BRUCE GJOVIG: GF, EGF need ‘arts and entertainment zones’Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are strong family- and youth-friendly communities. We take pride in our schools, parks, programs and activities for family and youth. We has been recognized six times for being a Best Communities for Young People for youth education, safe places, reducing dropout rates and so on.
GRAND FORKS — Grand Forks and East Grand Forks are strong family- and youth-friendly communities. We take pride in our schools, parks, programs and activities for family and youth. We has been recognized six times for being a Best Communities for Young People for youth education, safe places, reducing dropout rates and so on.
We have successfully embraced families and youth.
We’re also a university town with more than 15,200 students at UND and 3,000 at Northland Community and Technical College in East Grand Forks — a significant, vibrant young group that provides much of our part-time workforce and will provide our future talent.
But college students do not feel embraced and unfortunately feel harassed and unwelcome. As students come to advance their careers, thousands have been impacted by aggressive policing that has resulted in noise, alcohol or other violations that can be career killers.
This tragedy happens after they’ve invested tens of thousands of dollars in tuition and housing.
Our community can do better. We can be both a family-friendly town and a university town that is student friendly. There is room for both.
A popular big idea in the EngageTheForks.com community conversation was to create small “arts and entertainment zones” which have distinct zoning and police standards to allow for recreation, outdoor sports, music, theatre, movies, celebrations, entertainment, socialization and other events and activities that can be embraced on evenings, nights and weekends.
There also is a strong interest in having more arts and culture events such as art and wine walks, sidewalk events, Town Square events and so on.
East Grand Forks already has an entertainment zone with “restaurant row,” River Cinema and Cabella’s, which attracts people of all ages. It is a success.
There are four natural neighborhoods that could be concentrated A&E districts: downtown East Grand Forks, downtown Grand Forks, 42nd Street around the Alerus Center and the area north of UND, where many college students live.
This would comprise perhaps 10 percent of our city, a small slice of the community but a vital one for visitors and college students — 25 percent of our community.
There are more than 100 sanctioned entertainment districts in our nation. They usually include a mix of cultural venues such as performing arts centers, art galleries, theatres and museums with nightlife components that include restaurants, bars, hotels, sports, conference, convention facilities, retailers and amusement venues.
Perhaps the most fundamental characteristic — and asset — of A&E zones is the relaxation of the rules, regulations and social conventions that characterize much of the entertainment experience in American cities and suburbs.
The policing is more about public safety and security, making sure participants do not injure themselves and others and that the revelers get home safely. The emphasis is not on heavy-handed enforcement, jail time and expensive fines.
People are not forced indoors. Instead, they’re welcomed in the streets and gathering places outdoors socializing and building community their way.
It may or may not include alcohol, but it is about nightlife and socialization for people who work during the day and who are enjoying the company of friends and colleagues in groups.
Gjovig is entrepreneur coach and CEO of the UND Center for Innovation Foundation. He also is a steering committee member of North Valley/New Vision 360, a regionwide community visioning and engagement project funded by the Knight Foundation and sponsored by the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region, the Chamber and the cities of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.