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Mayor Brown: Development vital for our future

By Michael R. Brown Grand Forks citizens have an important decision to make on June 20, and it is vital that voters have good and accurate information on the issues before casting their ballot. Part of my responsibilities as mayor is to communica...

. Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks HeraldGrand Forks Mayor Mike Brown talks with the editorial board Wednesday afternoon.
. Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks HeraldGrand Forks Mayor Mike Brown talks with the editorial board Wednesday afternoon.

By Michael R. Brown

Grand Forks citizens have an important decision to make on June 20, and it is vital that voters have good and accurate information on the issues before casting their ballot. Part of my responsibilities as mayor is to communicate what I believe to be the best course of action for the future of our city. To that end, I strongly urge the voters of Grand Forks to consider the short and long-term benefits of Arbor lot development and encouraging investment.

I am optimistic about the future of Grand Forks. However, we have to ground our decisionmaking in reality. Economic factors like lower state aid and state and local sales and gas tax will make it difficult to provide the improvements in infrastructure, roads and services that our city requires. A prudent way to grow our tax base, and therefore our local revenues, is to encourage private investment in our city, like that proposed on Arbor lot.

Arbor lot has been zoned for development since the previous building was demolished in 1997. After an exhaustive review of the city-owned lots downtown, it was determined to be the only space large enough, and with the correct type of adjoining buildings, to be considered buildable for a project of this scale. So we issued a public request for proposals and, after thorough review, the City Council selected the current proposal based on the objective requirements determined by the committee.

The $7.5 million Arbor lot development creates new retail space and owner-occupied housing in our downtown and increases local tax revenue by $11.6 million over 40 years. This is money our community needs for carrying out vital services and addressing infrastructure issues. The development also will improve workforce recruitment by diversifying our housing market and increase local sales by attracting more pedestrian traffic.

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I understand this is more than a financial decision. I believe my record on public art is clear. Public art is an important community asset which should be included in our city's development plans. This is why the city and the developers have agreed to work together to preserve the public art pieces and honor the park's historical importance by erecting a commemorative display in the new public space. This display will showcase the story of the park and honor those who worked to make it a memorable community space.

In our current economic situation, we cannot afford to send a negative message to those who wish to invest in our community. Allowing development of Arbor lot improves the city's economic situation, increases housing opportunities for our workforce, benefits local businesses and maintains a public space to enjoy local art. Development is the right choice for the future of our community.

Michael R. Brown is mayor of Grand Forks.

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