Negotiators representing American Crystal Sugar Co. and the company’s locked-out union workforce have been called back to the negotiating table by the U.S. Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. Mediated talks between those representing company management and the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union will be held at an undisclosed time and location on Oct. 24.
Union officials told the Herald earlier this week that they planned to contact the federal mediator assigned to the case to request a negotiating session with company management. A company representative also said earlier in the week that the company would meet with union if prompted by the federal mediator.
Union representatives have said that the union planned to offer “substantial” movement from previous union positions, but would not provide specific details. Talks between the two sides in late August failed to yield any progress. The company continues to operate its plants with replacement workers as the lockout has reached 75 days.
Do you think the new negotiations will help lead to a contract agreement? Which side has the most leverage in negotiations? How is the lockout affecting the company, the workers and local communities?
A new bar is planned for the former peanut bar and comedy gallery portion of the old Westward Ho complex on Gateway Drive in Grand Forks.
Bar owner Gerald Green, who owns Green’s Quality Construction, received approval from the city council on Monday night for a liquor license for the bar. The bar’s owner has agreed to a five-year lease in the 6,800-square-foot space with building owner Bill Graveline. Here is a city council packet with info about the new bar filled out by its owner.
The Ho Sports Bar & Casino is planning a late October opening. Aside from the North Side Cafe (which is now located where a liquor store once was) and now the new bar, the rest of the old Westward Ho complex is still empty.
A glimpse of how the Westward Ho complex used to look
What do you think of a bar going into the old Westward Ho? What would you like to see open in the old Westward Ho complex?
An Old Chicago restaurant is planned for Grand Forks. The new restaurant is planned to open in summer or fall 2012.
The group bringing the national chain to Grand Forks is also planning to open a Noodles & Company in Grand Forks in 2012. It is possible that the two restaurants could be co-located at the same site.
I stopped by the new Noodles & Company off 45th Street near Scheels in Fargo while they were doing training on Sunday and preparing for Monday’s first day open to the public.
Ted Horan, operating partner of Border States Management, said undisclosed locations are currently being scouted for a Noodles & Company in Grand Forks and the restaurant is expected to open by the second quarter of 2012.
Horan also said an Old Chicago restaurant is planned for Grand Forks in the future.
What do you think of Noodles? I’ve been to one in the Twin Cities and it was pretty good. The experience during the training was nice, the service was fast and the food was hot and tasted good.
Whitey’s, an iconic East Grand Forks eatery, is scheduled to reopen under new ownership in early October with a new look.
The interior of the restaurant and bar building has gone through an extensive remodeling, including adding new walls, fixing the roof, repainting, redoing the historic horseshoe bar, better defining the bar and more intimate and group seating areas, as well as adding a game room near the bar on the DeMers Avenue side of the building.
The interior is still not finished, but as you can see from these photos I snapped late last week, it looks a little more modern and sleek, while still maintaining some of the original character of the place.
What do you think of the interior remodeling work so far? Are you excited to see Whitey’s reopen?
Yesterday I attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new Northern Heights at Griggs Square mixed-use apartment and commercial building (above) developed by Dakota Commercial and Development on the site of the former Civic Auditorium on the western edge of downtown Grand Forks. I usually avoid such events as they aren’t that newsworthy or interesting (no one wants to read a story about someone cutting a ribbon with big scissors) and instead focus on writing stories about new buildings when they are under construction to let people know what they will be when they open.
But my curiosity (and a helpful nudge from an editor) got me out the door to see what the new apartment units look like inside now that they are finished. All 53 apartment units are leased.
The unit I toured was a two-bedroom with a combined kitchen/living room and featured a sliding barn-like door separating one of the bedrooms from the main living area. There was also a mini little balcony area off the living room (visible at left).
A rendering of what The Aurora at Griggs Square apartment complex will look like. Image courtesy of JLG Architects, which did design work for the project.
Across 1st Avenue another apartment complex is under construction, the 40-unit Aurora at Griggs Square being developed by Metro Plains, the same group behind The Current on North 3rd Street in downtown.
What do you think of the new apartments? Are more apartments needed downtown? Will these two new buildings help spur more development on the western side of downtown?
Tour guide Lonnie Laffen of JLG Architects in front of a statue of city founder Alexander Griggs
Yesterday I had the opportunity to learn more about the history of Grand Forks as I took part in a walking tour of downtown led by Lonnie Laffen of JLG Architects as part of the chamber leadership training program. I learned many things I didn’t know about the community, its past and the former uses of many downtown buildings.
Here’s some tidbits from the tour and history lesson that I didn’t know:
- The city’s original streets were made of wooden paver blocks (one remaining section across Belmont Road from St. Mary’s Church is pictured below). Much of the wooden street floated away after one big flood. The wooden streets were followed by brick pavers.
