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Published November 04, 2013, 08:22 PM

Expanding business areas in Grand Forks require big investments in new infrastructure

While more and more houses and businesses continue to pop up on Grand Forks’ south end, it’s the west end where city staff members say there may be significant growth in the next few years.

By: Brandi Jewett, Grand Forks Herald

While more and more houses and businesses continue to pop up on Grand Forks’ south end, it’s the west end where city staff members say there may be significant growth in the next few years.

Earlier this year, patches of land were identified as growth areas by the city and require significant infrastructure investments — including streets, sewers, stormwater ponds and water service — in preparation for development.

“Growth in those areas will occur in the near future,” city Public Works Director Todd Feland said. “Because it’s going to happen, we need to do some infrastructure planning.”

Of the six areas indentified, five lie west of Interstate 29 and all would cater to commercial or industrial development. City staff members have calculated the numbers, and the known estimated costs for the six areas came to about $23 million in July.

That number represents a situation in which the areas have all of their infrastructure installed at once, according to Feland, but he added the city would likely phase some costs in over time.

Highway 2 corridor

Three of the growth areas are located along the U.S. Highway 2 corridor.

The first is located to the road’s north and spans North 48th Street to North 69th Street. Infrastructure costs for this area could run about $6.5 million. The price tag includes plans for new storm ponds and storm sewer piping.

On its east end, Britton Transport has plans to build a 5,200 square-foot office building with a 5,000-square-foot loading dock.

That construction sits in what Feland calls a trigger area, an area where initial development occurs and potentially attracts more construction to the entire growth area. Each growth area has one or two trigger areas indentified.

To the south of Highway 2 is another growth area that includes the city’s second Walmart store, which is under construction.

This growth area falls between North 62nd Street and North 55th Street. The trigger area for this site sits next to the Walmart property. Cost estimates came in at $5.9 million.

Farther to the east, another growth area is located to the north of the Simplot and Philadelphia Macaroni Co. facilities. The pasta producer already has a $6.1 million expansion project planned for the area near its factory.

An infrastructure investment for the area could cost $3.7 million.

Other areas

More growth areas can be found in the city’s southwest corner and far to the north.

One area includes plans for a business park running between South 48th Street and Interstate 29 just south of the city’s industrial park.

Acme Tools has already announced plans to build a 42,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution center at the area’s north end on land it purchased from the city earlier this year. Bringing infrastructure to this area would cost about $1.6 million.

Tacked onto this area is a piece of city-owned land across 32nd Avenue South from Kapstone Paper and Packaging. An infrastructure cost estimate was not available for this area.

One more growth spot in that part of town includes potential development on the west side of I-29 just south of Revolution Power Sports. A cost estimate also was not available.

North of the city, the proposed Northern Plains Nitrogen fertilizer plant constitutes another growth area, but is another spot that has more question marks than infrastructure estimates.

The only available infrastructure estimates for the $1.5 billion plant’s growth area are for the construction and reconstruction of roads — projected to be about $6.8 million.

Plant developers are still seeking funding for the project. Feland said the city would likely hold off on discussing that area until the developers have a more concrete idea of where the project stands.

“That would be a really significant trigger,” Feland said of the fertilizer project moving forward.

New committee

While the city has included some of these infrastructure costs in its Capital Improvement Program, funding needs to be found for the rest.

Options could include existing sales tax, utility rates, additional sales taxes or special assessments.

The discussion of where the money comes from and when it is needed is being tackled by a City Council committee focusing on the city’s overall strategic infrastructure growth.

The committee met for the first time on Oct. 28. The group, along with city staff, has the task of developing priorities for improving and expanding infrastructure.

The infrastructure growth areas will be the focus of its next meeting, set for later this month.

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