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Grand Forks city officials want to move with caution after building boom

After an apartment building boom hit Grand Forks this summer, city planning staff says rental construction projects should be looked at more closely going forward.

The site on the north side of Demers Avenue
The site on the north side of Demers Avenue west of the Columbia Road overpass for a proposed 145 unit apartment building in Grand Forks.JOHN STENNES

After an apartment building boom hit Grand Forks this summer, city planning staff says rental construction projects should be looked at more closely going forward.

City Planner Brad Gengler shared his concerns about the more than 1,000 apartment units that have been reviewed, are under construction or have been completed in the last year with the city's Planning and Zoning Commission on Wednesday.

"When we try to measure or weigh how much is too much, it's a hard question to answer," Gengler said.

This caution was a factor in the planning staff's recommendation to deny a rezoning request filed for land on the city's south end.

The land, located at the corner of South 38th Street and Ruemmele Road, is zoned for business use but developer Austin Morris of Enclave Companies wanted it rezoned to accommodate a proposed 138-unit apartment building.


"The alternative uses aren't more attractive that this use," Morris said, comparing the proposed building to other commercial structures allowed under the existing business zoning.

Commissioner Doug Christensen pointed out that if the rezoning were granted, the nearly 25-acre area, located south of Target, could have up to 424 units on it if it were developed to the maximum.

The Commission agreed with Gengler's recommendation and voted to deny Morris' request.

Other apartments

Two other rezoning requests that mark steps forward for two apartment projects did evade the commission's ax.

The first apartment project would be located on property north of DeMers Avenue, just west of the Columbia Road overpass and south of the BNSF rail yard.

Developers could build up to 145 units on the site.

Two months ago, city staff recommended not building apartments on the property because of its location, but commissioners have since shown support for the project, which will be geared toward UND students.


"I think this is a great use of the land," Commissioner Steve Wasvick said. "I really hope it goes forward."

A number of unknowns had other commissioners thinking the project should wait.

"This one has a lot of question marks," said Commissioner Gary Malm.

The unknowns include the location of a future traffic signal planned for that stretch of DeMers Avenue and the fate of a proposed pedestrian stairwell that would rise from the property and connect to the overpass.

Developer Mark Bell said he is working with the North Dakota Department of Transportation to get answers for the commission.

The second apartment project is proposed for the corner of Washington Street and 55th Avenue South. A total of 74 apartments would be included within the two buildings planned for the site.

The rezoning requests move on to the City Council for preliminary approval. Both requests have one more round of Commission and Council approvals and public hearings to go before the land zoning is changed.

Call Jewett at (701) 780-1108, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1108 or send email to bjewett@gfherald.com .

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