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Date set to make Arbor Park pitches

To build or not to build--or, more specifically, how? The path ahead for Arbor Park, 15 S. Fourth St., is still fraught with questions, but a city committee on Monday began charting a way through them. The group met at City Hall to hash out how t...

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A pocket park between Sledsters and Norby's Work Perks downtown on fourth street South. Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald

To build or not to build-or, more specifically, how?

The path ahead for Arbor Park, 15 S. Fourth St., is still fraught with questions, but a city committee on Monday began charting a way through them. The group met at City Hall to hash out how they'll rank and choose three proposals for the park's future, and set a Sept. 12 meeting date to hear presentations.

It's not clear when a recommendation to the City Council will be made, but the meeting will be an important step for committee members to hear the case made for each proposal submitted to the city.

"I think everything's on the table as a possible recommendation," said City Council member Bret Weber, one of the group's five members. "I've always said all along that if we do anything, it must be better than what we currently have and, ultimately, all we're doing is making a recommendation to the council."

Presentations are set to take place beginning at 1:30 p.m. at City Hall.

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Monday's meeting was the latest step in the city's process to evaluate the future of the space. The city asked for development ideas earlier this year. Three responses have yielded a wide variety of choices. One suggests a five-story building on the site; another suggests transferring the park to the care of the Grand Forks Park District; a final option also suggests a transfer to the district, but also suggests a raised "high line park" that would link the space to a multistory building on a nearby Kittson Avenue pocket park.

"It's almost comparing apples to oranges to rocks," said Crystal Schneider, chairwoman of the committee.

The diverse nature of the proposals is shifting the discussion on how they'll be evaluated. The request for proposals was written with a large downtown building in mind, and a scoring sheet that committee members will use to evaluate the proposals awards points for architectural style and the history the proposing group has with infill development.

"Since this is kind of a unique situation - the three proposals were so different - it's evident that only one of the proposals fits all the criteria laid out in the (request for proposals)," Schneider said. "That doesn't necessarily mean we can't hear the presentations from the other groups. It might just mean we rank them and score them differently."

The committee, which also includes Jon Ramsey, owner of Assurity Finance and Development; Jamie Lunski, owner of HB Sound and Light; and Klaus Thiessen, president of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation, also agreed those submitting proposals wouldn't be able to add "addendums" to their plans-or in Schneider's words, add any surprise "bombshells" into their plans for the site.

The decisions don't rule out any of the plans from being chosen, though.

"You use the scoring sheet as one of your tools ... we still use our judgment; we take feedback from the public, these are public meetings," Weber said. "Our hope is to be completely inclusive and transparent about the process."

Multiple proposal authors attended the meeting, including Lonnie Laffen, president and CEO of JLG Architects, a partner on the plan for the five-story building; and Adam Kemp and Mary Weaver, Grand Forks residents who propose preserving Arbor Park with the Park District and burnishing it with new signage and lighting.

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Both Kemp and Weaver spoke strongly in favor of their proposal after the meeting but said they couldn't gauge their chances of success.

"I feel we have a strong proposal, but whether it will be considered in that manner, we don't know," Weaver said.

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