Grand Forks Event Center commission recommends land purchase
The Grand Forks Event Center Commission recommended Wednesday that the city buy three lots south of the Alerus Center at a total cost of $3 million.
The lots are: Lot 10, south of a lot already owned by the city, for about $1.4 million; Lot 7, adjacent to Alerus Center land for $485,000; and Lot 9, across from Lot 10, for about $1 million.
The commission debated whether to recommend purchasing Lot 9, partly because it is separated from Lot 7 by another parcel, which the event center is not in negotiations to purchase. The commission's recommendation to City Council was made in two parts, with the commissioners unanimously recommending purchase of Lots 7 and 10 and Commissioners Dwight Thompson and Duane Hafner opposing purchase of Lot 9.
City Attorney Howard Swanson, who has been directly negotiating with the landowners, said the land purchase negotiations are not contingent on buying all three lots together.
All three lots are jointly owned by a group of four landowners, according to Grand Forks County records.
The commission's recommendation is scheduled go to the City Council's Finance/Development Committee next week and the City Council Feb. 3, Swanson said. The final decisions are up to the council.
The landowners told Swanson there are other buyers interested in Lots 7 and 9, which is why there's a narrow timeline for the land purchase, he said.
The deadline to close the deal on Lot 7 is Feb. 14. That lot is 1.59 acres at about $7 per square foot, Swanson said.
Lot 10 is 5.51 acres, costing about $6 per square foot, and Lot 9 is 3.47 acres at about $7 per square foot. A down payment must be paid on or before Feb. 14 to secure the purchase of those lots, Swanson said. Final balances would be due Jan. 10, 2015, he said.
The prices per square foot of all three lots are competitive with what any buyer would get for land along the 42nd Street corridor, Swanson said.
Some commissioners were concerned about the financial implications of purchasing all three lots, but Maureen Storstad, city director of finance, said that impact would be minimal.
City Council President Hal Gershman, who also sits on the event center commission, and Commissioner John Schmisek both said all three lots would be a good investment for the Alerus Center and its possible future growth.
"I'm in favor of protecting the future of the Alerus Center," Gershman said. He added that the original planners of the Alerus Center would have purchased more land if it had been financially possible at that time. The land purchase now would be "finishing what was not able to be," he said.
There aren't yet any specific plans for how the Alerus Center will use any of these lots, said Cheryl Swanson, executive director of the events center. Schmisek mentioned the possibility that it could be used for parking.
Even though Lot 9 is separated from the rest by Lot 8, Gershman said it would still be a good investment considering the existing interest from other buyers and the city's anticipated growth on 42nd Street.
Thompson said he agrees with planning for the Alerus Center's future growth, but asked, What if that growth involves new technology or something else that the commission isn't even aware of yet?
"It might be hard to turn (Lot 9) into cash when we need it," Thompson said.
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