Saturday, August 16, 2008

Clean up the front door!

First impressions are everything. When I go into a new restaurant or store, I immediately formulate opinions based on the overall look of the entryway. That may or may not be fair, but I think we all do it. Well, I think our "front door" needs some major sprucing up.

I feel that the I-29 interchange at 32nd Avenue South is the front door of sorts for our community...even more than the interchange at Gateway Drive. Thousands of people use this interchange everyday and many visitors to our city access our prime business corridor here.

In my opinion, this is a pretty ugly and poorly maintained first impression of our city. Have you driven over that overpass lately? The weeds are totally out of control...I really don't think they've seen the underside of a mower this year. The entire interchange is overgrown with weeds and dotted with trees that are either dead, half-dead, or very ugly because of years of neglect. The areas filled with "bushes" are really just areas filled with weeds. No weeding is ever done here.

Routine mowing, weeding, and the occasional planting of new trees and regular tree maintenance are not hard to do or overly expensive. Why is this area so neglected and why does the neglect appear to be getting worse with each passing year? Who is supposed to maintain this area and others like it? The city? The state? Someone is doing a very poor job.

If we truly want to be a "destination city," one of the most important (and easiest) things we can do is to spruce up our city's major entryways. The 32nd Avenue interchange is just the worst example; there are clearly other entryways that are in need of improvements. When I see these "front doors" to our city, I'm ashamed.


Anonymous said...

The City of GF did keep up this area, in fact a good friend of mine Brian G would often mow the area, but recent cutbacks on staff has pulled them back to work on the huge Greenway. WE could use volunteers out there ! How about it fellow bloggers lets clean up the area ? greenglass4

growingupartists said...

I think you bring up a great point. The 'Destination City' idea is just gaining steam, though, so add this to the list of needed improvements.

From both Canada and Fargo, even the billboards should ignite the senses...great observation Grand Forks Guy, we need the most inviting welcome mat possible.

J. said...

Every city in America has the fast food/big box corridor, and almost everyone has it off the highway. Same goes for the industrial gateway. Get over it. The city should put the money elsewhere -- put up a SECOND dog park somewhere instead of paving over more grass for a roundabout in Lincoln Park. (I, btw, was one of the vocal supporters of the dog park, and one of the reasons why I could defend it was the promise by the (always-lying) city council that the construction wouldn't get out of hand.)

Offer more incentives for non-chain restaurants and stores, to give the downtown more character.

Have more live music downtown that isn't low-end blues or bad folk (during the farmers' market.) Bring in actual names for concerts (and don't put the drinking pavilion right in front of the stage to discourage families and under-age students from hanging out).

How about an outdoor movie night in the town square?

Get a cool chain store (Trader Joes, would be good) at the abandoned Leevers store.

These are just ideas off the top of my head. The point being, this will only be a destination city if there is reason to make the city a destination, not because we have some landscaping at an intersection.

J. said...

Just one more thing: the importance of landscaping and billboards makes sense when people happen to be traveling through and consider detouring into the city spontaneously. But no one does that in these parts. People PLAN to come to Grand Forks in advance, so there has to be things to bring them in that are publicized in advance.

Anonymous said...

I love the idea of an outdoor movie night at Town Square!

Anonymous said...

Re: Get a cool chain store (Trader Joes, would be good) at the abandoned Leevers store.

You make that sound so easy. It's as if we missed that one and we'll get right on it by golly! I'm sure there is a list of businesses that want to open up there, but we were too ignorant to figure it out...

J. said...

It was one thing on a list of many -- none of it is easy. That wasn't my point, but thanks for giving me so little credit. I appreciate it.

My point is that the city needs to shift its priorities to lobbying/encouraging businesses that aren't the most obvious and mainstream choices. Why TWO Denny's? Why seek a Home Depot when we already have a Lowe's? (That is an analogy. I don't think anyone is lobbying Home Depot.)

If they could seek out locally owned business and chains that offer something different than what we have than people will want to come here because we have things that Fargo doesn't. (Do we really need a J.C. Penny's, Sears, Macy's, AND a KOHL's?)

That was my point. Obviously, these are largely decisions that that market makes, and the city doesn't decide who will come and who will open a store, but they can still actively pursue things and make it known that this community is open to help assist a range of businesses.

Anonymous said...

All the comments have some degree of validity, except the one criticizing one of the suggestions. In the end, no matter what, you need to keep your front door looking nice. The Greenway is great, but it shouldn't be at the expense of something like the front door. If we can spend $200K on "seasonal lights" we can keep our front door nice.

Anonymous said...

