Grand Forks businesses joining forces to revitalize downtown core
An energetic group of downtown business owners have joined together to create a plan to revitalize the downtown to benefit themselves and the local economy.
Last week a group of 25 downtown merchants and professionals held a meeting to establish a board and advisory committee for a Downtown Business Association.
The group aims to create a plan to make downtown Grand Forks a desirable shopping and entertainment destination, which will help both the businesses who already exist there, and attract new ones.
“Downtown businesses need to bring more people into the downtown core, they see a need to revitalize, coordinate store hours and have community and event coordination,” said Sarah Winton, executive director for the Boundary Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, and also co-chair of the meeting.
They need to work on and be responsible for and focus on the downtown. They are the only group who can make these changes.
Winton said the possibilities are exciting and she was impressed with the turnout.
“It’s not a quick fix, it takes years to evolve but this is the first step,” she said.
“(The challenge is) to organize activities and to capture traffic off Highway 3 and to make the downtown a gathering place for people,” said Peter Perepolkin, owner of His n’ Hers Fashions and Sun-Lite Travel and Cruise Centre. “Then it is up to each business to capitalize on the fact people are here.”
Perepolkin was part of the original Business Improvement Association that was started in 1993. The association, which was organized to help revitalize the downtown area through marketing, fizzled out several years ago. However, Perepolkin has kept it alive as a registered non-profit organization in hopes that a new group might start it up again.
Now his foresight is paying off.
“I felt someway or other it has to happen and hopefully it will work this time,” he said.
I’m feeling very positive about (this new group). There is a lot of enthusiasm; there are new people in the business community, both in retail and in services.
A unified plan is just what the downtown needs, said Carol LaJoie of Value Drug Mart. LaJoie co-chaired the meeting with Winton. She said all Grand Forks downtown businesses face similar obstacles including cross-border shopping, marketing, parking and attracting and keeping tourists in our downtown core.
“The more we have going on here, the more store fronts we have filled, the better it is for everyone,” said LaJoie.
“I’m so pumped – it is really, really encouraging,” said city councillor Gary Smith, who also attended the meeting.
He said after the meeting, he and councillor Bob Kendel walked around downtown and could overhear the discussions the meeting had created.
“Now everyone seems to be feeling good about expressing their ideas,” said Smith, adding he has a “good feeling” council will back the revitalization plans.
Businesses that operate downtown include anyone from 75th Street to Riverside Drive, from 72nd Street to 6th Avenue and Riverside Drive.
The executive of the newly-formed board will meet in early December to come up with a plan for the downtown vision and then they’ll meet with all the merchants in January to gather input on that plan.