Arbor Park consideration

A notice about saving Arbor Park is attached to a wooden fish crafted by local artist Adam Kemp on Tuesday, September 20, 2016.

Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson

A notice about saving Arbor Park is attached to a wooden fish crafted by local artist Adam Kemp on Tuesday, September 20, 2016.

Arbor Park is under consideration for development.

The fate of the park will be decided on Oct. 3, when Grand Forks City Council will meet to make its final decision.

Meredith Richards, Deputy Director of Community Development for Grand Forks, explains that of the three parks located within the region, Arbor Park is the ideal area for development.

“Arbor Park (has) the biggest square footage,” Richards said. “It does not have any adjoining buildings with egress into it and it does not have upper story windows that are a concern, as there are with some of the other lots.”

City Council authorized a request for proposals (RFP) in May 2016. The intention of the RFP was to allow interested parties to submit development proposals for Arbor Park, located on 15 South 4th Street.

After reviewing three proposals submitted before the July 25 deadline, the RFP committee selected the highest scoring proposal, which will be brought before City Council for further consideration.

The winning proposal, selected by the RFP committee, was submitted by Dakota Commercial, JLG Construction and Community Contractors.

Comments posted on stated their project “will integrate commercial space with downtown housing and a community park space utilizing many of the existing art pieces currently on site, as well as make room for new art to be commissioned.”

Their proposal calls for a 6-story mixed-use structure with lower level commercial space and upper level owner occupied condominiums. It also maintains a public pedestrian walkway, allowing for continued access between 4th Street and nearby parks.

Should the proposal be selected by the City Council, the city staff will begin negotiating with the Dakota Commercial team to form a more specific development agreement.

Andy Conlon, Community Development Specialist for Grand Forks, has stated that while the proposal has been selected to go before the City Council, the process is far from over.

“No contract has been officially developed,” Conlon said. “This whole process, basically, was just to sort through the proposals we received with the idea that should city council chose to move forward with the proposal, … that would authorize staff to go forward and pursue a development agreement.”

The call for the development of Arbor Park came after the Downtown Development group of the Mayor’s Vibrancy Initiative identified the need for greater density and housing options within Grand Forks.

Available downtown space has become increasingly limited and in demand. The Downtown Development group identified Arbor Park as “the most buildable City-owned lot near the downtown core.”

The city also owns two smaller lots nearby, which have been identified as “unbuildable.”

Of the two proposals not chosen, the first received was submitted by Mary Weaver and Adam Kemp, who, in comments posted on, asked “the committee, the Grand Forks City Council, and others concerned, to allow the park to continue its existence as a park at its present site.”

Despite his proposal not being selected by the committee, Kemp remains adamant that Arbor Park should remain as is.


“The park as a whole is a work of art that blurs the boundaries between organic horticulture elements and sculptural entities,” Kemp says. “They have no budget to move and reinstall works.”

Richards explains that should the development move forward, the artwork currently residing on the property would either stay on the lot or be moved to a new location.

“While we will lose a park, we will gain a very nice structure,” Richards explained, “and the developer seems very amendable to continuing to allow a portion of the lot to be available as public access and art in open space anyway.”

Kemp, on the other hand, is not so confident.

“The city and the developers have gotten good press we have not,” Kemp says. “The park is unique and should be expanded. JLG, Community Contractors and Dakota Commercial have built a lot in this town and state, and they have not used a lot of public art.”

Addressing any concern the public may have with the development of Arbor Park, Richards says the proposals are online at

“I would encourage people to look at the proposal that’s been recommended to pursue,” Richards said. “Because it does appear to me to be a very strong proposal in terms of the development piece as well as doing a good job of addressing the concerns about retaining some public open space and providing places to relocate the existing art.”

The final proposal submitted before the deadline was from ICON Architecture, whose comments also posted on, read, “Icon’s approach to this area is to the existing Arbor Park with some new improvements along and ABOVE in the alley, termed ‘Arbor Hi-Line Park.’”

Matt Eldson is the news editor for the Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]