Neighborhood meetings help refine University Avenue Corridor project ideas
The grad students and city representatives started meeting with residents along the corridor individually in March and started having public meetings gathering residents from the area in May
GRAND FORKS – A group of UND graduate students who’ve been conducting community outreach to gather thoughts on improvements along the University Avenue Corridor find the neighborhood meetings have been helpful in refining ideas and building a community.
The grad students and city representatives started meeting with residents along the corridor individually in March and started having public meetings gathering residents from the area in May. Since then several meetings have been held over the course of the past four months and more will be held through the end of the year.
Meeting topics include discussions on safety along the corridor such as lighting and crosswalks, beautification, housing and community building. The idea behind the meetings is to build off the projects outlined in the University Avenue Corridor Study with results from the study being released in 2021 . The University Avenue Corridor has been the focus of community efforts to better tie the core of the city to the university.
Andrew Conlon, senior community development planner with the city of Grand Forks, said the study helped with creating a starting point for them to work from to see where people want the most improvements made. Though plans for the University Avenue Corridor started back in 2019, Conlon said some ideas have remained the same.
“You have two years passed and a full pandemic in between there so there’s plenty of things that have changed I think over that time, but some things are still pretty consistent with what that study said,” Conlon said.
One of those consistencies is with the number of rental properties in and around University Avenue and rental code enforcement, policies and practices.
“That’s been a trend in this neighborhood for 30-40 years probably so there’s some stuff that’s been very steady throughout the process and these talks have been very helpful to kind of drill down a little bit as to what specifically are some action steps that we can take on some of those issues,” Conlon said.
Present at some of the neighborhood meetings are city employees from various departments residents may have questions for. The group agreed that having these employees at the meetings is helpful to provide insight into what projects residents want done and the process it takes on a city level.
“I think it’s helpful to provide context,” Conlon said. “There’s a ton of really good ideas, but for a lot of them it’s a harder process than you might think to get there and it might take longer than you think to get there.”
At the Aug. 24 meeting, Assistant City Engineer Ed Liberman was present to talk about adding lighting, and Dale Bergman, Grand Forks public transit director, explained the lengthy process for adding bus shelters.
The cost for projects often comes up in meetings and whether residents would be special assessed for some of the proposed projects.
“That’s a factor that’s played into I think every issue that comes up,” Conlon said. “The cost factor is weighed a lot more heavily depending on what the project is.”
There is funding available for the projects with the funds coming from the Knight Foundation Donor-Advised Fund through the Community Foundation of Grand Forks, East Grand Forks and Region as a proposed $75,000 matching grant to be used in the next year or two.
By meeting with residents creative solutions and ideas have also come out of the discussions. One idea that relates to community building is to have a large event in University Park on Sept. 24 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The event invites all University Park-area residents spanning from north of DeMers Avenue, south of 13th Avenue North, east of South Columbia Road and west of downtown to meet their neighbors, learn about various community initiatives and services, and get involved in community improvement projects.
Moving beyond this year the grad students and city representatives hope that residents continue to meet with their neighbors to talk about improvements and events they would like to see as the ideas being discussed start to be carried out.
“The hope through this process is to build enough of a cohesive neighborhood group and build that relationship with city staff to be able to touch base on an ongoing basis moving forward to implement some of these things,” Conlon said.
Future meetings will be on previous and new topics with the times and locations still to be determined. The meetings are as follows:
- Lighting and Neighborhood Identity - Sept. 29
- Zoning for Pedestrian Safety, Greenspace and Retail - Oct. 13
- Pedestrian Safety - Oct. 27
- Zoning for Greenspace and Shops/Cafés - Nov. 10
- Housing - Dec. 1
- Planning for 2023 - Dec. 8
People who were not able to attend the meetings but are interested in getting involved can contact organizers by email at email@example.com.