Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is Grand Forks ugly?

My answer is a resounding NO. I personally think Grand Forks is easily the most attractive larger city in the state and the region. Sure, there are some "ugly" parts of town...like portions of Gateway Drive. However, I see those areas as exceptions to the rule. Really, even our "ugly" areas aren't so bad when compared with those found in most other cities.

When I think of Grand Forks, I think of a city that for the most part clearly cares about its appearance. One of the first things I think about are the city's tree lined streets. Sure, most cities have large trees in their older neighborhoods. Grand Forks, however, has trees all over town...even the newest areas of the city have trees lining the streets. I think of all of the stately old homes that, for the most part, have been kept up throughout the years and together form a real sense of "place" for the community. I think of the outstanding campus located right in the heart of Grand Forks. I see the grounds of UND as easily the most attractive urbanized area in the state.

Even 32nd Avenue South with its big box stores and large parking lots is an attractive corridor in my eye. The buildings are set back from the street and the parking lots are interspersed with islands of grass and trees. 13th Avenue South in Fargo may have a few more shopping and dining options, but that corridor makes me think of one giant parking lot. Don't get me wrong...I think of Fargo as a very attractive city too. However, I would still rank it as below my own fair city.

There is always room for improvement. Clearly there are many offending properties and area of town and I wish so badly that they would be forced to clean up their act. Seeing a business with foot-tall grass and weeds out in front or garbage littering our city's major streets drives me nuts. However, I still am a bit dumbfounded when someone makes a sweeping comment such as "Grand Forks is an ugly town." It might not be perfect, but "ugly" it ain't!

How do you see Grand Forks? Is it ugly? Is it attractive? What improvements or changes do you think would make the city better looking? How would you rank the city's appearance with other regional cities?

53 comments:

Charlie said...

Hm. Grand Forks, ugly?
I'm not even a resident of GFKS, yet I read this blog daily and consider Grand Forks, North Dakota to be my home.

I don't hesitate to tell anyone who asks where I'm from, either.

And I love the place...love the people, the changing climate, love the neighborhoods (none of which, btw, I'd be afraid to walk in anytime of day or night).

Like anyplace, there are blighted spots, but the beauty of well-maintained homes and parks far outnumber the few areas that are neglected.

Anonymous said...

You only need to look around to see how beautiful Grand Forks is. The greenway, the parks, the old neighborhoods. Sure there are some areas that need improvement, but isn't that true of any area?

local boy said...

Several friends who came to visit me in Grand Forks have left saying it is a nice town and they wouldn't mind living here. They might have even said "pretty" to describe it.

ND BORN said...

Hwy 2/Gateway is an area that definitely needs attention. I always wonder what people driving into GF for the first time from the West (or airport flights) think with that as their first impression. The other areas that I think are ugly are the new neighborhoods that don't have many trees. I wish when they'd sell the lots, they'd hike the price up by a $1000 and include 4 or 5 larger trees to be planted after construction. Maybe some areas do offer that, but then there are definitely some that are nothing but asphalt, houses with their 2-3 car garages facing the streets and grass...very standoffish and cookie cutter in my opinion.

Parts of town I really like are the greenway, older tree lined streets (especially on days where the shadows dance through as you're driving...beautiful!) and the parks everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Having lived in various parts of the country, I can say that GF is a very nice looking town and very beautiful in the summer.

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks landscaping, lighting and signage lacks creativity and focus. The dead trees along the Red River are really unsightly...and Gateway Drive, well, I don't have to say a word about that. And what's so attractive about 32nd Ave. S.? Are there hanging flower baskets and wildflower gardens that I don't know about? I don't find storefronts particularly appealing, no matter how new they are. UND, especially University Park, is about the only place in town I'd really call "attractive." And in asking whether GF is ugly,I think you also have to ask, "compared to what?"

Anonymous said...

It's hard to compare Grand Forks to Bismarck, with its rolling hills or Duluth's breathtaking harbor and bluffs. Neither one of those places would be especially attractive without their topography.

But given GF's lack of those natural advantages, it may need to try harder.

Goon said...

