What does the Grand Forks Downtown Development Association do? COO Jill Proctor explains – Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — The Grand Forks Herald sat down with Jill Proctor, COO of the Downtown Development Association, for 5 questions this week.

Q: What does the DDA do?

A: Our mission is to defend, promote, develop and improve the downtown community, and we know that downtown communities across the country are in some way the heart of a community and they kind of fuel everything that’s going on across the city, so we feel that when our downtown is thriving, it just opens up opportunities across our Grand Forks. So that’s really our goal – to create places, to focus on how we retain and attract talent to our community (and) to make sure that we make it a safe and vibrant place for everyone to enjoy.

Q: How would someone in downtown Grand Forks notice the influence of the DDA? If there were no DDA, what wouldn’t be downtown Grand Forks?

A: What might not be here might be our Grand Rides Bike Share. The DDA took over Grand Rides during the pandemic, and the company that originally brought Grand Rides Bike Share to Grand Forks did not survive the pandemic, and Grand Forks was faced with the question, “Do you want a bike share program in your community, where is it going? The DDA was part of the conversations to get him here initially, and then the DDA was approached to oversee him. So we worked with other community leaders to make sure we could put a plan in place, so now the DDA owns and operates the Grand Rides Bike Share system in conjunction with the City of Grand Forks. Altru Health System has been an amazing partner in this regard, Visit Greater Grand Forks, most recently it was Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota, the City of East Grand Forks joined us… Oh, and the government student at the University of North Dakota. How can I even forget that one? They are the most runners!

Q: Why is it important to add more apartments and residential options to downtown Grand Forks?

A: If you look back several years, there was a lot of controversy surrounding the lot (Arbor Park). The DDA was approached by partners and members and was looking for a position that a downtown organization should take on a build like this. (It was) such a beloved community space, and when we looked around and looked at all the places downtown Grand Forks has come to since the 97 flood and what the intentions were behind rebuilding our downtown from there, the intention was that this lot was always a placeholder. And we know there was development, we know there’s a shift that’s happening with the generations to come and what they’re looking for. And again, with baby boomers as well, they are looking for walkable neighborhoods and communities where they can work, live, play, shop, and do all (these) things (and) the biggest ones. priority is to have a healthy environment in which to do so. So that was a big key role when we took the position of the Vote No To Grow campaign, and we think that kind of opened the door to all of these new developments that we were hoping to happen.

Q: What is the Downtowner program?

A: It was a newly launched program. Over the past two years, as we watched the millions of dollars of investment downtown, we began to ask ourselves as an organization, “What is our role in maintaining beautification here, creating the atmosphere that justifies having millions of dollars in investments and how do you continue to prosper from all these improvements? And Town Square is the first thing that came to mind because everyone loves it. Everyone loves (the) farmer’s market. We love having gigs there, we’ve had our own gigs there, we use it for our downtown street fair (and) we try to incorporate it into most things we do, but it’s 10% of the time, and we see it 90% of the time maybe other people don’t see it, and some business owners, especially on Third Street, see some of the activity that s was taking place there, and it’s not really comfortable. (It’s) maybe not always the safest space for people to relax and have a lunch or a coffee, and we want to make the whole downtown area welcoming to visitors, guests, residents and anyone who comes here. And so we started asking the question, “Whose responsibility is it to look at these spaces and activate them or reimagine them? And Town Square was sort of obvious to us, but then it was like, ‘Well, how do we find it?’ We are a small team of three 501 Cs (6) We don’t have thousands of dollars waiting just to be able to change space downtown. And the other thing is we always hear from people, “How can I get involved? I want to be part of what happens in our spaces and the decisions that are made. And so that served as a two birds of a stone goal where we needed audience support and feedback on what to do with this space. We partnered with the city on this space, we had a (great) conversation very early on with some of our investors and some of the city leaders and we asked if the DDA was the one who should take the lead role in the reinvention of Town Square, and the answer was overwhelmingly “yes”. So we thought if we could get support from the community behind Town Square in the form of contributions that would help fuel what we’re trying to do there, that was just the perfect combination.

Q: What’s on the horizon for the DDA for the remainder of 2022?

A: City center. We recently applied for grants to try to create places (and) try to revitalize culture in this space, and one of those turned out to be the Lowe’s Hometown Project. My husband heard about it on the radio. I hadn’t heard of it, and I thought on a whim it’s 100 communities across the country, it’s a national competition, last year there were thousands of applicants, like just put our name in the hat and see what happens. So we found out probably six weeks ago that we were in the top 200, and we were like, ‘Oh, we’ve got a 50% chance. So you’re saying there’s a chance? And then we found out just a few weeks ago that we had been selected out of 100 across the country to receive a $100,000 grant and be named one of those hometowns. It was pretty exciting also because this is the first time an organization in North Dakota has received this opportunity, so we are the first and only in North Dakota. I also noticed on the map they released today that even Minnesota (and) potentially South Dakota and Montana, they’re not part of this amazing opportunity. So what this is going to do is everything we hoped for, and the city is doing an amazing job.

David H. Henry