Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland doesn’t normally describe city business as “fun” -- but that’s how he described a new city-organized initiative.

The Community Vibrancy Initiative, which starts this month, is aimed at improving three areas: the relationship between the city and UND, local arts and events and downtown development.

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“It should be fun,” Feland said. “It should be about making this place better. We’re already a terrific community, let’s get it to the next level.”

The city is forming temporary committees to address each of the three focus areas, with the downtown development and arts and events committees beginning to meet this month.

The city/UND relations committee will start meeting in April or May, after the state legislative session ends, Feland said.

Each committee will result in a set of recommendations for improvement, said Meredith Richards, deputy director of city Planning and Community Development. The committees are made up of private citizens, including representatives of local businesses and organizations.

A City Council member also sits on each committee.

“The city is getting the right people together ... (but) this is very much a community initiative,” Richards said. “These groups will make it what they make it.”

She expects their work will be complete “in several months,” but it’s difficult to set a timeline, she said.

UND/city relations

With the UND/city relations committee, Richards and Feland said they expect recommendations on all aspects of UND’s presence in the community.

A replacement for Springfest, an event aimed at UND students canceled this year due to concerns of excessive alcohol use, could be discussed as a potential partnership between the city and UND, Feland said.

Other issues will likely include getting more UND graduates into local jobs and getting students to leave campus for entertainment options more often.

A “destination corridor” along University Avenue between UND’s campus and downtown is another possibility, he said.

“We want students to feel like residents and not just students,” Richards said.

Lori Reesor, UND vice president of student affairs, will serve on the committee, which she said will likely look at how UND markets itself within the city and vice versa.

Reesor said one priority is making it easier for people to recognize UND’s presence in Grand Forks as soon as they drive through town, before hitting campus.

So far, the city has identified two UND/city committee members: Reesor and City Council member Crystal Schneider.

Downtown and art

The downtown development committee is aimed at improving downtown Grand Forks, including creating a “physical vision” for the future of downtown, according to a city plan for the community initiative. The physical layout of downtown has not been addressed since reconstruction after the 1997 Red River flood.

This committee would not replace the Grand Forks Downtown Development Association, but may make recommendations for changes to the DDA.

Similarly, the arts committee may make recommendations for some of the community’s local arts organizations, Feland said.

Part of the arts committee’s work will likely include making recommendations on streamlining resources between Grand Forks’ many arts organizations, including the Public Arts Commission and North Valley Arts Council, he said.

Jonathan Holth, president of the DDA board of directors, and Jim Galloway, of JLG Architects and Grand Forks area Chamber, will co-chair the downtown committee.

Shawn Gaddie, of AE2S engineering consultants, and Julie Rygg, executive director of the Grand Forks Convention and Visitors Bureau, will co-chair the arts and events committee.

While the three committees are separate, all are grouped in a single initiative because each aims at improving Grand Forks, Feland said.

“We want to create more impact with what we’re doing,” he said. “Really, this is about getting the community to the next step.”