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Multiple street projects and private developments create maze downtown, but complaints hard to come by

At least five development projects are ongoing this summer in downtown Grand Forks, including a number of street construction projects

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Construction continues on the new Olive Ann boutique hotel as well as new streets and sidewalks in downtown Grand Forks Thursday, August 11, 2022.
Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
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GRAND FORKS – Despite a number of public and private construction projects that are creating bottlenecks and detours on downtown streets, Joe Schneider, the co-owner of Joe Black’s Bar and Grill and the Hub Pub, said there hasn’t been any major inconvenience for his businesses.

“Construction is always inconvenient for everyone, whether it's business or on the interstate going to the lake or whatever,” Schneider said. “We’re getting through it really good. When the weather's nice, people are more apt to deal with the inconvenience.”

“People love being downtown and there’s a lot of activities,” Schneider said.

The Herald approached several people downtown on a recent afternoon, and they generally said the same — they don't mind it.

At least five development projects are ongoing this summer in downtown Grand Forks, including a number of street construction projects. City leaders – including City Administrator Todd Feland and Chamber of Commerce CEO Barry Wilfahrt – say they haven’t heard much complaining.

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“I have not heard a single complaint about the construction because I think everyone knows our downtown is in a renaissance period and we’re all eagerly anticipating what our downtown is going to be in two or three years,” Wilfahrt said. “Our downtown will be something we can really be proud of, on both sides of the river.”

Feland said people have been patient with the various projects.

“Even though it’s been an inconvenience, people have been positive about all the construction activity going on downtown," Feland said.

Although construction can cause a hassle for commuting, Feland said the benefits of redevelopment in the area will create more business activity throughout the community, increase property values and boost job growth and workforce development.

“There is some pain with growth and development with construction,” Feland said. “But I think once these several projects get done, it's also going to build upon further investments in our downtown because we have so much investment going on. I think that people should know this is just going to build more and more investments in our future of our downtown and and throughout our community.”

Wilfahrt said he sees the current work as proof of what the city is able to accomplish.

“It’s phenomenal what this community can do when it puts its mind to something and really works together to move it forward,” Wilfahrt said.

The amount of investment going on in the downtown area right now is historic, according to Feland. Yes, there was obvious development after the Flood of 1997, but the past decade hasn't been nearly as busy.

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“I would say the most recent development in our downtown was really promoted and spurred by Governor (Doug) Burgum and his Main Street Policy initiative,” Feland said. “That focused our energy on going to the next level with our downtown development.”

While DeMers Avenue and North Third Street were revamped in previous years, Feland said this year the focus is on North Fourth Street. Some of the notable projects going on in that portion of downtown include Franklin at Fourth located on North Fourth Street across from City Hall, the Technology Accelerator located in the Herald building and the Olive Ann boutique hotel and event center located on the corner of North Fourth Street and DeMers Avenue.

A section of North Fourth Street from Second Avenue North to DeMers Avenue is also blocked off for road work. Feland said the push is to get that street back open before the start of school.

Feland said the next major downtown project for the city is redeveloping the former water treatment plant on downtown's southern end.

Following is a list of some of the projects that are underway downtown.

The Beacon
The Beacon project located off of DeMers Avenue.
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

The Beacon by EPIC

Location: DeMers Avenue, near the railroad overpass.

Public or private: Private

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Construction began: Late 2021

Completion date: The first building is anticipated to be complete by the middle of next year, but McKenzy Braaten, vice president of communications for EPIC Companies, said a set date for the completion of the plaza and rest of project is still being determined as the project continues moving along.

Cost: Around $60+ million

Project notes: The Beacon, developed by EPIC Companies, will feature three buildings, a 40,000-square-foot outdoor plaza, public parking and an event space. It will be able to host markets, trade shows, theater shows, movie nights, children’s events, hockey and other sporting events, art shows and more. The three buildings will be mixed-use and consist of apartments, condos and commercial spaces. The square footage spanning between all the buildings will roughly be 60,000 square feet.

Olive Ann.JPG
The Olive Ann boutique hotel and event center project located off of DeMers Avenue
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

Olive Ann boutique hotel and event center

Location: North Fourth Street and DeMers Avenue

Public or Private: Private

Construction began: Groundbreaking occurred at the end of May.

Completion date: Anticipated completion is September of 2023.

Cost: Approximately $20 million.

Project notes: The scope of work on the project includes remodeling of the current Edgewood Corporate Plaza. Remodeling plans include the Cloud 9 Event Center, which is currently completed and operational. The rest of the remodeling will be done in conjunction with the new hotel tower, which will be built next door. Developer Phil Gisi, CEO of Edgewood Healthcare, has said the theme of the boutique hotel will be centered around aviation.

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The Franklin on Fourth project located across the street from City Hall
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

Franklin on Fourth

Location: North Fourth Street and University Avenue.

