A better downtown for Minot

Local, state and federal officials are imagining a better downtown Minot after the Magic City received an $18 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.

Many officials spoke about what a wonderful opportunity the grant provides downtown Minot during a press conference there Wednesday afternoon. The money comes from Congress’ 2012 disaster recovery funding and will go towards the Minot’s Imagine Downtown renewal project.

A total of $140.8 million has been raised for Imagine Downtown. In addition to the $18 million from EDA, other sources of funding include $4.5 million from Minot, $5.3 million from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of Community Development Block Grant dollars, $3 million from the Magic Fund, and $110 million in private equity.

Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., said it was a complete team effort to get the Imagine Downtown project off the ground, and many people are to be commended for their hard work.

“There’s a number of different funding sources, and to truly pull them together and get something of this magnitude, this Imagine Downtown program, pull that together, it really took all these people working together to make that happen,” Hoeven said.

He noted how hard Minot and the downtown area were hit by the 2011 Souris River flood, and said the money from the EDA grant will help revive what many consider to be the heart of Minot.

“It’s going to go a long way towards reinvigorating and strengthening downtown after the flood,” Hoeven said. “We’ve got a great downtown in Minot and it’s going to be even better thanks to this fabulous project.”

Gov. Jack Dalrymple joked that he loves coming to the Magic City when all the news is good because there were some days when he wondered if there would ever be any.

“We like to look back and say, yeah, that’s old history,” Dalrymple said. “And today is sunny and we’ve got a bunch of good money coming into downtown Minot and it’s a fun day to celebrate.”

He said the EDA grant was a team effort in much the same way Imagine Downtown is, stating the $18 million represents a coordinated effort between the state, the congressional delegation and the leaders of Minot.

“I want to thank them all for this much-deserved funding for the city of Minot,” Dalrymple said.

Matt Erskine, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of commerce for economic development, said EDA is proud to have served as a partner with Minot for the important renewal project. He noted this isn’t the first time EDA has teamed up with the Magic City.

“Shortly after the flood hit, EDA worked with you to provide funding for the development of a long-term economic recovery plan for the city, (and) that’s the sound of commerce, right there,” Erskine joked as a train rolled through the area, blaring its horn. “EDA also invested $1.6 million to construct sewer and roadway infrastructure in the city’s North Hill section to support the retail, residential and commercial development.”

Erskine said this latest money will help advance Minot’s economic recovery from the extensive flooding that occurred and help cement the city’s reputation as the regional commerce center for northwest North Dakota.

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said it’s amazing what can be accomplished when we all work together to really change the landscape and jump-start a new economy. She said unfortunately, there probably isn’t a community left in North Dakota that hasn’t wondered how it will survive a disaster that has befallen it. After the initial panic and after everyone bands together to save the town, Heitkamp said something amazing happens.

“We start thinking about how we can be not only recovered, but how we can be better. How can we come back with an even bigger idea, an even better idea? And this money today will provide the jump-start, provide the infrastructure investment. That means that 50 years from now when people think about downtown Minot, they think isn’t it great people made an investment, isn’t it great we had that huge flood and people had the vision to imagine what our downtown could be, to imagine the vitality that comes to this community?” Heitkamp said. “You are going to have a downtown when this investment’s done that’s going to be unparalleled in North Dakota because you had the vision – and yes, got a little help from the taxpayers all across this country – and also made the regional and local investment that it takes to make a project like this work.”

Minot mayor Curt Zimbelman thanked EDA for the $18 million grant, stating it will give Minot a big boost in its continuing efforts to recover from the flood.

“I believe it was the governor that said if you want public investment sometimes you’ve got to make sure the infrastructure is good enough to handle that kind of investment,” Zimbelman said. “And now we know that we will have that kind of infrastructure so that we will get that type of investment.”

He said revitalizing the downtown area will help continue the momentum of reopening businesses, opening new businesses, creating jobs and returning to a healthy, attractive and vibrant center for Minot’s residents to shop, dine and work.

“A flourishing downtown Minot is one of the keystones in the rebuilding of our entire community,” Zimbelman said. “And this grant gives us the opportunity to move forward and make our downtown area stand out as the heart of Minot.”

Although Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., couldn’t make it to the press conference, he provided some remarks read by Chris Marohl, a member of the congressman’s staff.

“Thank you all for your efforts in rebuilding and growing the Magic City. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to be there with you today, but I’m pretty sure the money will arrive regardless,” Marohl said to laughs from the crowd. “The infrastructure built as a result of this EDA grant will drive greater investment into homes and businesses. Homes and businesses not only demanded from those lost in the devastating 2011 flooding, but demanded by a thriving community. I have no doubt that these federal dollars, leveraged by city and private dollars, will contribute to Minot’s path of improving lives and opportunities in this globally competitive world.”

Bonny Kemper, president of the Downtown Business and Professional Association, said she was incredibly excited and couldn’t wait to see the Imagine Downtown project start rocking and rolling.

“It just brings a true gladness over the entire city, and whenever anyone speaks about downtown they love the downtown. And the people who live and work here will appreciate it even more, as will the community as a whole,” Kemper said. “I’ve always believed that the downtown of any city is the heart of the city, and this is heart health. We are going to get a boost to our city, and we deserve it. We plan on making the downtown the center of attraction.”