Grand Forks approves redevelopment of former Townhouse hotel spot

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A second public plaza is expected to be installed in downtown Grand Forks.

City council members on Monday unanimously approved a series of deals between the city and a trio of development and management companies for The Beacon, a set of three apartment and commercial buildings that would surround a public plaza and an event space in the space formerly occupied by the Townhouse Hotel at the intersection of DeMers Avenue and First Avenue.

Council member Bret Weber said the redevelopment answers two long-standing civic questions: What is the city’s plan for the location of the now demolished townhouse? And how could city planners mark the entrance to the heart of Grand Forks for motorists entering from the DeMers Avenue rail viaduct?

“This is what we have been dreaming of for Town Square since the beginning of the vision process for the entire downtown area,” Weber said. “And Town Square has always been seen as central, but it gives us so many more opportunities. It’s Town Square squared, or even cubed.

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The deals give developers tax relief through a “tax increase funding” plan, which for property tax purposes treats the site as if it has only been partially redeveloped. The land is currently worth around $ 2 million, according to city staff, but the apartments, commercial space and the plaza would take it to around $ 39 million. Of the $ 37 million difference between those two estimates, 80% of the taxes developers would otherwise pay on that value each year would be refunded for 25 years. The developers, in turn, would then use that money to pay off a bond that the city would issue to own the downtown plaza, and the remaining 20% ​​of the new assessed value of the property would normally be paid to the city and the townspeople. other local governments. Other “TIF” agreements were used to encourage developers to redo the old Memorial Stadium area near UND and the St. John’s Block apartments near the Sorlie Bridge.

Other parts of the agreement specify how the public square would be managed. The developers set up a non-profit organization – Beacon Events, LLC – that would be managed by a nine-member board made up of three city officials, two representatives from Grand Forks public schools, two district officials. of Grand Forks Park and a representative of the developer. . In an arrangement reminiscent of that which governs the city-owned but privately run Alerus center, the board of directors of this non-profit organization would take care of the medium and long-term affairs of the place – annual budgets. , for example – and would take care of daily activities. day-to-day operations at one of the developers management companies.

Thames Court, Blue Zones, Waste Management

In related news, council members, acting as the city’s plenary committee:

  • Reconsidered, but ultimately stuck with, an ordinance that will change the city’s zoning map to accommodate a multi-family rental housing development in Thames Court, a subdivision in northwest Grand Forks, where MAK Capital wants to build a pair of ” 8-plex ”es. Members of the city’s Planning and Zoning Commission were concerned about the impact of rental housing in this neighborhood. Council Chairman Dana Sande, whose wife Meggen sits on the commission, said he spoke to several neighbors there who did not oppose the plan.
  • Heard a call from members of Altru Health System and the Altru Health Foundation for between $ 1 million and $ 2 million over four years from the city to pay consultants at Blue Zones, a Minneapolis-based company trying to learn lessons from five “blue” regions of the world with relatively long life expectancy and apply this to urban planning and policy. This money would allow the foundation to hire five people, plus two more provided by the company, to develop a plan to improve the health of residents of Grand Forks.
  • Tentatively approved a five-year recycling contract with Waste Management, a Texas-based recycling company. Council members are due to vote definitively on this contract on September 7.


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