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Grand Forks Herald: The Beacon to begin construction after coming to terms with city

September 7, 2021

Work will soon begin on The Beacon, which will be a multi-purpose complex near downtown Grand Forks, now that its development and management contract passed.

The Beacon, developed by EPIC Companies, will be the future home of three buildings, a 40,000-square-foot outdoor plaza, public parking and an event space. It will be able to host markets, trade shows, theater shows, movie nights, children’s’ events, hockey and other sporting events, art shows and more. It is estimated to be completed in fall 2023.

The three buildings will be mixed-use and consist of apartments, condos, and commercial spaces spanning more than 12,000 square feet. It will be constructed in a similar fashion to The Lights, a four-building EPIC Companies development in West Fargo that is partially completed.

McKenzy Braaten, Vice President of Marketing and Public Relations for EPIC Companies, said having The Lights to draw upon for inspiration helped make the design process easier.

“It definitely gave us an opportunity to develop a similar (property) and kind of see what’s working and what’s not and how we can improve on it and make changes,” Braaten said. “It definitely has provided a blueprint for us. This plaza will actually be a little bit bigger than the one in West Fargo, in (Grand Forks) being such a hockey town.”

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The Beacon and the City of Grand Forks have agreed to terms on the project as of Aug. 23, which means construction can begin soon. Epic Companies plans to begin this month.

“Since we are working with the city for the plaza, the management structure will be set up similar to what we’ve done in the past, which is where you have members from multiple entities, and those entities may be the park district, the school district, the county and members at large,” Braaten said. “That’s been very important as a part of something that we’ve seen in the past how you can manage a plaza space and still have ownership of it as a city. We really felt strongly about making sure that we were able to agree to terms on that.”

The Beacon’s plaza will be owned by the city, which is due to Tax Increment Financing (TIF). It subsidizes companies by refunding part of its taxes to help finance development in an area or project. The plaza will be managed by a nonprofit that has yet to be determined.

“We’ve done this in the past with The Lights in West Fargo, and that has worked really well,” Braaten said. “We’re using a similar structure to that with this development and the management terms. It’s open to the community and the public, so having city ownership in it ensures that the community is able to use it.”

One thing The Beacon has an advantage over The Lights in is location. Braaten said it should be accessible to more people because of its proximity to downtown.

“We’re thinking with people being able to walk so much and get to downtown so quickly, that will really draw that crowd,” Braaten said. “It’s definitely on a main thoroughfare compared to the one in West Fargo, which is a little more on the outskirts of Fargo. Because The Beacon is right near downtown, that’s another thing that, location-wise, has been important for us as well.”

The Beacon will also take inspiration from UND and a couple people who have meant a lot to the university. Part of its design will pay tribute to them.

“It will be green and white beams, so it will have similar colors to UND,” Braaten said. “A big thing is that ‘the beacon’ means ‘inspiration and opportunity,’ and it’s named after Ralph Englestad and Reggie Morelli, because they gave a lot of people opportunity and inspiration. So, not only does The Beacon have multiple meanings, when you think about aviation and the lights and that kind of thing, but it also has the meaning of opportunity and inspiration as well.”

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