Public or Private: Private

Construction began: February

Completion date: Uncertain.

Cost: Uncertain.

Project Notes: The six-story, mixed-use development will offer underground parking containing a total of 94 parking stalls including handicap parking, a four-season patio and around 122 apartments, ranging from studios to three bedrooms. Other amenities for the tenants include a dog park on the sixth floor, club rooms and additional outdoor patios. On the first floor, a mix of commercial, retail and restaurant space will be available, including along the back of the building off of the alleyway.

Herald building.JPG
Work being done in the Herald building for the Technology Accelerator
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

Technology Accelerator

Location: Corner of North Fourth Street and Second Avenue North.

Public or Private: Public.

Construction began: Mid-March.

Completion date: The project is anticipated to be completed by late fall.

Cost: Budgeted for $3 million.

Project notes: The technology accelerator will include conference rooms, a multipurpose use space, a boardroom, several work areas and office and tenant suites with the purpose to attract tech companies to the region to diversify the economy. While the project was budgeted at $3 million — to include architecture and engineering fees, furnishings, equipment and other various costs — the project came in below the estimated cost, with contract awards totaling $1,464,518. It means more amenities have been added to the project, including enhancements to the HVAC system, work to the second floor bathrooms, and audio and visual enhancements.

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The St. John's Block project located off of DeMers Avenue
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

St. John’s Block

Location: North Third Street and DeMers Avenue.

Public or Private: Private.

Project notes: Plans entail revamping the apartment and business tower across DeMers Avenue from Town Square along with an adjacent commercial building immediately east of it. Commercial space will be available at street level and apartments or condos will be above. Although work appears to be going on indoors only, some large equipment has been on the street in recent days, with traffic cones placed around it.

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Work being done on the stairs outside of Central High School
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

Central High School exterior work

Location: North Fourth Street and First Avenue.

Public or Private: Public.

Construction began: Mid-June.

Completion date: The plan is to have it completed by the start of the school year, which is Aug. 24.

Cost: $263,000.

Project notes: Brandon Baumbach, the business manager with Grand Forks Public Schools, said work was done on the north, south and east stairs outside on the original portion of the building. Along with stairs being replaced, Baumbach said work has been done inside as well, including general maintenance projects.

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Road work on North Fourth Street near city hall
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

North Fourth Street Reconstruction

Location: Second Avenue North to DeMers Avenue.

Public or private: Public.

Construction began: May 2.

Completion date: Anticipated to be completed by the time school starts on Aug. 24.

Cost: Total cost of the reconstruction project, including design engineering, easements and construction, is approximately $2.3 million

Project notes: Assistant City Engineer David Kuharenko said the reconstruction on North Fourth Street will be similar to previous reconstruction work completed on DeMers Avenue and North Third Street including adding decorative elements to the street. The project is utilizing up to $1,631,200 of federal funding through the Urban Grant Program.

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Work on the alley next to the Herald building
Korrie Wenzel/Grand Forks Herald

Alley near Tech Accelerator

Location: Second Avenue North, next to Tech Accelerator (Herald building).

Public or private: Public

Completion date: Estimated to be complete in the next couple of weeks

Cost: Unclear

Project notes: Public Information Officer John Bernstrom said work out front of the Herald building and along the alleyway is tied to the development of Franklin on Fourth. Work on the alley consists of crews burying the utilities underground. Bernstrom said the plan is for power to start pumping through the lines underground and Xcel Energy will then remove the utility poles from above ground. In addition to work on the alley, there was work on the street that fronts the alley (Second Avenue North) earlier this summer.

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Road work on the DeMers Avenue overpass
Korrie Wenzel/ Grand Forks Herald

Rehabilitation work on DeMers Avenue Overpass

Location: DeMers Avenue, just west of downtown.

Public or private: Public.

Construction began: Late June.

Completion date: Anticipated to be completed by late September.

Cost: Total cost of rehabilitation project. including work on the DeMers Avenue overpass, the Washington Street pedestrian underpass and preliminary/contingency and construction engineering, is approximately $2.4 million

Project notes: This project on the DeMers Avenue overpass, on the western edge of downtown, consists of crews doing concrete repair work on the bridge.

Related Topics: CITY OF GRAND FORKS
Meghan Arbegast grew up in Security-Widefield, Colorado. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism from North Dakota State University in Fargo, in 2021.

Arbegast wrote for The Spectrum, NDSU's student newspaper, for three years and was Head News Editor for two years. She was an intern with University Relations her last two semesters of college.

Arbegast covers news pertaining to the city of Grand Forks/East Grand Forks including city hall coverage.

Readers can reach Arbegast at 719-235-8640 or MArbegast@gfherald.com.

Pronouns: She/Her
Languages: English
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