. My tipster says that "they won't have the staff and greeters in gangster attire all the time; only for holidays and special occasions."

Well, I hope they can make a go of it in McVille (pop. 470). They didn't seem to be able to in Grand Forks...

Thanks to my faithful tipster!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Open Thread #23

Property taxes, the always popular local dining scene, the weather...whatever. Your choice!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Canad Inns now open

It isn't quite finished yet, but the new Canad Inns Destination Center is open for business in Grand Forks. I'm anxious to hear from people who have been to the Canad...those who have stayed at the hotel, eaten at the restaurant, or "tested" the water park. What are your thoughts?

Grand Forks should be very proud to have a development like this in our city. There is no other complex like this elsewhere in the state. I hope things go over really well for the complex. This is the culmination of a very long (but hopefully very rewarding) process. Welcome Canad!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Al's Grill moving to Capone's building

Al's Grill and Catering is moving into the old Capone's Restaurant building (previously Fire Island, previously Highway Host).

I've never eaten at Al's Grill, but I get the impression that it should be a much better fit for the building than Capone's was. Whoever thought that this building was a good location for one of the most expensive restaurants in town should have their head examined. "Located on scenic Gateway Drive across from the beautiful, aromatic Simplot factory!"

This stretch of Gateway will soon be home to two new restaurants: Al's and the Northside Cafe (which is going into the old Westward Ho building). By the way, isn't it kind of odd for a restaurant called "Al's" to be going into a building previously occupied by a restaurant called "Capone's"? That's bizarre!