Well, GFG, get our your mower and weed eater and get to work on that entrance if its such a big deal to you. That entrance and our other entrances are just fine. And about the idea Grand Forks need more stores, we already have plenty and have almost everything we need. Well, we could use a baseball farm team thats affliated with MLB (not like the one in Fargo since its not MLB affliated). But beyond that, our small city if fine.

GrandForksGuy said...

"Well, GFG, get our your mower and weed eater and get to work on that entrance if its such a big deal to you."

Your argument makes no sense. I pay taxes and thus I am not required to sweep the streets, clean them of snow, or mow public areas. Citizens pay tax money for public services...they are not required to physically provide the actual services. Glad I could clear that up for you...

"That entrance and our other entrances are just fine."

You think the entrances off of I-29 into our city are "just fine?" I'm thinking you're the kind of guy whose neighbors collectively wish he would get out his mower on a more frequent basis? I would never let my lawn look the way the main interstate entrances to our city look.

Plum said...

If you honestly believe that people coming off of the interstate, whether it be for a planned purpose or just to get gas, look at some weeds and say "Ooh, let's drive the extra 75 to Fargo (or wherever), this town is just TOO ugly for my money!" then you are kidding yourself.

I'd much rather see some money spent on improving the lives of citizens than wasted on purposeless "tourism attractors" that in actuality have little to no effect on the actual volume of tourists.

Spend a few grand sprucing up that intersection then place a survey in hotel rooms asking people if they stayed because the grass was just SO GREEN off the interstate. Really.

Anonymous said...

If what you say is true it wouldn't matter what the entrance from the airport looks like would it?
What about when someone is looking to locate a business here arriving by 32nd or by the airport route? It would matter wouldn't it?


GrandForksGuy said...

"If you honestly believe that people coming off of the interstate, whether it be for a planned purpose or just to get gas, look at some weeds and say "Ooh, let's drive the extra 75 to Fargo (or wherever), this town is just TOO ugly for my money!" then you are kidding yourself."

I think you missed something...or perhaps I didn't emphasize it enough in the original post. I don't see the goal of cleaning up this interchange (and others) as simply being about attracting more business and making more money as a city. As a city, we don't do everything because it might bring in more tax money. That would be extremely cynical.

Sure, there is an element of business and financial gain about cleaning up this interchange, but I think that is secondary to the issue of quality of life. Many citizens of this city (including me) have to drive across this ugly interchange everyday. It makes me feel ashamed for the city when I see this particular area.

C. Y. said...

I think some places would call it "curb appeal" and others would call it "first Impression." And GFG is right on the mark about this one.

Part of the problem when dealing with interstate highways is the state owns the right-of-way and the city can only ask that they do something about it.

The city can't push the state around like they like to do to everyone else within their 4 mile extra-terrestrial squatting/bullying rights. :-)

Anonymous said...

I think they should put in a toll booth at every entrance to Grand Forks. That way the city can gain revenue and then use that revenue to improve the horrible conditions in Grand Forks.

Anonymous said...


The phrase you're searching for is pride of ownership (or, lack there of in this case).

Anonymous said...

I just returned home after visiting GF. I've never seen it look better. There seems to be an awareness of more sophisticated urban landscaping for the first time EVER. Having said that, it makes the ignored intersections and highway entry points stand out much more.

And by the way, the Christmas lights are worth the price. The same type of snowflakes light up the side of Sak's Fifth Avenue in New York.

I totally agree with GFG's post, but also see some tangible aesthetic improvements being made. I hope the city keeps it up.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anon 11:33 (NYC)! You have good points about stepping back and seeing where this city really stands and how far it has come.

People who only come through for a very short time, form very fast opinions, thus the thread about cleaning up our entry ways into Grand Forks. They might not actually think about continuing to drive to Fargo, but they will remember the filth and they will tell their neighbors, thus possibly affecting a follow on visit to the area.

Another one that needs some help is the entrance/exit from I-29 by Simonson's. The weeds growing in the cracks and the amount of litter is sad, sad.

I don't think that cleaning up bushes and spraying for weeds is a 'purposeless tourism attraction'. It is for the benefit of city dwellers too. If we can clean this up, then maybe some of the 'Pride of Ownership' can spill over into some folks' personal areas they live in.

The Greenway is a beautiful addition to our towns and I know many of the people who work hard to make it so. But the lack of manpower to mow the entrances and exits to the interstate should not be the excuse: even if they did these areas once a month,would that make a difference? I would hope so.

At one time, weren't bushes donated by some group to be planted in the grass areas of the 32nd Ave Exits? Who donated them and what was their expectation for follow on maintenance?