University Avenue: Grand Forks’ New Main Street

UND planners are collaborating with the City of Grand Forks and community organizations to revitalize the vibrant connection between campus and downtown, with University Avenue as the catalyst. From left to right: UND President Mark Kennedy, Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland, UND Associate Vice President for Facilities Mike Pieper, and Evolve Grand Forks’ Jonathan Holth. Photo by Connor Murphy/UND Today.

The University of North Dakota is forging a new path with a Strategic Plan for its future. But the institution has much to learn from its own history.

When Chandler Hall is razed later this year, the demolition team will salvage a piece of the building containing a bracket pulley from an early 20th century streetcar, one that traveled the two miles back and forth between the University campus and downtown Grand Forks.

The pulley is a reminder of the important link between the educational and economic pillars of the community – a connection city leaders and University planners and students are now reigniting, with the cooperative re-imagination of University Avenue as a vibrant, unifying Main Street.

“This is our chance to get back to the connection that we once had,” said Mike Pieper, UND associate vice president for facilities.

With a shared 2017 Vibrancy District Plan as a base, the two entities crafted a blueprint to leverage already existing infrastructure as a foundation for a more welcoming corridor, using joint planning and funding to increase walkability and public transit between the districts; explore public-private partnerships for concentrated mixed-use development; create new opportunities for housing and Greek living; and challenge area students to engage in the process.

If successful, UND and the City will unite their respective “downtowns,’” bringing economic vitality into the community and making Grand Forks a destination for students, young professionals, and families.

“Just as our University wants to be part of a vibrant Grand Forks, we also want our local community to be the proud home of UND,” said UND President Mark Kennedy. “When we’re able to partner with the City to enhance its vibrancy initiatives, it simultaneously enhances the appeal of UND’s community.”

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