Sunday, March 02, 2008

Retail on a dead-end street?

In his 2008 State of the City address, Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown stated...

"Of course, our physical boundaries will continue to expand and I think we should support further development behind our existing retail corridor on 32nd Avenue South. This is where we can spur greater commercial investment and development, specifically paralleling the interstate. Then we can go further to encourage and promote mixed-use workforce housing for our new jobs, working in conjunction with other elements like the Park District’s plans for a wellness center and our vision for a long-term living campus for our growing maturing population."
His Power Point presentation included a graphic showing how this new extension of the city's boundaries would be designed. The map showed an extension of 38th Street all the way down to 62nd Avenue South. To put this in perspective, 38th Street is the street that you take if you want to go to Furniture Row. The mayor's map shows a new strip of commercial developments sandwiched between I-29 and 38th Street. The map also shows some commercial developments on Columbia Road with the rest of the space between 38th Street and Columbia Road developed with residential properties including a "long-term living campus" for seniors.

The map looked something like this...
Future land use

At first glance, I think this looks like a fairly good plan. Commercial properties like to be in high-traffic, high-visibility areas and I-29 would fit that bill. Still, there are a few things about the plan that confuse me.

First, 38th Street doesn't currently seem like much of a street and making it the city's next big retail corridor is going to take some work. It's going to be a little odd driving on a fairly narrow street that cuts through the Grand Forks Marketplace in order to reach all the new stores and restaurants the mayor would like to see on 38th Street.

Second, why does the plan only show commercial on the west side of 38th Street? Is it really going to work out to have a major corridor with retail on one side and residential on the other? Wouldn't it just make more sense to place a small strip of commercial land on the eastern side of 38th in addition to the wide strip that is planned for the western side?

Now I come to the thing that really puzzles me. Currently, 38th Street doesn't even exist where this map shows it. I realize that the street can be slowly built out as is demanded. Still, isn't it going to basically be a dead-end street for the time being? There are plans to turn the overpass at I-29 and Merrifield Road into a full interchange, but that probably won't be happening for at least a few years. An interchange at 47th Avenue South or 62nd Avenue South would be even further in the future. That makes the existing 32nd Avenue interchange the only access point for interstate travelers who wish to reach the new commercial properties planned for 38th Street. Are retailers and restaurants really going to be thrilled about building on a dead-end street in a far-flung corner of the city? Sure, the properties may face I-29, but how are people on I-29 supposed to reach these stores and restaurants?

I'm concerned that, although this plan shows plenty of commercial space being added to the city limits in the near future, this space might not prove to be very attractive to potential tenants. If the city really wants to see Grand Forks' retail scene go in this direction, I think an extension of 38th Street down to 47th Avenue (instead of a piecemeal plan) and an I-29 interchange at 47th Avenue are needed ASAP.

I'm very interested in city planning and plans like this really puzzle me. I'm just not sure that the current plan is going to work out as the mayor would like it to. Would you build a store on a dead-end street?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

I agree GFG. I'ven been in GF on and off for 12 years now and am still puzzled how the businesses at Merrifield Road do not have an interchange yet. Multi-million dollar worldwide businesses, yet no interchange for the number of trucks, etc. that serve the businesses of Agsco, Telpro, etc. Not to mention that an interchange on 17th avenue south could easily reduce the traffic from the Alerus Center, since they would then be able to get out to I-29.

Anonymous said...

Nothing wrong with his vision, but this will be at the expense of other areas of the City. Any new business or home builder will logically seek out that area of the city.
I hope they put the road system in place first, or else it will be quite the bottleneck on 32nd.

ec99 said...

According to this plan, it seems that anything that exists north of DeMers and west of downtown exists only to pay property taxes. Guess the north end has no other purpose.

Orator said...

Agreed. The downtown and North side of Grand Forks already has existing infrastructure (power, water, streets) and, frankly, needs a shot in the arm. Why a senior living campus in front of I-29 and not downtown along the greenway? Why not more urban (loft-style) condos in downtown - there seems to be a demand for that type of residential living. Remember, the more land we take for commercial development, the more streets and sewer lines we have to put in. These things don't come cheap. How high do you want your property taxes to go? We've expanded greatly in the last ten years - perhaps now is the time to look inward with our development dollars.