As far as cities go I think Grand Forks can't compare to Bismarck, any one that thinks other wise isn't being realistic. The Missouri River is much nicer than the Red River. Comparing golf courses look at Bismarck's Hawk Tree golf course, while Kings Walk is awesome it can't even compare to Hawk Tree.

Yep Grand Forks is a nicer city than Fargo I would think that is a no brainer, however, the biggest eye sore is the whole highway 2 from the airport down gate way and out to East Grand Forks, MN.

I think there are a lot nicer cities in ND than GF. Caviler/Wallhalla area blow this area away.

While there are some nice areas in the south end of town, the north end is in need of a make over.

C. Y. said...

The first and probably least expensive improvement to Hwy 2 would be a little mowing. If the area from the pavement to a ways beyond the outside ditch was mowed it would vastly improve the looks of the area. Nothing makes a place look more unkempt than neglected weeds & grass.

Anonymous said...

Why isn't there the will to do something about Hwy.2/Gateway Dr. How many more decades will we have to have this conversation?!

Goon said...

C.Y I agree... Weeds and unmowed grass looks unsat.

Anonymous said...

Go Thompson!

Anonymous said...

yes, thompsons gravel roads are very nice.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what is up with the roads in Thompson? I drove through there when I first moved here and couldn't believe what I was seeing.

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks is very well kept. I think the design and signage standards on 32nd, Columbia, and on the Bronson Property really help the city's appearance. Fargo's total laissez-faire attitude about development and signage has made the city look like a big, haphazard clutter. I am, however, concerned about the lack of cohesion and coherence among the newer developments south of Wal-Mart. That area is getting to look like Fargo with the leapfrog sprawl. I think the new planning director has weakened the development standards that John O'Leary had in place for many years. --NordicMan

Anonymous said...

wow more GF people hatin on Fargo..c'mon..instead of worryin so much about Fargo (better city hands down) keep your focus on GF and makin it better without always making a comparison to Fargo! How about them apples!

Anonymous said...

Fargo is a big, haphazard clutter, that's not hating Fargo, just the facts. GF just needs to avoid Fargo's mistakes.

Anonymous said...

10:28, Too late!!

Anonymous said...

Clark: [during filming for Good Will Hunting 2] You're just no longer any good, Will Hunting. Now how do *you* like *them apples*?

Ben Affleck: [in huddle with Damon] I don't like the sound of them apples, Will. What are we gonna do?

Matt Damon: Chucky, it's hunting season.

[Will pulls out his shotgun and blows the guy away]

Ben Affleck: Applesauce!

growingupartists said...

For the most part the city is beautiful, and always improving. I wish we could band together more as a community to help out the few houses that are in disrepair. I noticed one house on my walk yesterday with paint cracking off every surface of the house, and then noticed the handicap ramp leading out the front door.

Like most of us, the owner probably didn't have the funds to sand and paint the house, but he probably didn't have the physical ability to do it himself either. I once imagined a "volunteer bank" where people could propose needs, whether it's a drive to the grocery store (now that Leevers has closed) or some help with basic repairs.

It could build bridges between populations that don't normally intersect. Maybe businesses could offer a limited number of discounts for those homeowners especially in need, in exchange for a write up in our Grand Forks Herald citing their charity.

ND BORN said...

Most churches have volunteer programs, and I'm guessing UND students have lots of opportunities for various volunteering needs that pop up. I think the biggest problem is that the needs of the many poverty families outweigh the few who volunteer, most say they are too busy or else just don't want to give up their precious free time/family time after a long work week. It is not the atmosphere of helping one another as a community anymore, it's about about working hard, making enough money to spend on materialistic things and using almost all the off-time utilizing those material possessions.

Anonymous said...

If you wanna see UGLY check out Reynolds.

Anonymous said...

I think enacting zoning laws that restrict signage to eye level was one of the best things this city has ever done. I too, hope those standards remain in place for new developments.

martinrottler said...

Truthfully...It's not exactly the most beautiful place in the world. Some of the tree-lined streets are nice, but overall it doesn't strike me as being particularly good looking.

Anonymous said...

