Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A grand plan for the Alerus

The Alerus Center's new director, Steve Hyman, seems to be a man with a vision. According to Tu-Uyen Tran's great article, Hyman presented a plan today to Alerus Center Commission members. The plan outlines numerous improvements to the Alerus facility over the next 20 years...improvements totaling more than $30 million.

$30 million more for the Alerus Center? What are all those Alerus-naysayers going to say about this? While $30 million may sound like a lot of money, readers should understand that the money would come from a capital improvement fund that has to be spent on improvements to the Alerus Center. This new spending will not require any new taxes...the funding source is already in place.

I, for one, am very excited that the Alerus Center finally seems to have a leader with a plan. Hyman appears to be proactive and has drawn up a plan which, forecasting the future of the center out to 2030, could potentially go beyond Hyman's time at the facility. Too often, a public facility is built and then the investment basically ends then and there. The facility slowly becomes outdated and unusable. This seems to be something that we have experienced many times over the years. The Civic Auditorium was never truly upgraded and it now sits virtually empty and may be destined for the wrecking ball. The GFK terminal has become a dinosaur and has limited Grand Forks' potential in some ways. I'm glad to see that the city's biggest public building project ever now has a leader that seems determined to not let the Alerus Center slip into the irrelevancy that such projects often seem doomed to face.

What do you think about Hyman's plans? What improvements do you want to see at the Alerus Center over the next five years? Twenty years? We only saw a brief glimpse of Hyman's powerpoint on WDAZ today...perhaps someone (Tu-Uyen?) could provide us with that powerpoint so we can see the plans?

Friday, January 23, 2009

GF Applebee's closing?

I've been hearing an interesting rumor lately that: the Grand Forks Applebee's will be closing. I have to say that I would be shocked if this rumor turns out to be true. It would be odd for one of the biggest restaurant chains in the country to not have a location in Grand Forks. The rumor has the East Grand Forks Applebee's location staying open. Has anyone else heard anything about this rumor? Are there other rumors out there about any other Grand Forks-East Grand Forks businesses that might be thinking about closing?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Grand Forks' new Christmas decorations

This past holiday season debuted the city of Grand Forks' new Christmas decorations.  Gone are the days of the tattered old "Christmas bell" lights that used to decorate the city's thoroughfares.  The tinsel-wrapped bells with countless burnt-out light bulbs have been replaced with new LED snowflakes in a bluish-white color.  LED lights were also used on trees throughout the city and in the downtown area.

So, now that the holiday season has drawn to a close, I'm interested to hear what people think of the decorations.  The decorations are still up around the city in case you haven't had a chance to see them.  Actually, that was part of the reason to switch over from an exclusively Christmas theme to a more "winterish" (and non-denominational) snowflake theme...they can be kept up throughout the winter months if desired.

It's interesting to note that, while the city's old program used to include decorations along multiple major streets throughout the city, the new program essentially limits streetlight decorations to the downtown area and along Washington Street and DeMers Avenue.  Perhaps the city will look at expanding into other areas in coming years. I do like that the city has decorated multiple trees throughout town.  There are lights on trees along both North and South Washington and in a couple of spots on Columbia Road.

I have to say that I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with LED Christmas lights.  I still appreciate the warmth and glow of "old fashioned" lights over the rather cold look of LED lights.  Also, the city appears to have come across some rather weak LED lights.  I was under the impression that LEDs are usually brighter than traditional lighting.  That appears to be the case with the lights used in the snowflake displays on the city streetlights...they look very bright  However, what's wrong with the light strands used downtown?  The lights on the downtown rooflines and on the trees lining Kittson Avenue/the railroad are exceptionally dim.  In fact, I had to actually point out that the city still had lights on the rooflines to a friend...she hadn't even noticed them on first glance.  The LEDs used downtown are so dim that they are hardily even worth the effort of putting up...the city made a bad purchase in my opinion. I'm also not entirely sure what I think about wrapping those LED rope-lights around the streetlight lampposts on Washington and DeMers.  In a way it looks cool and in a way it looks a little amatuerish.  What do you think?

I'm excited to hear what you have to say about the city's new lighting program.  Was it worth it?  What would you change for next year?

(Image - Pinkdream Photography)

Open Thread #101

The first open thread of 2009.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Columbia Mall comings and goings

The new year has brought a handful of comings and goings at Grand Forks' Columbia Mall.

Certainly the most high-profile change at the mall is the closure of the Royal Fork Buffet. The restaurant had been a fixture in the mall since the early 1980s and, until Sears set up shop at Columbia Mall a few years back, the Royal Fork had functioned as an anchor of sorts for the mall's north corridor. The opening of the Golden Corral Buffet a couple of years ago seems to have had a negative impact on the Royal Fork's bottom line. Since their new competition opened, the Royal Fork both raised their prices and started charging for beverages. In hindsight, I wonder if essentially charging their patrons more was the wisest way to respond to increased competition. Regardless, the Royal Fork was the site of countless family occasions over the years for our family and I will miss it.

While the space formerly occupied by the Royal Fork doesn't appear to have a new tenant as of yet, another restaurant that recently left the mall was quickly replaced with a new one. The Great American Cookies/TCBY in the mall's Dakota Cafe Food Court recently closed. However, the space didn't stay empty for long and a restaurant named Forks and Spoons took over the location. Forks and Spoons serves BBQs, soups, salads, Sloppy Joes and soft-serve ice cream.

Also, Scott's Music is moving out of their location close to the mall's Center Court and into a larger space in the Sears Wing. Scott's is taking over the spot formerly occupied by the Shirt Connection.

What changes would you like to see come to the mall in 2009? Given the current economy, do you think the previously discussed remodeling/expansion plans at Columbia Mall have been put off for the time being?

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Ryan Schuster's new blog

Ryan Schuster, former business reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, has moved over to another Forum Communications publication, Prairie Business magazine. Ryan is the new editor of the magazine and has a new blog, Prairie Pulse, covering regional business news and trends. Check it out!