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Apartment building pitched for empty lot in East Grand Forks

An empty lot in downtown East Grand Forks has attracted the attention of a local developer who is pitching the construction of an apartment building in the space.

Craig Tweten of Community Contractors Inc. brought another proposal to the city earlier this year for a empty city-owned lot at the corner of DeMers Avenue and Fourth Street Northwest, but his focus has shifted to a lot just to the south at the corner of Third Avenue Northwest and Fourth Street.

Tweten envisions a $4.5 million building in the space, with 35 upscale units, underground parking and some first-floor commercial space.

"Once people walk in, they'll want to move in here," he told the City Council on Tuesday.

Tweten's previous apartment building pitch came in May in the midst of council discussions on whether the city should pave the lot at the corner of DeMers and Fourth Street.

That lot also has received interest from the nearby Veterans of Foreign Wars post, so Tweten said he wanted to help the community and develop the lot to the south instead.

Council member Clarence Vetter said he had heard from community members that there is concern that more apartments downtown would oversaturate the area and in turn end up as low-income housing. As proposed, Tweten said this building would include high-end finishes and isn't intended for use as low-income housing.

There would be challenges to constructing a building on the lot, Water and Light General Manager Dan Boyce told council members.

During past construction projects, city utility lines were relocated to run under the lot and would need to be adjusted to accommodate the underground parking.

"We'll need some time to get that moved," Boyce said. "We're running out of places to put things when you're building right up to the lot lines."

He added the utilities can be moved but preparations should begin as soon as possible.

With the inquiry received, the City Council and the city's Economic Development Authority Board will move forward with the process of appraising the lot and then move into negotiating prices and potential tax incentives. A public hearing on the sale also is required as part of the process of selling a city lot.

If the city agrees to sell the lot, which a county tax report shows has an estimated market value of $45,000, then construction on the apartments would likely begin next year and wrap up in the fall.