Fargo a "big haphazard clutter"? lol dude either hasn't left this area or has led a very sheltered life! I think GF and Fargo are about the same, one is just about twice as big lol

Anonymous said...

Hal G your red barn like structures are ugly! This is 2008. Tear them down and get into this century. Thanks. greenglass4

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks is the anus of ND. Fargo-Moorhead is definitely more attractive than GF.

Anonymous said...

Like it or not, the previous blogger's thinking is prevalent throughout the state. If we don't have an "ugly" problem, we definitely have an image problem. I happen to think that talking about this openly and honestly is the only way to move forward. It's not about loyalty. I want the best for the community. Think of it as tough love.

Anonymous said...

The sad part is that some of the people that make those comments are people that have not spent much or any time in Grand Forks in years. I had a friend from Fargo here recently and she had no idea how much Grand Forks had changed, since the last time she was there.

spearman said...

Why does Hiway 2 get picked on and no one seems to notice the city garage right on the west side of I-29 across from the apts. on the east side of the freeway? Garbage dumpsters are clearly visible from the freeway for all passersby to see. The city trucks are stting in the parking lot. Why didn't the city put all of that on the othe rside of the bld.? They have no right to hassle the businesses along Gateway until they clean up their own act. At least the city could put up a high fence so visitors passing by don't conclude they will go on to Fargo instead of staying in such unattractive surroundings.

Anonymous said...

Because people on I-29 have already decided to continue on while the people on Gateway 2 are more likely to stop? and I think Gateway 2 is considered the entrance for those arriving via the airport. (all 8 of them)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous,
Not so since the city garage is between the major I-29 exits from both north and south. People are deciding as they are arriving at those exits. Ideally you would have an identifiable tourist attraction where the city garage is like a visible go cart track/waterpark/mini -golf course etc. The kids would be screaming to check into a motel at one of the exits. This is why the city fathers wisely decided to put the Alerus/Canad Inn where it is.
When you leave the airport a taxi would take you via Gateway and I-29 to get to 32nd hotels and shopping so I-29 is just as important as Gateway as an entrance to the city.

Spearman

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

Overall Grand Forks is a nice looking city, but every city has it's areas that need improvement. Beyond the obvious Gateway drive issues: the old Target (I know it's being addressed), the somewhat empty strip malls, South Forks Plaza/Mall, empty store fronts downtown.

Also, there have been several times I've driven along Columbia and as you get towards 32nd there has been really tall grass/weeds along the street, particularly by the old Bell's (?) Department Store. Grand Forks is almost over-developed commercially, we have too many empty spaces, that over time start to look terrible.

In general though, I think it's a pretty city and Brown has done a lot of lobbying for the greenway which looks great! The paved walkways make it nicer for strollers, bicycles, rollerblades, etc. and I'm kind of glad he fought for the paving over gravel. There are interspersed areas of green downtown which are nice breaks in the concrete and brick. Walking around downtown is generally an enjoyable experience, not every city can say that.

Also, I know the dog park was a hot topic for a while, and while I have dogs I had no preference one way or another. However, it is very nice and much bigger than many I've seen. My only issue is with owners that treat their dogs like kids. You have to watch your dogs while you are there. My dogs are friendly, but there is an enough's enough point when it comes to other dogs sniffing them CONSTANTLY. We had to leave the other day because this woman was paying no attention to her dog and it had finally gotten to the irritation point for my dogs.

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks, since after the flood?

Fugly

spearman said...

Dale,
My point was that if GF is a destination city then by definition people are coming here for an extended stay. We aren't talking about traffic going from Winnipeg to Omaha. Also,the people traveling east or west across MN. & N.D. aren't at the beginning or end of their trip and so may be ready to stop after driving 10 hrs. before they continue N.S.E. or W. The weekend Winnipeg traffic is more likely to stop here and not go to Fargo if they see touristy things to do from the freeway and not just factories and city maintainance facilities.
As far as the Canad Inn being a late addition to the Convention Center. The original plan called for a hotel complex so the intent was to create visibilty for the center and therefore to get people off the freeway.

Anonymous said...

Aesthetics don't matter once you're dead inside.

