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Midtown Commons opens in former Kmart building in Grand Forks

A handful of businesses are setting up in the new strip mall, but a notable offering is its indoor storage units — a new trend for vacated big-box stores.

Midtown Commons Crary and Haug.jpg
Tom Haug, left, and Adam Crary are shown outside the new Midtown Commons, a development in Grand Forks at the site of the former Kmart building.
Kevin Fee/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS — Standing outside their latest project, Adam Crary and Tom Haug withstood sleet and cold in front of the old Kmart building on South Washington Street while talking to a visitor.

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A view of Lifestyle Storage, a new business inside the former Kmart building on South Washington Street in Grand Forks.
Kevin Fee/Grand Forks Herald

Moments earlier, they made a strong case for something unique to the area – indoor drive-through self-storage.

“You drive in straight through the building,” Crary said. “You park your trailer or truck, whatever it is. We have carts and you can take all your stuff to your unit and never be outside.”

The 386 storage units are inside Lifestyle Storage, one of the businesses leasing space in the new Midtown Commons strip mall. Some of the businesses are open, while others are under construction or awaiting tenants.

The Midtown project — at 1900 S. Washington in Grand Forks — is a partnership between the Crary and Haug families. The Crarys own Crary Realty and the Haugs own storage units in the region. The group has a storage facility in the former Kmart in Devils Lake as well.

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With a new, well-designed storefront and individual business entrances, Midtown is a big upgrade from the old Kmart.

“We bought the building from Hope Church back in 2020 for $2 million,” Crary said. “At that time Kmart still had term left on their lease. We had to keep Kmart as a tenant until their lease expired so we could start the redevelopment.”

Lifestyle Storage is off to a good start. After the company put a note on Facebook about the facility, six different parties walked in the next day. Four units were purchased.

The Lifestyle units range from 5x5 to 12x30 feet.

“We had seen the other facilities with the drive-through self-storage around the country, but it hadn't really happened around here,” Crary said. “And with our climate, we thought it would be a good spot for it.”

Here is a look at other tenants so far at Midtown:

  • Rydell Toy Shop (not open for tours yet): The Rydell Top Shop, with 15,000 square feet, consists of a large showroom and workspace for hot rod cars. The site showcases Rydell’s beauties in the front of the house. In the back portion of the bay, workers reassemble and remanufacture the business’ next fleet of hot rods. The Toy Shop was formerly located next to Rydell Chevrolet on South Washington.
  • Grace Academy (open): Grace Academy is a 2,600-square-foot cheerleading studio, where youth ages 1-17 are professionally coached and trained. In addition to having the opportunity to compete regionally in cheer events, tumbling, acrobatics and dance are offered.
  • Hometown Auto: Hometown Auto is a longstanding Grand Forks automobile repair business that occupies 2,500 square feet.
  • Midtown Marketplace (opening soon): Midtown Marketplace, with 4,800 square feet, is a community-style small business market. A variety of vendors offering everything from clothing and jewelry to treats will be in the collaborative locally based market. With more than 30 vendors, the business will provide a unique shopping experience.

Two bays remain open for lease at Midtown Commons (6,900 square feet, 2,600 square feet). The bays are on the redeveloped storefront facing South Washington Street.
“We felt the location and potential of the property was very attractive,” Crary said. “We’ve seen a national trend converting empty big-box retail spaces to self-storage facilities and thought the Grand Forks Kmart would be an ideal location. We leaned heavy on the storage expertise of our partners (the Haugs) to lay out the project.

“Due to the building's location and the city's vision for redevelopment of the Midtown area, we also wanted to incorporate retail into the project. We worked with architects to design a new storefront for the building and ultimately put an entirely new face on the buildings.”

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More business
The grand opening celebration, which will have special offers for customers, will be held Friday, Dec. 9, with a ribbon cutting ceremony set to be held at 10 a.m.

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