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GF City Council members decide the new face of Civic Auditorium

Grand Forks City Council members will be making a $3.2 million decision Monday that they hope would trigger the next phase of downtown growth. Expect some debate, though, because there appear to be two clashing visions of that next phase. Under c...

Grand Forks City Council members will be making a $3.2 million decision Monday that they hope would trigger the next phase of downtown growth.

Expect some debate, though, because there appear to be two clashing visions of that next phase.

Under city staff proposals, the federal funds, distributed by the state, would go toward a market-rate apartment complex where the Civic Auditorium is now and homes for the chronically homeless southeast of the Deaconess office building. Both projects would also have commercial space.

The homeless project, which puts qualifying homeless people into an apartment setting, would be consistent with Mayor Mike Brown's commitment to ending chronic homelessness.

Council member Doug Christensen, who chairs the finance committee, wants to see the market-apartments, several townhomes and the homeless project, but at reduced funding levels.

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He's also proposing a five- to 10-year rent subsidy at the apartment complex for a grocery store, which many downtown residents and business owners have said they'd like to see.

A previously proposed low-income apartment complex in the Civic parking lot could not start in time to meet the state's March 1 deadline. Developers at Metroplains say they'll try to start the project another time.

The council had earlier helped private developers with land and cheap loans to build a low-income apartment complex and an upscale condo complex downtown on North Third Street. The long-term goal then, as now, is to bolster the population and, with it, encourage more businesses to fill vacant commercial spaces. More businesses would mean more property taxes paid and, potentially, reduce the tax burden on all taxpayers.

Christensen said the apartment complex and the townhomes would pay property taxes as well.

Ending chronic homelessness is also meant to save on taxes. The chronically homeless tend to use a lot of social services, including expensive emergency room visits. Stabilizing their lifestyle by having them live in apartments, with some supervision, could reduce the use of those services.

City staff had, in April, noted that the state favored the use of the federal funds for the homeless project.

Here are some details about the projects:

- Market-rate apartments:

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The three-story complex would feature 45 residential units, commercial space and underground parking for tenants. It would be built where the Civic Auditorium is now.

The developer, Dakota Commercial and Development, estimates the total value of the project to be $5.5 million, including commercial loans and investments by the company.

The city would contribute $1.2 million in federal funds and $166,500 in land. The funds would pay for demolition of the auditorium, which the city had considered paying on its own.

In Christensen's proposal there would also be some subsidies for a grocery store and, he said, one is already expressing strong interest.

- Home for the homeless: This three-story complex would have 14 residential units, space for staff to help tenants get acclimated to a settled lifestyle and office space of some kind. It would be built at the parking lot opposite the old post office on the 300 block of South Fourth Street.

Prairie Harvest, a nonprofit group, would run the project. The value is estimated at $2.8 million. Under the staff proposal, the city would contribute $2 million in federal funds and $43,800 in donated land up front and, later, $700,000 in other federal funds.

Christensen's proposal would cut the city contribution to $1 million.

The location is not far from the County Office Building, where a lot of social services are housed, and the Northland Mission homeless shelter.

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- Townhomes: The 12 townhomes would go on the lot between the Civic Auditorium parking lot and the Townhouse hotel, Christensen said. Dakota Commercial would also be the developer.

The value of the project is about $2.4 million, Christensen estimated. The city would pay for the $100,000 lot and contribute $700,000. That money might take the form of a loan, Christensen said, that would be repaid by the eventual owners.

Having spoken with Dakota Commercial, he said he understands the intent is to build six more townhomes with private dollars in the future.

Reach Tran at (701) 780-1248; (800) 477-6572, ext. 248; or send e-mail to ttran@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: GRAND FORKS CITY COUNCIL
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