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BLOOMINGTON, MN-Despite residual concern over a flood that shatteredthe Grand Forks, ND economy three years ago, UnitedProperties has signed on to develop a retail centernext to a $60 million-plus ice arena that is underconstruction there.

The project on the University of North Dakota campusis part of the commercial realestate firm’s strategy of developing or buying grocerystore-anchored retail centers in smaller markets.Earlier this summer, the firm made its firstacquisition, First Center South, a 103,670-sf retailcenter in Fargo anchored by Sun Mart, a NashFinch grocery store. United is looking for similarprojects, either acquisitions or new development, inthe region between Chicago and the Missouri River,such as St. Cloud, Rochester, Mankato and Fargo.

The proposed center, to be called University Village GrandForks, could be up to 190,000 sf on a 36-acre tract ofland, says Bruce Carlson, United vice president ofretail development, who is leading the project. Theproject, which will be anchored by a 65,000 sf grocerystore, will be next to the Engelstad Arena, which isscheduled for completion in the fall of next year. Theland sits at the intersection of Gateway Avenue andColumbia Road, one of the busiestintersections in Grand Forks.

The board of educationat the university recently signed a developmentagreement with United. Carlson said he could not yetestimate how much the center will cost.One of the challenges to the project is the flood thathit the Red River Valley nearly three years ago, which led 3,000 residents to leave town. Furthercomplicating United’s study of the economy is that the massive amount of money spent on cleanup and rebuilding efforts has given a temporary boostto the local economy.

Other retailers have shown confidence in the GrandForks economy, including SuperTarget, which isbuilding a store there, and Cabela’s, which recentlyopened a store in neighboring East Grand Forks, MN.Also nearby the project is a new 38,000 sf Barnes &Noble Bookstore, which doubles as the university’sbookstore. In addition, the university plans to build a 50,000sf health clinic. Plans for the site also couldinclude a hotel, Carlson says.

Minneapolis-based KKE Architects is designing thecenter. Carlson expects a fall 2001 opening for the first phase, a grocery store.

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