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

Dale said,

"Possibly, but I think that most everyone in Winnipeg that is driving down I-29 to Fargo is well aware of what Grand Forks has to offer, has chosen to drive the additional 75 miles to go to Fargo, and it's very unlikely that seeing putt-putt golf or a movie complex or something on the highway would make them change their plans."

There are many people in Manitoba that haven't been to GF so you want their experience to be positive instead of reporting when they get home that GF looks trashy from the freeway.

spearman said...

Dale said,


"I agree with your "travel across Minnesota" part, though that would impact Highway 2, not I-29, as I think the vast majority of those drivers will just continue west, not turn south (turning north is a bit irrelevant, as there's pretty much nothing north of Gateway on I-29, nor is there likely to ever be.)"

The point is people traveling long distances may reach the end of their driving day when they reach GF and stop for the night. They are not just passing through and may actually be looking for something to do after they checkin to a motel.
These people would be more apt to stop if they don't see a junky I-29. Otherwise they say to their mates let's see if we can do better an hour down the road.

spearman said...

If it doesn't matter whether I-29 is attractive or not we might as well let it be one long junkyard since the city garage gives it a good start. It reminds me of the way we historically turned our backs to our rivers and are just now reclaiming them as assets for recreation. Freeways are the new rivers that we treat utilitarianlly as though they don't need to be attractive. I'll give the Dallas Metroplex credit for turning the rights of way on their freeways into flower gardens. They are gorgeous and make you forget you are on a freeway.

Anonymous said...

Dale, I don't think you have just one anonymous fan who thinks you are full of yourself, I think there are plenty of us who do. I have never come across anyone who is so full of themselves as you do.

Anonymous said...

Is there anything Dale isn't an expert about . . . no!

Anonymous said...

I, for one, appreciate Dale's informed and articulate analysis of many topics on this blog. Even when I disagree with him, it makes me think more about the issue and formulate my own opinion to a greater extent. What makes me cringe on this site and not check it for a few days are the flat out insults and knee-jerk reactions that remind me of the comments forum on the Herald website before the staff seem to have become fed up themselves and pulled that feature.

Anonymous said...

Bismarck, hands down, is the most kick*** city in the state. Minot's hills give it some life but the buildings are cluttered. GF isn't too bad. Fargo is the worst, hands down. I beleieve the term is urban sprawl.

GJB said...

I have to agree with Anonymous' at 7:17 comment about Dale.

And I'll admit that I've known Dale for over 20 years. He definitely writes posts that are more informed and informing than many of the anonymous posters do.

Anonymous said...

Urban sprawl??? This is North Dakota remember?? Take a trip to the 200+ larger cities in this country alone and you'll see some real urban sprawl...

Has anyone else noticed that when UND sends out promotional stuff to incoming freshman or whoever, the vast majority of the photos show leaves on trees, green grass, warm-weather clothing...just look at their "campus scenes" slideshow- even though there's snow on the ground for 6 months out of a 9 month school year, 4 photos out of 22 show anything to do with snow..I think the campus is pretty, but the weather during that last week in August sure doesn't last..
UND’s Campus Scenes

Anonymous said...

Blah blah blah blah.....it started out so nice, now everyone is whining.

OUWxGuesser said...

"but the weather during that last week in August sure doesn't last.."

Holy crap... I think anon just stumbled on the perfect way to attract more students. Lets send out promotional items with pictures of someone plugging their engine block heater in, dry skin, and snow drifts!

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks is neither ugly or attractive. It is what it is. Stupid subject.

Anonymous said...

Most of UND's students come from the Upper Midwest, so I think they know what they're getting into.

Anonymous said...

All cities are ugly

GF Resident said...

I agree with growingupartists about the volunteer, but I think it could go one step further. What about neighbors helping neighbors????

There's a show on HGTV or some similar network called "The Ugliest House On the Block". It features nice neighborhoods with well-kept properties except for the "ugliest house on the block" which is usually in need of some TLC. Throughout the process, neighbors get involved to help improve the home because it not only makes the whole neighborhood more beautiful and welcoming, but it also adds value to the neighborhood as well. Sometimes neighbors meet for the first time through the process. One thing for sure is that it brings neighbors closer together.