Thursday, February 28, 2008

Open Thread #67

I think a fresh open thread is in order!

Plans for the old Target space

It's one of the biggest paradoxes in Grand Forks: what to do with that old Target store space at Columbia Mall? Target Corporation used to own the space, but sold it to the owners of the mall, GK Development, a while back and now GK is entertaining proposals from potential tenants.

The idea put forth by GK no longer looks for just one major store to occupy the space. Instead, a more likely outcome would see the space renovated for a variety of smaller tenants. The possibility remains that a renovation could simply just make the Target space an extension of the existing west wing of the mall. However, I'm guessing that we aren't going to see just an extension of the existing wing here...I'm betting that a small-scale "lifestyle center" will occupy the space. This would mean not just one big tenant, but also not just a bunch of small sized typical mall stores. A lifestyle center concept here would more than likely mean one or two larger tenants and several mid-sized tenants. If the concept stayed true to the lifestyle center model, the tenants would be higher-end retailers and the public spaces would give a very high-end feeling.

I've started thinking about what possibilities might be in store for the space and I even drew up a few ideas. You'll note that all four plans presented here include a Barnes and Noble store anchoring the west end of the Target space. I think a new book store...preferably a B&N... would be a perfect fit for this space and is really something the community wants. I also really think a Panera Bread (or something like it) would be a very good fit for a portion of this space. Just to give you a point of reference, the Barnes and Noble that I've included in the plans is actually a little larger than the size of the Fargo store.

Plan #1
This concept includes B&N anchoring the western portion of the space and two slightly smaller retailers and a Panera (or something liek it) taking up the bulk of the space. As far as what might fill the other store spaces here, think something along the lines of Trader Joe's and perhaps a higher-end clothing or home store.

Plan #2
In addition to the B&N and a Panera, this concept includes several smaller stores facing smaller hallways than what presently exist at the mall. I'm thinking these hallways would need to be fairly narrow to accommodate the space needed for multiple small stores. I would like to see a whole bunch of skylights in these hallways. I think with skylights and with proper decor, narrow hallways could actually be quite nice. As far as what would go in these stores, I would imagine some of the higher end clothing stores that presently exist in a city like Fargo but that we're lacking in Grand Forks.

Plan #3
This concept includes just B&N and a large department store-sized spot. Perhaps a Herberger's? If the space isn't big enough for a department store, I suppose the building could always be built out farther north.

Plan #4
This concept includes the prerequisite B&N and many small typically mall-sized retailers. I personally would like to see larger stores go into this space than what I'm showing here. I think several larger sized stores in this space would be a bigger draw than a bunch of smaller stores.

So, what do you think of my ideas? Which one(s) do you prefer? Are they all feasible or are there any pipe dreams among the bunch? What retailers and/or restaurants would you like to see fill some of these spaces? Would you be satisfied seeing a Barnes and Noble take up a good portion of the old Target space? Share you thoughts!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

UND at 125

This week marks the official observance of the 125th anniversary of the University of North Dakota.

In its early years, UND was little more than a scattering of buildings two miles west of Grand Forks. Getting back and forth from town to campus involved either taking a train or a horse and buggy. Initially, the only building on campus was Old Main which housed everything from classrooms to dormitories.

What a difference 125 years make...

Today, UND enrolls over 12,000 students in nearly 200 fields of study. In stark contrast to its early days as a muddy patch of converted fields with no sidewalks or grass, the campus now stretches over 549 acres and encompasses 223 buildings (5.33 million square feet of indoor space). UND's economic impact on the state and region has been gauged at roughly $1 billion dollars annually and UND employs nearly 3,000 people making it the largest employer in the state after the Air Force. UND has the only schools of medicine and law in the state and arguably the finest aviation school in the world. Research institutions now dot the UND campus and bring in millions. Today's UND athletes play in giant buildings including the palatial, $100 million dollar Ralph Engelstad Arena. The men's ice hockey team has emerged as one of the finest college hockey programs in the country. A lot happened from 1883 to 2008!

With so many changes recently taking place, UND is now poised to enter a new era. What will UND look like 125 years from now? What would people like Webster Merrifield and George Walsh think of UND if they could see it now?

Happy birthday UND!

New blogs

Although the number of blogs that make up the Grand Forks Blogosphere has dwindled as of late, I should point out that two new blogs recently started up.

Whoops a Daisy! is a new blog by Kristin Garaas-Johnson, editor of the free Red River Valley Women Today publication available in locations around town. Kristin has been blogging about a pretty wide range of topics so far.

On the Town is a new blog put together by the folks at the Greater Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau. This isn't exactly your typical is essentially an ongoing advertisement for the Greater Grand Forks community. CVB employees blog (and brag) about a local restaurant or event. The thing that ticks me off a little is the fact that comments aren't allowed. I guess they just don't want potential visitors/customers to hear anything remotely negative about local establishments. I'm also a little annoyed by the fact that they don't include any type of local blogroll. Without comments and a blogroll, how is this going to become an effective or popular blog?

