Grand Forks initiative moving to Near SouthsideGrand Forks’ Near Southside Neighborhood will receive the attention of the city’s urban development efforts along with new housing. The Mayor’s Urban Neighborhoods Initiative will move its focus from the city’s Near North Neighborhood to the Near Southside this year, and Urban Development staff is just beginning to figure out how to transfer that program to a new neighborhood.
By: By Christopher Bjorke , Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
Grand Forks’ Near Southside Neighborhood will receive the attention of the city’s urban development efforts along with new housing.
The Mayor’s Urban Neighborhoods Initiative will move its focus from the city’s Near North Neighborhood to the Near Southside this year, and Urban Development staff is just beginning to figure out how to transfer that program to a new neighborhood.
“That was always the plan,” said Community Development Manager Meredith Richards. “The north end was the pilot area, and then we’d move south.”
The neighborhood south of downtown was the city’s first designated historic district and one of its oldest residential districts. Some of its homes date back to the 1880s and its architecture provides a showcase of styles from the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
While the initiative’s goal on the Near North Neighborhood was to bring investment to the area and halt a trend toward deterioration, the Near Southside presents a different case.
The Near North Neighborhood largely comprises modest single-family homes, but the Southside contains some of the city’s most elegant residences.
However, Richards said the neighborhood’s housing stock is more diverse than that.
“The Near Southside encompasses everything from multi-million-dollar homes on Reeves Drive to pretty modest single-family and pretty modest multi-family housing,” she said.
The Southside’s inventory of moderate-income housing will see new construction soon, through a move by the City Council to donate nine city-owned vacant lots in the neighborhood along with two in the Near North Neighborhood to the Grand Forks Community Land Trust for the development of affordable housing.
“This is really exciting for us that the city has embraced our efforts,” said trust Executive Director Emily Wright.
Her program works with homebuilders to develop houses that fit in with the surrounding neighborhood and are affordable for families with moderate incomes, defined as less than 120 percent of the area’s median income. For a family of four, that income would be $77,625, according to Wright.
The land trust is also getting $355,000 in state housing money to help homebuyers complete financing for the purchases, though that money is limited to families earning up to 80 percent of the local median income.
The trust will complete a home at 222 Cottonwood St. this spring and break ground on a second home at 224 Walnut St. this summer, Wright said.
The City Council approved the transfer of the city-owned lots to the trust Monday along with the state housing money.
Though not part of the urban neighborhood initiative, the timing of the donation of the lots to the trust fits with its goals of keeping city neighborhoods viable places where people want to live.
“The land trust kind of emerged as a viable entity in the last year,” Richards said.
The Urban Development staff is planning a meeting in the next couple of months for Southside residents interested in participating in a neighborhood association to meet with members of the Near North Neighborhood Association, hear about their experiences with the initiative and formally pass its focus from north to south.
Council member Eliot Glassheim, whose ward covers the Near North Neighborhood and part of the Near Southside, said the initiative helped upgrade the neighborhood’s image and encourage investment in the area. But he thinks it is time for the initiative to look at a new area.
“I always felt it should move and shouldn’t only stay in one part of town,” he said.
Richards said the goals of the program will be set by residents who get involved in the neighborhood association, but will concentrate on keeping the area viable.
“That applies to any place in the city,” she said.
Christopher Bjorke is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.