Anonymous said...

I hope they leave enough space for the future GF monorail line. Unless GF population grows a lot, I doubt there will be enough demand for this business space. They can't fill in the retail space they currently have.
Oh well, at least they have a vision and a plan.

Anonymous said...

For gods sake, there will NEVER be a monorail in Grand Forks. Step away from the computer and beat yourself with a claw hammer. If you want a monorail, move to a REAL city. You know, a place that does not have beet trucks and tractors on the same roads as commuters. A place that has more to offer then "We had Cher here once." A place with, what are those things called again? Oh, yeah. PEOPLE!!

akm said...

As attractive as the idea is to have business on I-29 attracting travelers, it's important to remember that for businesses to last, they must have a local customer base. Because this new development would be quite far for most of the existing residents to travel to, my guess is they certainly won't do it every day. Then, we're relying on all of the travelers on the interstate to make an impulse stop. This is not a good business philosophy. Just like retail stores can't be sustained on impulse purchases alone (although they're certainly necessary), a city shouldn't make its new commercial development dependent on those kinds of shoppers.

I like the idea of building on and enhancing what we have. It's time to rethink development. To be sustainable, we should build denser and smarter. If we utilize existing infrastructure, encourage infill development/redevelopment, and build so that people can drive less, imagine how much money we would save as a community. Imagine what we could do with that money that would otherwise be spent extending utilities. Of course it's necessary to build out to accomodate growth, but as I look at GF, I see so many places that need to be built within before we seriously entertain a plan such as this.

Matthew said...

It's too bad that Grand Forks wants to become just another strip along the interstate like Fargo.

C. Y. said...

38St won't dead-end. It will contact the gravel portion of 62nd Ave So that goes east & west a little south of King's Walk. Maybe gravel doesn't count as a street to some of you city slickers :-)

(just kidding)

vcsuvike said...

I like the idea of commercial growth along the Interstate. I do think the county and city need to be more aggressive with the state about getting an interchange at Merrifield and 47th. NDDOT needs to know those interchanges are needed.

Anonymous said...

I agree as well with interchanges at Merrifield and 47th. Don't wait a couple years before asking the NDDOT. It would take them several years until construction would even begin on these interchanges.

Also, if an interchange were to be added to 17th Ave. S., do you think this interchange would be located too close to the 32nd Ave. and DeMers interchanges? I think this would alleviate quite a bit of traffic flowing to/from the Alerus.

dale said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rebecca said...

I agree with all of you. I would much rather see the Demers/Washington intersection have a face-lift first then anymore development on the south end. And how are there going to be enough people to work in these commercial spaces? I have no idea what the statistics are for growth in this city, but I have a feeling there aren't that many new families flocking to Grand Forks let alone ND. Sadly, I don't think university students are staying in ND either.

Anonymous said...

I agree with most of the people on this blog. I think the plan is very flawed. Why not put more commercial development on 42nd Street by the Alerus or on S. Washington near the Aurora Medical complex? Washington especially is a very convenient location for a lot of the new housing development in southern Grand Forks. The whole area near K-mart could also be redeveloped into something a lot nicer in the future. And of course there's downtown.

J said...

I still believe we could extend our city to the west and develop new homes past the industrial park.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a flawed vision at best. Hopeful, but flawed.

The main problem with this idea is that it further extends the city into undeveloped land, which continues the practice of stretching city resources into areas where they aren't needed (i.e. sprawl development).

It wouldn't be such an issue if GF actually had the population base to support yet another commercial development (and yes, I did read that there would be residential development there as well).

I think a better idea would be to redevelop some areas closer to the central part of the city.

Yes, I agree with anonymous @ 506pm above - redeveloping the KMart area is a great idea. I would imagine it would be very very $$$ though.

Anonymous said...

I think the Brownstones development(s) are incredibly good for the city. You're putting high density developments in areas where they are needed the most, to support the most local of businesses.

Anonymous said...

I believe an interchange needs to go in at Merrifield Rd. before 47th Ave. gets it. The amount of truck traffic out that way is absolutely crazy.

Anonymous said...

Don't we have to have population to support any of that stuff??