During a roundtable discussion with a host of business and city leaders Tuesday, here’s what Gov. Doug Burgum had to say about Grand Forks’ recent development efforts:
“I want all of you in Grand Forks to understand how special this is. There are few communities in the nation that can sit down … around a table and everybody's rowing in the same direction. This is why the future of Grand Forks is so bright and it's one of the reasons why I just love North Dakota, because this is one of the places in the nation, in the world, where it still happens today.”
It came at the end of a meeting during which the governor was briefed on a variety of projects happening in Grand Forks. He later accompanied a group on a walking tour downtown, visiting 11 sites of new development, including:
● A brief passing of the future Lyons Auto redevelopment site. The Lyons project is a multi-story, multi-use building across from City Hall.
● A visit to the Mill Square building, which has been renovated for retail and apartments.
● A ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the completion of a downtown street project. It is complete as of this week, a week or so ahead of schedule.
● A viewing of the Block V project at the St. John’s block, and a visit with developer Mike Kuntz of Grand Forks-based Icon Architectural Group. The building is being transformed into apartments, retail space and a plaza.
● A visit to the 701 co-working space, which opened in 2017 and has grown to some 80 clients.
● A walk past the new Selkirk on Fourth condo development.
● A stop at the Argyle, the soon-to-be-completed new home of JLG Architects. The five-story building also will include retail space and apartments.
● A visit to the Edgewood Corporate Plaza building and a visit with developer Phil Gisi. There, he toured a space for the soon-to-come Cloud 9 event center.
● A visit to the new Harry’s Steakhouse, which opened this week on DeMers Avenue.
● A so-called “sneak peek” at the Pure Development site, which includes a new Hugo’s Grocery store, an Alerus Bank branch and apartments.
● A stop at the Beacon site – on the former Townhouse Hotel location – to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony. When it’s completed in 2023, it will include space for apartments, condos and commercial spaces, as well as a sizable outdoor plaza and event space.
All told, the governor spent more than four hours focusing on Grand Forks’ recent development, including the face-to-face conversation at the Community Room in the Herald building and also the downtown tour that followed.
That the governor took so much time to make a sincere visit to all of these sites adds weight to the importance of the city’s recent run of development. We’re now seeing the results of what former Mayor Mike Brown once declared the city’s “billion-dollar boom” – much of it rising skyward from the street level in the city’s downtown core.
It’s the result of so much work and so many concerted and collaborative efforts, as noted by the governor. Leadership on it has come in so many places, from Burgum, to Brown, to current Mayor Brandon Bochenski, numerous city officials and so many business leaders.
It’s the result of vision, and it deserves praise. It also deserves the kind of recognition that came Tuesday, as well as the promotion it gets from Bochenski and others.
The fruit of these labors is showing, and Grand Forks is better for it. Take it from the governor himself, who ended the sit-down portion of Tuesday’s event by saying “congratulations to you all.”
“This is way more than real estate development that is going on here,” he said a bit later. “This is community building, and it’s community building in a way that's going to shape the future of this state and this region.”