To build or not to build; deciding what to do with Arbor Park


Dakota Student / Nicholas Nelson

Arbor Park in downtown Grand Forks is the center point of a debate whether to re-develop pocket parks that were created after the 1997 flood.

Matt Eidson, News Editor

The fate of Arbor Park continues to be a topic of discussion for community members.

In previous months, several members of the Grand Forks community rallied together to introduce a petition demanding city council cease development plans. The petition needed 3,465 verified signatures in order to be validated and presented to the city council.

During a meeting held by Grand Forks city council on Thursday Jan. 5, staff presented a report confirming the validity of the petition, which exceeded the required number of signatures from community members.

Meredith Richards, Deputy Director of Community Development for Grand Forks, explains that city council has 60 days to take action on the petition, which seeks to force the sale of the lot to the Grand Forks Park District for $1. If no action is taken before the Feb. 26 deadline, or if City Council rejects the petition, the park’s fate is put to a vote.

If the petition is taken to a vote, the city may either defer the vote until the next general election in 2018 or convene a special election. The special election would likely be held summer 2016 and could also include an infrastructure sales tax proposal on the ballot.

Whatever the outcome, Richards says this is just the beginning.

“I believe Arbor Park will be a topic of discussion probably in the next couple weeks,” Richards said. “At that point they will make the decision either to go to a vote or not.”

It makes Grand Forks a more attractive community to have a different array of housing options. There aren’t a lot of downtown condo options.

— Meredith Richards - Deputy Director of Community Development for Grand Forks

Despite a portion of the community fighting for Arbor Park to remain as is, Richards says there are several reasons to support the development of Arbor Park.

“It makes Grand Forks a more attractive community to have a different array of housing options,” Richards said. “There aren’t a lot of downtown condo options and certainly none of this style. So if we’re trying to attract cutting edge industry and smart, young, technically astute residents, then this is a good thing.”

Should the city opt to hold a special election, which is likely, Grand Forks taxpayers will be footing the bill.

“It doesn’t come cheap,” Richards said, “and that is a public cost.”


Long process

Grand Forks city council authorized a request for proposals (RFP) in summer 2015. The purpose of the RFP was to accept development proposals for Arbor Park. Dakota Commercial, JLG Architects and Community Contractors submitted the winning proposal for development before the July 25 deadline. Their proposal called for a 6-story mixed-use structure with lower level commercial space and upper level owner occupied condominiums.

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.”

Matt Eidson is the News Editor for The Dakota Student. He can be reached at [email protected]