A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood 

Discussions of improvements in safety, walkability, and community on University Avenue 

Victoria Ledum, Website Manager

GRAND FORKS – Minds were ablaze, and creativity displayed at the University Avenue neighborhood meeting on October 13th. The meeting focused on brainstorming ideas and receiving resident input about increased safety, community events, and walkability in the University neighborhood.   

The discussion was led by UND graduate students, Faith Petersen, Sanmi Odeyemi, Shaylee Miller, and a planner for the city of Grand Forks, Sierra Johnson. This meeting was a part of an initiative dating back to December 2021 to improve the overall safety and livability of the neighborhoods surrounding University Park.  

The intention of the meeting was to bring “the community itself together and begin to push the ideas forward beyond the foreseeable future” according to Odeyemi.   

Zoning and planning details were discussed first. The idea presented by Johnson was “to slow down traffic without actually altering infrastructure by bringing small businesses to the area.” Small businesses would increase pedestrian traffic and naturally slow down vehicular traffic, making the area more walkable and thus healthier and safer.   

The process of creating a small business in the neighborhood would consist of creating a Micro PUD (Planned Unit Development), which would allow for a change in zoning in one small area. The business would have to be approved by nearby residents, Grand Forks Zoning & Planning, and City Council.   

The question among residents, however, lies within the nature of the business. Residents expressed a desire for cafes, community spaces, ice cream parlors, sandwich shops, and coffee shops. One attendee expressed concern about the possible dangerous opportunities businesses could take advantage of. The attendee asked, “how can we prevent a shift from coffee shop to bar?”  

Renee Cardarelle, UND Faculty and Public Administrator, addressed the concern saying it will be the responsibility of the community to band together and ensure businesses in the area are meeting their needs and blending with the neighborhood. Cardarelle also posed the question of how residents would like to pursue the growth of small businesses. She asked, “does the neighborhood have the appetite to pursue marketing for potential retailers, or does the group want to let it happen naturally?”  

Most participants agreed that small businesses in the area would be beneficial and help provide and serve college students, elderly people, and young families, as well as bring new residents to the area. However, the question of how to attract business in the area is still up for debate. Some feel entrepreneurs would be ready to open new businesses while others feel data that expressed the community need and want for a business would be beneficial to attracting desirable businesses.  

The meeting then moved into a brainstorming session. Groups were formed and participants were asked to list any and all ideas to improve the neighborhood on large posters. Some ideas were far-fetched, like heated sidewalks, but most were rooted and seemed relatively achievable like increasing street lighting, forming walking groups, improving street maintenance, and designating bike paths. Participants were then asked to place stickers next to their favorite ideas. The two ideas with the most stickers were sidewalk improvements and the introduction of small businesses.  

Creative ideas and feedback are essential to forming safer, healthier, and better living environments. The meeting was a glimpse into the future of an improved neighborhood, when some of the ideas expressed come to fruition residents in the University Avenue area are certain to feel a better sense of community and lead safer, healthier, and better lives. 

Victoria Ledum is the Dakota Student Website Manager and General Reporter. She can be reached at [email protected].