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OUR OPINION: A welcome addition to downtown Grand Forks

The Edgewood Corporate Plaza ... Kinda like the sound of that. Congratulations and "thanks" to Edgewood Real Estate Investment Trust and Edgewood Management Group, which have bought and will occupy a historic and vitally important building downtown.

The Edgewood Corporate Plaza ...

Kinda like the sound of that.

Congratulations and "thanks" to Edgewood Real Estate Investment Trust and Edgewood Management Group, which have bought and will occupy a historic and vitally important building downtown.

The former First National Bank building is a downtown Grand Forks centerpiece. The five-story building occupies a prominent corner on the downtown's "Main Street," DeMers Avenue.

Thousands of cars stream past it every day. For all of their occupants and for everyone else who lives, works or visits downtown, the stately building gives an important impression of Grand Forks' civic health.

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When such a building is well-cared-for and busily occupied, that's an upbeat sign and helps reinforce the impression that the city is on the right track.

On the other hand, if the building is deteriorating, boasts broken windows and needs but isn't getting renovation, then attitudes sour. Residents and visitors alike get the sense that the city doesn't care; and as a result, their own level of caring and civic concern drops, too.

Grand Forks has lucked out: Since the flood of 1997, the First National Bank building's glass has been "half-full" -- but it's the most visible half. In a very civic-minded move, Jim Hawley acquired the building in 1998 and helped complete extensive renovations.

As a result, the building has been anything but an eyesore since then. It's a solid and attractive structure that makes a very good first impression on any and all.

It's the other "half" that has suffered -- the part that deals with strong occupancy. Hawley tried mightily, but never quite drew enough tenants to let the freshly renovated building meet its full potential.

The new Edgewood owners will help change that. "The Edgewood companies plan to remodel the fifth floor, which will house about 35 corporate staff, and the second floor in hopes of attracting a tenant," Herald staff writer Kevin Bonham reported.

Currently, "about 40 percent of the building is occupied. SEI Information Technology is on the third and about half of the fourth floor, while several insurance and financial offices are on the first and second floors.

"They will also remodel about 1,000 square feet of the first floor for use as a training center for their staff and those of other local businesses."

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The Edgewood companies are local firms that have seen healthy growth since their founding in 1992. Today, Edgewood REIT owns six assisted-living facilities in Minnesota, South Dakota and Idaho, as well as apartment buildings in Minot, Bonham reported.

And Edgewood Management Group "owns or operates 42 independent-living, assisted-living and memory-care facilities for those with Alzheimer's disease.

"The company employs about 2,000 and boasts 2,500 beds in North and South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, Wyoming and Idaho."

Clearly, Edgewood could have relocated wherever it chose. It chose a key structure in downtown Grand Forks, a place where Edgewood's presence will be a civic as well as a corporate asset.

Grand Forks should be grateful that the company chose as it did.

-- Tom Dennis for the Herald

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