A few months ago, I introduced my idea (pipedream?) of redeveloping the BNSF railyards in the center of Grand Forks. I really do see this as sort of Grand Forks' manifest destiny. If we could somehow reroute the railroad outside of the present city limits, we would have a vast swath of land located directly between UND and the downtown area. Think of just how Grand Forks could be transformed if we could develop a new mixed-use neighborhood right in the heart if the city.
Incredibly ambitious? For sure. A project of such a scale that much larger cities would cringe at the costs and work involved? Probably. Impossible? Never. The nation's economy may have soured and the local economy - a bright spot in the country - may not be what it was a year or two ago, but times will eventually change. Why not start planning now for an ambitious future that could be on our doorstep. For that matter, I'm not entirely sure that the current economic conditions would be entirely prohibitive for a project like this. Money will soon be flowing out of Washington for projects not so different than this. Could this current stimulus bill or a future outlay of federal funds play a role in a railyard redevelopment project for Grand Forks? You never know.
After all, a project like I'm talking about would put many people to work for many, many years. Of course there are almost insurmountable obstacles in the way of such a total redevelopment of the railyards. Rerouting the rails would probably cost tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars. Then there would be many properties that would need to be acquired. Also, an extensive network of streets and utilities would have to be put in place. Look at the possible street network that I've come up with...
A street system like that (three or four miles in total) would cost a small fortune. In all, I think my previous "$100 million dollar" talk was a little short-sighted. We're probably talking several times that. Of course, not all of this would have to be done in one big swoop of construction. The railyards would have to be rerouted and the existing rails would have to be removed before new construction could take place, but the street system could be built gradually over time.
Also, we're not talking about one entity hear. I'm talking about a group of parties including the city, the county, the state, UND, BNSF, the federal government, local developers, banks, private investors, and who knows who else. In fact, the biggest obstacle probably wouldn't be the cost...I think it would be the years of work it could take to bring all of the parties together and get them to work for the same outcome.
In a future post, I'll show you just how I would divide up all that land. Let me know what you think about my ideas (and the realities) of how Grand Forks might go about redeveloping the BNSF railyards.