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Korrie Wenzel
Korrie Wenzel

‘Destination Corridor’ could be game-changer for Grand Forks

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opinion Grand Forks, 58203

Grand Forks North Dakota 375 2nd Ave. N. 58203

An outsider’s view can define a community’s reputation and prestige. On another level, it can influence real dollars through casual visitation, tourism and development.

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So, what does Grand Forks offer the casual passerby?

Hockey, obviously, and other publicized UND events and amenities.

Downtown is great, but many casual visitors may not get that far off the interstate. The Alerus Center is a destination, but not necessarily for the passerby.

There’s Cabela’s, of course, but the local outlet is miles off I-29, a geographic distinction that’s unique for that company.

Great amenities all, but again, are they obvious and easy for all guests?

This is why the proposal to construct a “Destination Corridor” along the city’s western side is so intriguing. Grand Forks is a great place, but it’s a community that gets as much negative attention for its weather than regionwide praise for its arts, entertainment, public facilities, shopping experiences and community beauty.

Take no offense. Other communities face similar problems and Mitchell, S.D. — where I last lived — is no different. There, the Corn Palace greets 200,000 visitors a year. It is stately and revered, and it pays homage to the region’s agrarian successes and possibilities. It is rich in history and pleasing to the eye.

But its brightly colored domes are just out of sight to the thousands of vehicles that zip by on Interstate 90 each day, and that’s unfortunate.

The Corn Palace is the punch line to a few jokes, spread by people who really don’t understand its significance and its role as the centerpiece of the city’s tourism economy. People there grow tired of those jabs. The same probably goes for jokes about Grand Forks and the weather. And Fargo and the movie.

It’s not that Grand Forks needs a great change, but imagine a gathering place for festivals and the arts — one that can be seen from I-29, and one that would add a new ribbon to Grand Forks’ reputation.

The proposal is progress incarnate, and it could have a great and immediate impact on the city’s I-29 shopping and visitor industry. It also could draw people here and point them toward other destinations deeper in town.

Too, it’s difficult to put a price tag on its quality-of-life potential for those who already live here.

Best yet, it would spruce up 42nd Street, which isn’t terribly clean and doesn’t even have sidewalks. In its present state, 42nd is not a great welcome mat to western Grand Forks, but its potential is off the charts.

Meanwhile, questions remain. The Herald has reported on the project, and opined on its behalf. The questions that still are to come will have to address true cost and where that money will come from. Return-on-investment is a legitimate concern, and perhaps reason enough to quash the proposal.

Some will see it as foolhardy and useless. Before long, those people will find each other and speak up. When that happens, the Herald will report on it, since it’s likely to be a great debate.

Until then, it’s healthy to lean forward and consider progressive and exciting ideas.

And mostly, it’s healthy to dream big — not just for the sake of dreaming, but for the sake of lasting civic improvement and community pride. 

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