The Townhouse Hotel, long the site of poolside birthday parties and mini-golf, has closed, and the building will be demolished to make way for a mixed-use development.
The hotel, at 710 First Ave. N., closed on Oct. 1. An auction was held the following week by Pifer’s Auction and Realty that cleared out most of the hotel and restaurant equipment there. Bar and restaurant Muddy Rivers, which leased space in the building, closed suddenly in late July. The building will be torn down by spring, and its owners are expected to appear before the Grand Forks City Council next month to make an application for tax incentives for the new development.
“We would have kept it; I mean we've kept it for a couple years as a hotel, but this COVID has pretty much put the final nail in that deal,” said Todd Nedberg, who owns the property under the name Heartland Exchange.
Nedberg is the property’s most recent owner. He purchased it from local businessmen Kevin Ritterman and Craig Tweten in November 2018, for just over $1.8 million. Ritterman is the CEO of Grand Forks-based real estate company Dakota Commercial, and Tweten founded construction management and general contracting business, Community Contractors Inc.
Nedberg told the Herald he was born in Grand Forks, but grew up in Brainerd, Minnesota. He lives in Minneapolis, but used to stay at the Townhouse when he came to Grand Forks for his real estate business. Nedberg bought the former Simonson’s Lumber Yard, which is now the location of the Lumber Exchange apartments, and he has other developments in Fargo as well.
Built in 1975, the Townhouse has gone through a number of iterations over the years, including GuestHouse Townhouse, then later the Red Roof Inn. County property records indicate the property has changed hands 10 times since 1995.
When reached by phone on Tuesday, Oct. 6, Nedberg said the new development will likely be apartments, though he stressed plans for the location have yet to be finalized. Ritterman, in an Oct. 8 phone call, said much the same, though he referred to those plans as a mixed-use development, meaning a combination of residential and commercial space will likely occupy the lot.
“It will be good for the community as a whole,” Ritterman told the Herald.
Erika Stanley, COO and marketing director for Pifer’s Auction and Realty, told the Herald the auction, which closed on Oct. 8, went “awesome, really well.”
“People are coming to pick stuff up right now, but everything is sold for the most part,” she said.
Stanley said items and equipment “top to bottom” were up for sale, and people could bid on the entire contents of individual rooms, showers, toilets and fixtures included -- except for the mattresses, which can’t be re-sold under state law. The bidders, Stanley said, were mostly other hotel, resort and restaurant owners. Pifer’s even sold individual flags from the hotel’s mini golf course, as mementos for those who have fond memories there.
The Townhouse lot is located in Grand Forks’ downtown Renaissance Zone, which means a future development there is eligible for state income tax breaks and local property tax breaks for up to five years, even if the new building’s valuation is higher than the old one. “Ren Zones” were created by the state Legislature in 1999 to encourage re-development of select areas.
According to Nedberg, if it weren’t for the pandemic the Townhouse Hotel and Muddy Rivers would still be fixtures of Grand Forks’ downtown. Still, he believes the lot has potential for future re-development.
“At some point, it's just a big piece of land and a great location,” he said.