Thanks to North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum’s “Downtown Initiative” and visioning that’s already underway, Devils Lake is in a position to become the “poster child” for what a downtown could become. That’s what Jonathan Holt says is possible.

Thanks to North Dakota’s Governor Doug Burgum’s “Downtown Initiative” and visioning that’s already underway, Devils Lake is in a position to become the “poster child” for what a downtown could become. That’s what Jonathan Holt says is possible.

The Grand Forks business owner and consultant has been meeting with a number of the city’s business owners and officials for months to determine what Devils Lake could do to bring life, interest and people into the heart of the city.
Holt started off the public meeting late Tuesday afternoon in the City Offices showing slides of comparable cities from the region that had added trees, bushes and flowers creating green space, benches or outdoor tables and seating, statues and decorative lighting to their downtown areas.

DL could do something similar but it needs to act fast, according to Mike Grafsgaard, city engineer.
Federal dollars are available at this time without having to go through the grant application process because of its unique situation.

“The sky’s the limit,” Grafsgaard says, but the catch is, whenever there are federal dollars at work, they require a local match and although on paper it may seem like a good deal, splitting 80/20, according to Grafsgaard, who has significant experience with these matters through the years, the numbers usually end up more like 50/50 or 70/30.

Therefore his question and Holt’s were the same, “What should we as a community do?”
Should we fix what we have, do just the bare minimum, or should we expand and add some of these niceties that are meant to help revive and enhance the downtown?

Aging lights and poles will need repairs or replacements, for example. It has been 25 years since those light poles were put in place and many are badly in need of repairs, refurbishment or replacing.
The city’s sidewalks in some areas need repairs and when that is being done the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that all public sidewalks contain specific panels be included to assist the visually impaired.

Either way the city is going forward making improvements to the downtown area in 2018, that’s already in the works. What they are asking the downtown residents and business owners is if they would invest in more than just the bare necessities.
What is needed in the next 30 days is to first identify the scope of the plan and what the budget will be. Then between January and April of 2018 develop the design and plans. May would be the timeline for the bid process and award and construction would be slated for the summer and fall.

The members of the audience were encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas about what they had heard so far.

Their questions and comments ranged from enthusiastic to skeptical. Practicalities were addressed, like snow removal and maintenance issues. In the end, it was the consensus of those approximately 30 people who were there to go forward, maybe not as far as some would have liked, but most agreed it was too good an opportunity to give up.
Doing something “amazing” with the intersection of 4th and 4th Ave. was agreed upon, as was also improving street lighting, doing “bump outs” with seating areas and the addition of trees or statues or both.

The information and comments gathered at this meeting will help in making the decisions ahead, according to Grafsgaard. He thanked everyone for coming and participating and asked anyone interested to sign up for the steering committee that would work out the scope and budget details of the application.