Monday, March 31, 2008

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Interest in the Civic Auditorium

Ryan Schuster has an interesting article in Thursday's Herald about potential future uses for the Civic Auditorium property in downtown Grand Forks. He also has a post about this over at his blog.

According to the article, there are two proposals for the property. One would see the building demolished and replaced with an apartment complex. The other would see the building remodeled and put to a new use. The name of the company that would like to buy and renovate the building is not currently being disclosed. However, I have a feeling I might now what company we're talking about here.

According to the agenda for the Growth Fund Committee's March 18 meeting - a meeting which was cancelled and rescheduled for next month - urban development director Greg Hoover states that "Jamie Lunski from HB Sound and Light has expressed an interest in purchasing the auditorium."

Now I'm wondering what a company like that would want with the old Civic Auditorium...any ideas?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Shoppes at Aurora" update

Here's a first look at the new "Shoppes at Aurora" strip mall currently being built on the south side of Grand Forks. The 20,410 square foot mall will be located directly north of the Aurora Medical Park complex and will face South Washington Street.

As far as potential tenants, I've heard that there will likely be some sort of restaurant in the mall. One chain that I have heard mentioned is called Souplantation (Wikipedia article). Anything special you would like to see in this strip mall? Any other rumored tenants that you know of?

Open Thread #72

You guys are filling in these open threads so fast!

Columbia 4 goes to dollar format

As many of you may know, the Columbia 4 movie theater recently went from a first-run format to a discount/second-run format. This means that you can now see a movie in Grand Forks for just one dollar. That's right...literally one dollar.

Personally, I'm excited that Grand Forks once again has a dollar theater. I used to go to the old Plaza Twin discount theater at South Forks Plaza frequently back in the late 1990s. I was disappointed when that theater shut down a few years ago.

I have to admit that it is a little odd to have a discount theater right in the heart of the city's busiest shopping district. It seems like such theaters are usually in older or even blighted neighborhoods. I wonder what Columbia Mall thinks of having a theater like this located on one of their busiest entrances? Is this a sign that Columbia Mall is becoming Grand Forks' next South Forks Plaza? Let's hope not!

Also, the Columbia 4 building and property are clearly in poor shape. The front of the building hasn't seen a fresh coat of paint in years and looks terribly faded. The parking lot and landscaping are also in rough shape. The sign on the south side of the building has read "thea" instead of "theater" for years and years. Let's not even start talking about the inside. Needless to say, Carmike has neglected the building for ages.

Interestingly, Carmike's own business practices are what ultimately forced their formerly first-run theater to become a second-run theater. At least that's how I see it. The corporation's high ticket prices coupled with poorly maintained facilities led to the development of the locally-owned River Cinema 12 in East Grand Forks last year. That theater's success forced Carmike to turn around and convert the Columbia 4 into a discount theater.

Oh well, even if the paint is faded and the interior of the building is depressing, I'm still going to frequent this theater. A dollar doesn't exactly buy very much in 2008, but now it does buy a couple of hours of entertainment and escapism.

What do you think of the Columbia 4's new format? Do you think you'll use this theater more or less now that it has moved to a second-run format? Anyone willing to chip in for a fresh can of paint?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Open Thread #71

New open thread, new topics.

Happy Easter!

Panchero's plans Grand Forks store

Panchero's Mexican Grill, a fast-casual restaurant chain, is planning to open a location in Grand Forks in the near future. Panchero's already has a restaurant in Bismarck and a Fargo location recently opened. Panchero's specializes in fresh-made tortillas.

I'm not sure exactly when this restaurant will open, but I would imagine it would be in the next year or two. Any ideas where the local franchisee could put this new restaurant? Have you ever been to a Panchero's? If so, how would you rank it among the other Mexican fast-casual restaurants such as Qdoba, Moe's, and Chipotle?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

First look at Aurora Hospital

Here's a first look at the new Aurora Hospital currently being built on Grand Forks' south side in the Aurora Medical Park. The building appears to be in the same style as the existing clinic building in the development.

As most of you likely know, the project has experienced several setbacks over the years...most recently a several month long delay in construction. However, it appears as though construction is now fully underway. Just recently, crews started raising the building's walls. I would assume that the building should be open at some point in 2009.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Open Thread #70

I know, I know...another open thread. Well...they never seem to lose their popularity, do they?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Open Thread #69

Today's open thread comments are tomorrow's headlines.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Open Thread #68

Happy Open Thread Day!

Ok, I just made that one up...

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?

Saturday, March 01, 2008

For once, I'm jealous of Minot

Excerpts from a company press release...

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world's largest bookseller, will open a new bookstore on March 12 in Dakota Square Mall at 2400 10th Street S.W., Minot, North Dakota. The store will stock close to 200,000 book, music, DVD and magazine titles and include a cafe serving Starbucks coffee. The new Minot Barnes & Noble will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and noon to 9 p.m. on Sunday, and employ approximately 65 people from the community.

The new store will feature:

-- Large-scale children's departments. Bigger than most typical bookstores and stocking over 15,000 titles in an easy-to-browse environment, "Barnes & Noble Jr." departments are designed to appeal to children, parents, teachers and librarians. Children's story hours will be held twice a week.

-- Advanced technology music-listening and movie-previewing system. The store's music department will feature RedDotNet, the most advanced listening and previewing technology. RedDotNet enables customers to listen to any CD in the store, sampling up to 270,000 music titles by simply passing it under a scanner. Connected to the company's online electronic music catalog, the store's listening stations make "browsing with your ears" a reality. Thanks to the latest technology, RedDotNet stations also allow customers to view a three-minute clip of up to 60,000 DVDs.

-- Giant Newsstand. The store's newsstand stocks over 2,000 titles, including hundreds of hard-to-find specialty magazines and out-of-town newspapers.

-- Wi-Fi Service. AT&T Wi-Fi(SM) service allows customers to use their laptop computers and personal digital assistants anywhere in the store or cafe to communicate online, surf the Internet and connect to corporate networks at speeds 50 to 100 times as fast as a dial-up connection. A single two-hour session costs $3.95, and an annual membership with unlimited access to Barnes & Noble and more than 50,000 AT&T Wi-Fi hot spots is also available.

-- Community Center. The Barnes & Noble store will serve as a local community center, hosting a number of community events throughout the year. They will include author readings and discussions, book clubs, and programs with local literary and cultural organizations. The store will also hold bookfairs, partnering with local schools and other community institutions.