- The city’s downtown commercial district grew up between the train depots downtown (where the chamber is currently located) and the one near DeMers Avenue and Columbia Road. Hotels sprung up around the downtown train depot. Before the city started growing outward in the 1950s, Grand Forks was densely populated with most of the population concentrated in or near what is now downtown. Many houses in the city were built by the railroads for their workers (up until the 1950s or so the railroads were the city’s largest employers).
- The former Dacotah hotel building downtown on Third Street is actually the third building that the old hotel was located in (the first two hotels burned down).
- We also got an interesting tour of a loft apartment in the former Metropolitan Opera House building (above). The owners are still looking for a tenant for the front main part of the building if you’re interested.
- The Brekke Tours & Travel building was the city’s original airport terminal before the airport was moved to its current location in the 1960s.
It was fascinating to step back in time, looking at old photos and during the tour begin to imagine what Grand Forks looked like decades ago. It also made me wonder what Grand Forks will look like in another 10-15 years? What do you think?
Aarron Kinneberg of Community Contractors saws a column apart as demolition continues on the old Leevers Building that will be reconstructed into a Japanese Steakhouse and gym. Herald photo by Eric Hylden.
In the last two weeks alone news has broke of the filling of three of the highest-profile vacant spaces in Grand Forks — the former Target space at Columbia Mall, the former Leevers grocery store building on South Washington Street and the yet-to-open former Aurora Hospital building.
Scheels will move into the vacant former Target anchor spot at Columbia Mall. The former Leevers grocery store will be subdivided and rented out to tenants including a Japanese restaurant and a Planet Fitness. Physicians Hospital System confirmed last week that it will open Doctors Hospital in early 2012 in the never-opened Aurora Hospital building.
It’s kind of funny because my first day on the job as a Herald business writer in the fall of 2007, we got the announcement that Aurora would go ahead and build the hospital (even though the city declined to approve a requested property tax exemption for the property). Then the hospital was built, but never opened.
Shortly after I got here Leevers closed down. Since then the owners have had a difficult time trying to sell the 35,000-square-foot building and finally decided to break it up, make it look nicer and rent it out like a strip mall. When I got here the old Target space at the mall was vacant as it has been since the new SuperTarget opened in 2001. The new Scheels opening should give the mall a big shot in the arm when it opens in the fall of 2014. It’s not a movie theater or a hotel/water park, but it should be a big improvement. The Leevers building, which is currently under construction, and the soon to be renovated Target space, are seen by many as eyesores for the community.
As if those developments weren’t enough, Grand Forks will soon have its very own Olive Garden (chuckle all you want, but this has been one of the more often asked questions on Herald blogs and online comments on restaurant stories).
What do you think of the recent developments in the local business scene? Which are you most excited about?
An Indiana-based physician-owned health care system has completed the purchase of the Aurora Hospital building in the Aurora Medical Park on the southern edge of Grand Forks.
Physicians Hospital System plans to open a full-service hospital at the site early next year, pending receiving all necessary approvals and certifications. The for-profit Doctors Hospital is planned to be a full-service facility, offering services such as an emergency department, intensive care unit and obstetrics. Other services, the number of beds and employees will be determined in the next two months.
Representatives from the for-profit Physicians Hospital System that includes hospitals in Indiana and Michigan met with Aurora officials in Grand Forks last week. Physicians Hospital System officials also met with representatives of The Chamber and the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. when the group was in town last week.
The new for-profit hospital would provide new competition for community-owned Altru Health System, much like the former Aurora Hospital facility (which is complete outside but has never opened to the public) would have.
What do you think of this? Does Grand Forks need another full-service hospital? How will this impact Altru?
Once again, North Dakota’s economy is leading the nation in some measure.
North Dakota, which had the country’s lowest seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate in July at 3.3 percent, also has the nation’s best job outlook, according to a new Manpower survey.
Between October and December, 21 percent of North Dakota employers interviewed said they planned to hire more workers, 6 percent said they expected to reduce payroll and 72 percent expected to maintain current staffing levels. In Minnesota, 14 percent of employers surveyed planned to boost hiring in the fourth quarter, 10 percent expected to cut positions and 74 percent said they would keep staffing the same.
Job Service North Dakota lists more than 1,600 open unfilled jobs in the Grand Forks region, which includes the typical manufacturing and production labor jobs, retail, sales and food service jobs. But a Job Service official says about 80 of those openings are management positions (including retail and bank management) and that there is a better mix of jobs than in the past, with more health care, construction and transportation jobs available. Anyone looking for a job can check out a job fair today from 2-6 p.m. at the Alerus Center.
What do you think of the local job market? Are there enough good, well-paying jobs in the community?