Preliminary plans for revitalizing and remaking the downtown areas of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks into a more cohesive and vibrant city center continued to evolve Wednesday during public input and design sessions with downtown leaders and planners, the GF/EGF metropolitan planning organization, consultants and the public.
None of the plans have been finalized or are official yet, but ideas refined on Wednesday included adding a scaled-down grocery store and pharmacy for those living downtown, putting a boutique hotel in the St. John’s Block or Griffith building downtown at North Third Street and DeMers Avenue, building a bicycle and pedestrian bridge over the Red River replacing a bridge that was torn down after the 1997 flood (its support still stands next to the Sorlie bridge). Other concepts included adding row houses, stacked flat apartments, townhomes and mixed-use residential and commercial renovations or new buildings in each city. Some of the ideas included tearing down the Civic Auditorium site and adding a grocery store and apartments to the area as part of a large re-use of the area and several nearby empty lots.
Other ideas included increased streetscaping and green areas along University Avenue, better connecting UND to downtown and a similar plan for between North Third Street and North Fourth Street and Gateway Drive, eliminating one-ways and making them into tree-lined two-way thoroughfares with better bike access, tying downtown streets into the Greenway. A coordinating downtown agency responsible for recruiting and retaining businesses, branding and marketing, enhanced security, event coordination (but not planning the actual events), managing parking and maintaining public areas. The process will continue with a more fleshed-out preliminary plan drafted, which will then go to each city’s city council and would require each city to update their comprehensive city plans, which could happen by early 2009.
Here are some additional recommendations and findings from an August report prepared by Minneapolis-based consultant Maxfield Research Inc.:
– Add an approximately 40,000-50,000-square-foot grocery/pharmacy complex with additional dedicated parking after additional housing units are added, creating enough demand
– Tear down the Civic Auditorium and re-use the real estate for another project because re-using the facility would be inefficient
– Downtown area is also lacking garbage containers, unique draws, a deli, more retail shops and specialty and niche stores, more restaurants, more entertainment options, a post office, more bike racks, more police and foot patrols, need to get visitors to use parking ramps more (deal with perceived, not actual, parking shortage)
– Over the next 12 years downtown can support up to 98,000 square feet of additional goods and services retail and 41,000 square feet of more destination and specialty goods and services retail space through 2020. No new office space is needed, but existing stock of 102,000-106,000 vacant square feet should be filled or redeveloped. Demand over next 12 years can support up to 95 for-sale multi-family housing units, 223 rental units and 49 for sale/79 market rate senior housing units.
– The Griffith building could be reused for a boutique hotel, residential or office use, but a significant amount of window space would need to be added to the building
What do you think of the updated/preliminary ideas for remaking downtown Grand Forks/East Grand Forks? Do you think the plans will actually happen? Of the different options, which ones are you the most interested in seeing happen? Are there things discussed that you think wouldn’t work?