A Grand Forks developer has plans to build a six-story multiuse building where four historically significant buildings are, between University Avenue and Second Avenue on North Fourth Street downtown.
The buildings-including the Lyons Garage and Auto Supply at 210 and 214 N. Fourth St., and two buildings at 220 and 224 N. Fourth St.-are recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.
As long as developers aren't receiving any public grants from historical organizations like the U.S. Department of the Interior, Grand Forks Historic Preservation Coordinator Jeff Wencl said developer Northridge Construction can make whatever changes it wants, regardless of the register.
The project will occupy Fourth Street from the edge of the Herald parking lot to University Avenue, according to Northridge CEO Jon Miskavige. Northridge has already signed a contract for the properties, which Miskavige said will officially close next spring.
The project and location have been on Northridge's radar for about three years now, Miskavige said, but the company still needs to research financing more before it can commit to an exact plan. At this point he estimated the space will have a value of approximately $22 million to $25 million and include anywhere from 134 to 160 one-bedroom and studio apartment units.
Construction could take about 16 months, Miskavige said. "And in a perfect world, we'd love to say we'll begin construction this summer," Miskavige added. "But we've got a lot of hurdles to overcome."
The company hopes the city and other local government agencies will include the project in downtown tax incentive programs once Northridge starts construction. In order to receive the incentive, Northridge must receive approval from all tax benefiting agencies-the city, Grand Forks County, the school district and the park district. Northridge has said it will request an application from Grand Forks City Council members on Monday.
A long history
Miskavige said he's been meeting with members of the Historic Preservation Commission to ensure his company's work pays attention to the property's historic significance.
The Lyons Auto property has been in the Lyons family for over a century-the garage at 214 N. Fourth St. since 1894 and the adjacent shop since 1912.
The business declined the Herald's request for comment on Wednesday.
"Part of the significance of Lyons is just its unique architectural style," said Historic Preservation Coordinator Wencl, referring to the garage at 214 N. Fourth. "It's a Tudor Revival style, and that was really popular back in the late teens going into the early '30s. So the part you see that's the garage really epitomizes that style, and we don't have that style elsewhere downtown."
The Lyons garage is the only building individually listed on the National Register-the other three buildings being redeveloped are listed for contributing to the downtown historic district.
"And the other thing that is really unique about Lyons is (it's) still in the family about 115 years later," he said, adding much of the building is in original condition. "That is incredible, you never see anything like that."
Northridge hopes to preserve and display some of the original brick structure, Miskavige said, even if it's not a part of the new building. Consultants from the architecture and planning group SNGenium advised Northridge against keeping the original brick structure as part of the building external structure, according to a letter Miskavige shared with the Herald.
The Lyons family is also giving the company an original 1930s Franklin automobile from the shop's early years, Miskavige said. Northridge might even name the new building after some variation of Franklin and Fourth Street, he added.
Wencl confirmed Northridge had been in touch with the commission, and he said the group advocates as much preservation of Lyons as possible.
"Cities go through change," Wencl said. "You know, there's always development and tearing down and building new and there always will be. That's just the development of cities. ... It's a unique landmark, it's very special to the downtown, so it'll be disappointing to see it go away."