Anyways...welcome to these new blogs. They're in my blogroll and my "GF blog posts" box on the left.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

He's ba-ack

Terry Bjerke, that lovable goofball who sat on the Grand Forks city council from the late 90s until 2002, wants his old job back. (Herald story) (City Beat post) The libertarian from Ward 1 has long been a critic of local government and, if you'll remember from the past, seems to think that virtually any spending by an entity such as the city of Grand Forks is inherently wasteful.

I'm all for oversight of government spending and obviously budgets at all levels of government are prone to being rather bloated at times, but on the other hand I quickly tire of Bjerke's type of mentality. Sure, we would all like our taxes to be a little lower...sometimes a whole lot lower...but wantonly cutting spending isn't the answer.

There is likely plenty of trimming that could be done on the city budget, but I feel that budget cuts should always be thoroughly scrutinized before being implemented. Bjerke, on the other hand, seems to think that we should simply cut for the sake of cutting. According to the candidate, "I have a four part plan: cut, cut, cut, cut." Cutting spending may sound nice, but as a taxpayer I still eschew cutting without thinking about what those cuts will do to the community.

I will argue until I'm blue in the face that residents of Grand Forks enjoy a very high quality of life. If Bjerke's minority suddenly became the majority, that quality of life would be quickly eroded all for the sake of a smaller tax bill. If people like Terry Bjerke dominated local politics...sure, you would pay less in taxes, but you would likely be missing a whole lot in the process.

Do you enjoy the Greenway? Do you appreciate the city's mosquito control program? How about the renaissance of downtown Grand Forks? Are you happy that the underprivileged and the disabled are able to use public transit to get around town? If people like Terry Bjerke suddenly became the majority at city hall, no doubt funding for things like these would be cripplingly reduced if not eliminated. Indeed, things like the Greenway or the flood control system likely never would have gotten off of the drawing board in the first place.

I'm all for sensible spending and Grand Forks can be a bit loose with the purse strings at times, but a candidate who favors cutting simply for the sake of cutting isn't going to get my vote. I say this as a taxpayer and as a resident of Ward 1.

Open Thread #65

Sorry guys...I've been out of town for the past few days.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Saturday, February 09, 2008

New man on campus

It's official. UND's next president has been named.

The next leader of the University of North Dakota will be Dr. Robert Kelley who was formerly the dean of the College of Health Sciences at the University of Wyoming. Kelley will start at his new post on July 1, succeeding the retiring Dr. Charles Kupchella who has led UND for the past nine years. Kelley will be the 11th president of the state's oldest public institution of higher learning.

Kelley should have a full plate of issues to deal with. UND's enrollment has been slipping as of late - Kelley will need to deal with this quickly and decisively. UND also is lagging when it comes to salaries and Kelley has indicated he will need to work on this. UND has big plans for fundraising and for increasing its research portfolio. Kelley will be very busy with these and other issues...oh yes...and then there is athletics...

Many of the issues facing Kelley in some way are connected to athletics. UND is moving all of its teams up to NCAA Division I. In addition, a new athletic director must be chosen to lead UND's athletic programs. Perhaps the most controversial issue facing Kelley is the Fighting Sioux nickname and logo debacle. If UND is unable to gain tribal support for the continued use of "The Fighting Sioux" imagery and moniker (which now seems unlikely), Kelley will need to transition UND to a new logo and nickname and retire the Fighting Sioux.

What do you hope to see Dr. Kelley do when he takes the helm at UND? What issues do you want him to deal with? Do you see any particular strengths or weaknesses? How about Dr. would you rate his time at UND? Please share you thoughts.

Friday, February 08, 2008

New poll: Target space uses

Time for a new poll question! The new question is "What would you like to see go in the old Target space?" Read all about this story in Ryan Schuster's Herald article.

I'm anxious to see what my readers have to say about their desires for the old Target space. This is a big space and, if done properly, a renovation of this space could potentially reinvigorate Columbia Mall.

Cast your vote and come here to discuss your thoughts! By the way, unlike in previous polls, you can choose multiple answers this time around.

Poll result: an "A" for snow removal

When asked "How would you grade the ongoing snow removal program in Grand Forks?" a majority of votes gave the city an "A." (results)

A 60%217
B 13%49
C 8%28
D 7%25
F 12%45
364 votes total

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Postcard: St. Mary's

Here's another classic Grand Forks postcard. St. Mary's Catholic Church still stands at 216 Belmont Road just south of downtown. I really like this postcard. Notice the fact that, in the old picture, there are very few large trees around the church - this part of town now has so many large trees lining the streets. The park setting across the street from St. Mary's still exists today and is the home of the Grand Army of the Republic statue. I would like to have provided some historic background on the church, but I've been having a tough time finding much out. Does anyone know when St. Mary's was constructed? When was the school building added? Check out this page on Flickr for some more interesting St. Mary's photos from the present day.

Interior shot - Denise Drake Interior Design

Monday, February 04, 2008

Open Thread #63

All your news, rumors, and general gossip go here, folks. Let 'er rip.