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Charly Haley, Forum News Service, Published December 09 2013

Alerus Center seeks room to grow

GRAND FORKS – The Alerus Center in Grand Forks is in negotiations to buy several lots adjacent to the city-owned events center, but officials don’t yet have a specific use for the land.

“With the potential growth of (South 42nd Street), further discussion was held on possible uses for this land. What we do with it will largely depend on what the other competitor cities do,” according to minutes of a Grand Forks Events Center Commission committee meeting Oct. 16.

The 42nd Street corridor, where the Alerus Center is, has seen a building boom in recent years with several new hotels, a strip mall and several office buildings. A new apartment complex is under construction as well.

Commissioners who were interviewed said the commission wants to ensure the facility has room to grow.

“For public entities that have potential for growth, it’s always good to control as much land as you can around it,” said Hal Gershman, the City Council’s representative on the commission. “It’s always good, even as a business, to control your destiny for growth to some extent.”

If the lots adjacent to the Alerus Center are purchased by companies or other developers, the event center could become landlocked with no room for expansion, if for example, it needed a bigger parking lot, said Commissioner John Schmisek.

“It’s in the discussion stages,” Schmisek said of the purchase. “We’re just looking into it because it’s a good idea.”

Minutes of the commission’s Finance/Renovation Committee, which is dealing with the land purchase, indicate the land would be paid for with the 0.75 percent city sales tax dedicated to the Alerus Center.

Committee members said in the minutes that they would have to discuss how buying the additional land would affect funds available for upgrades or repairs to the events center.

Cheryl Swanson, executive director of the Alerus Center, said negotiations involve several lots on 42nd Street, but would not offer more details citing the sensitivity of the negotiations.

Land north of the Alerus Center is already being built on. County records indicate there are five lots to the south, one already owned by the city, three owned by a group of several people and one owned by Danks 42nd St LLP.

Finance committee minutes indicate the committee has prices on all the lots, except Keith Danks’. He would not provide a price unless the identity of the would-be buyer was revealed to him. The committee agreed to do so.

Danks’ lot is in the middle of two of the lots.

Committee minutes indicate the Alerus Center would need to buy all the lots together to float a bond.

The minutes also indicate that “discussions have been held with individual Grand Forks City Council members, and those spoken with thus far are in favor of purchasing these lots.” At the time, the minutes said, Swanson planned to meet with more council members.