Grand Forks is poised to officially donate $1.73 million worth of land toward school and business leaders’ efforts to build a career and technical education center.

City Council members on Monday preliminarily approved a plan to donate a $591,000 parcel of land near the intersection of Gateway Drive and I-29 to a Career Impact Academy, a facility that would offer high school students in the region a place to try out different careers and training before they graduate from high school, as well as offering training for adult learners. Grand Forks’ Jobs Development Authority, an economic development arm of the city that’s comprised of council members, is set to consider donating a second, adjacent lot worth $1.14 million. Council members are set to vote definitively on both donations on Monday, Nov. 1.

Of the academy’s estimated $20 million price tag, $10 million would be paid for by a state grant, and the remainder would come from donors like the city and regional businesses. Keith Lund, who heads the Greater Grand Forks Regional Economic Development Corporation, which has been leading the charge for the academy, said staff there have secured about $5.5 million worth of that $10 million goal. Even though it’s still technically up in the air, the city’s donation is part of that figure, Lund told council members. The proposed land donation has been part of various conversations and news reports about the academy in recent weeks.

The development corporation has asked for another $2.5 million worth of further donations, he said. If that money comes through, that would put the project at about $8 million of the $10 million it needs to secure the $10 million state grant. The application for the grant is set to be first considered by Grand Forks Public Schools board members on Nov. 8 and again on Nov. 22.

The fundraising needs to be completed by Nov. 15, Lund said.

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Alongside the land donations is $440,000 the city is set to spend to demolish the former Grand Forks Inn & Suites to make room for the academy. That figure, though, is not included in academy planners’ fundraising goal.

Public art, Lyon's garage redevelopment, property purchases

The meeting on Monday was technically of the city’s Committee of the Whole, which gives preliminary consideration to city business and decides whether to forward it – or not – to the council proper for a formal vote at a future meeting, typically set for the following week. It means council members’ vote on the donation was tentative.

In related news, council members, acting as the committee, tentatively:

  • Approved a pair of funding requests from the Public Arts Commission: $50,000 this year for a marketing campaign and to create a register of public art pieces, plus a further $60,000 each year to manage and maintain public art galleries. Council members Bret Weber and Katie Dachtler both wondered how much – if any – of that money would go to Grand Forks-area artists. The council agreed unanimously on the one-time $50,000 and 4-1 on the annual $60,000. Dachtler was the single opposing vote.

  • Approved a development agreement with Northridge Accommodations, a development firm that plans to remake the former Lyon’s Auto garage across North Fourth Street from Grand Forks City Hall. Developers plan to construct a six-story “mixed use” building that would consist of 90 to 100 underground parking spaces, spots for first-floor restaurants, offices, and so on, plus five additional floors for 110-120 market rate apartments.

    Beyond reconstructing the building that’s already there, the project would rebuild the alley behind it and take over a parking lot on the easternmost end of the block that the city purchased as part of a 2018 deal to buy the Herald’s office building. Under the agreement, the city would swap the parking lot for an empty lot of similar size that Northridge owns across South Fifth Street from the Grand Forks Police Department’s downtown headquarters.
  • Approved, by a separate vote, a plan to pay a pair of property owners a combined $622,000 for their residential lots that sit across University Avenue from the Lyon’s site. The city plans to demolish those buildings to make room for more parking to compensate for the loss of the parking lot on the other side of the development and, perhaps, rent those spots out to tenants at the Lyon’s development or, ultimately, turn that site into a similar mixed-use project once Lyon’s is complete.

    City staff said the price the city is paying per square foot of both properties is about the same as that paid for similar lots in the neighborhood. But it still seemingly means a significant profit for at least one of those property owners: Grand Forks County property records indicate that David Schott purchased the lot at 306 N. Fourth Street for $125,000 in September 2020. A letter Schott sent to city staff claims he put a further $128,000 worth of work into the property since then. The city is poised to buy it for $372,000.

    The other lot sits at 320 University Ave., and the city is set to pay $250,000 for it. County staff weren’t able to find a recent sale price for that lot.

    City Administrator Todd Feland said the city is buying both properties for the going rate in that area, and that the city considers them a longer-term investment.

    “Properties are only going to get more valuable, especially after Lyon’s gets developed,” Feland said.