HEADS UP: Plan for apartments near Columbia Road overpass coming forward

Proposed location for an apartment project aimed at UND students. Photo credit: ICON Architects.

Heads Up is a weekly column covering city government meetings in Grand Forks. 

Grand Forks City Council has this Monday off so the Planning and Zoning Commission is in the spotlight this week.

Perhaps the most interesting project being brought forward to it for preliminary consideration is an apartment building planned for vacant land near the Columbia Road overpass.

Developers are asking the commission to grant a rezoning request for the land, which is zoned as business but would need to change to residential in order for the apartments to be built.

The apartments would be located north of DeMers Avenue and just west of the Columbia Road overpass. A maximum of 145 units could be put in the four-story building, which would be marketed mostly toward UND students.

At last month’s meeting, the developers first bridged the idea of creating housing on that land with the commission, according to a city staff report.

City Planner Brad Gengler expressed reservations about the building’s location at that meeting.

“I haven’t shown support for the project, in the sense that I just don’t support encouraging and increasing the amount of residential development adjacent to … a rail yard,” he said.

Other commission members did have concerns about the apartments’ proximity to the rail yard, mentioning the death of 20-year-old UND student Blake Ayling that occurred in the area last June.

Developers said they can’t prevent unsafe behavior but have plans to combat it. An eight-foot fence would be put up to cut off access to the rail yard from the apartment property.

Feedback from the committee seemed favorable, especially since the housing would be apartments for students and not single-family homes.

The Planning and Zoning Commission meets at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday in the City Council Chambers of City Hall.

7 thoughts on “HEADS UP: Plan for apartments near Columbia Road overpass coming forward

  1. No, these need approval from both the commission and City Council before the construction phase can even begin. A maximum of 145 units can be built on the site.

    As for the apartments mentioned on the WSJ site, I haven’t found anything under the city’s active project list in that name. I’ll keep digging.

  2. If this was to go forward, do you think the city would be in favor of building a starwell halfway across the overpass so pedestrians could walk to/from UND without having to cross the railyard and DeMers on the overpass, then cross DeMers again at ground level?

    Come to think of it, that could be a solution to draw more commercial development to that area plus the strip mall that has Popolino’s, etc. Aside from the proximity to the railyard, access to this area seems like it would be an issue.

    • Silly me, it was in the plan all along. Thanks for including it in the story today, hopefully we can get some more people in favor of such a walkway if the project moves forward.

  3. Ideally, I wish this would be a mixed use building with commercial on the ground floor. Regardless, my biggest wish for this site would be that any residential building built here would be taller than four stories. If at all possible construction-wise, we need to start building up in Grand Forks and not just out. Would it be physically impossible to build a six, eight, or even ten story apartment building here? Columbia Towers by the mall is ten stories, why haven’t we built any taller residential building anywhere in town for thirty years now?

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