Monday, February 23, 2009

"State of the City" or "About that Monorail..."

On Monday, Mayor Michael Brown will deliver his most recent installment of the annual "State of the City" address.  Read Tu-Uyen Tran's Herald article here.

Brown usually uses the speech to brag about several accomplishments of the past year and to introduce a couple of new proposals.  I'm very interested to hear more about two of the proposals that Tran hints at in his article.

Both projects seem to involve the Alerus Center and its surroundings.  One proposal is to develop 42nd Street into a "Destination Corridor."  Nothing too new here, but I will be interested to see if Brown has any specific ideas that haven't been brought up before.  This is something that the Alerus Center's new director Steven Hyman is pushing for.  I'll be excited to see what Brown and Hyman can dream up over time.

The other proposal is a "transportation-related project" that would apparently link the Alerus Center to the Ralph Engelstad Arena.  WHAT?  ARE WE TALKING ABOUT THAT MONORAIL?  That would be uber-cool!

Maybe that whole "New Horizons" plan didn't vanish into thin air like I thought it had...

UPDATE - 2/23/2009 - 5:00 PM
In the words of Tu-Uyen, it IS a monorail.  Read the actual 2009 State of the City address here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

B&N's time at UND coming to a close

In a little over a month, Barnes and Noble will no longer be a presence on the UND campus. As of April 1, B&N will relinquish management of the University Bookstore to Follett Higher Education Group. Follett is the nation's largest campus bookstore management company with more than 750 stores under their umbrella.

B&N's 10 year history at UND appears to have been, at times, inconsistent with what the campus and the community have desired in a bookstore like this. Many (including me!) have complained about their limited hours which seem to only get more limited with every passing year. Also, students and professors alike seem to have some very strong feelings about Barnes and Noble.

I think the store is very attractive...few campuses have a nicer looking bookstore. I have also enjoyed shopping in the store's general merchandise section over the years. Still, even that is a bit lacking when you compare it with the titles and selection that a traditional Barnes and Noble would carry.

I still don't believe that the Barnes and Noble group is going to be satisfied with having absolutely no presence in a metropolitan area of around 100,000 people. I see a south-side store coming in the not-to-distant future...what about you?

So what will Follett bring to the UND campus when it arrives this spring? What do YOU want it to bring?

I'm sure many people would like to see longer hours. The closest Follett-managed campus bookstore is at St. Cloud State University. Check out their hours here. The latest they stay open is difference there when compared with B&N's current closing time.

Tell us what you would hope to see at the UND Bookstore come this April. WIll you miss B&N?  Are you excited about Follett?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Where those new railyards could go

So, if we did have millions of dollars just sitting somewhere...or maybe if we were God...where would we reroute those railroad tracks and just where would we put those new railyards? I'm thinking rerouting the lines north of town would be the most logical. Below is a little map I put together showing two possible routes that I came up with. The colored lines are the tracks and the squares show potential sites for the railyards. What do you think?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Open Thread #102

I think we could use a fresh open thread...don't you agree?  What's on your mind?  Hear anything interesting lately?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

More on that railyard redevelopment...

 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.