Grand Forks orders troubled Ambassador Motel demolished


City council members on Monday unanimously approved an order to demolish the motel over objections from Kenton McGregor, who manages the trust that owns the building. McGregor asked for enough time to sell him to Blue Star Investments, whose directors he said would demolish the Ambassador anyway.

“I don’t think we necessarily object to the fact that the ambassador should probably be removed,” McGregor said. “I object to the fact that very little time has been given to effect anything like a sale without the possibility that the city can put the brakes on a sale by immediately requiring that, within seven days, someone is supposed to demolish the building. “

McGregor received an order on June 10 giving him seven days to demolish the property. He appealed, which set up Monday’s final vote. The order approved by council members then takes precedence over the original demolition order, according to city administrator Todd Feland, and it states that McGregor must raze the building “as soon as possible” and no later than a set deadline. by Brandon Boespflug, the head of the city’s inspection service. Boespflug did not return requests for comment from the Herald after the meeting.

Related: Where are they now? Former residents of Ambassador Motel in Grand Forks are working to move on

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security concerns

The Ambassador has a checkered reputation that includes frequent police calls, violence, theft and drug addiction. But rooms were cheap and many residents couldn’t afford a better place to live. Grand Forks Police received a complaint under the Americans with Disabilities Act in early spring and, ultimately, city inspectors reported dozens of health and safety issues to the motel. The city declared the building unsafe for occupancy and, after about two weeks, dispatched police to evacuate the handful of residents who remained.

“There were people who might have been directly over a fire and wouldn’t have known it,” Fire Chief Gary Lorenz told council members.

Grand Forks firefighters put out two simultaneous fires there shortly after police evacuated the last residents. Lorenz said a state investigation into the fires was not complete.

In a hearing designed to resemble a court trial, McGregor told council member Bret Weber that he removed the styrofoam from the motel’s basement – one of many potential fire hazards noted by city inspectors – and said the motel manager his son Tyler had stored too many items there. He also claimed that much of the motel “clutter” had been cleaned up and that the basement was locked at all times and only the hotel manager was allowed to do so. The Herald’s visits to the motel and interviews with former residents indicate that the basement was easily accessible and often contained people who were not the manager inside, and that broken glass and discarded furniture were scattered in its corridors, before and after the the city forced the inhabitants out.

“When was the last inspection of the fire alarm system? Asked board member Danny Weigel. McGregor said he didn’t remember and, during a series of quick questions from Weigel, also claimed he didn’t remember the last time the fire alarm system reported “normal” conditions. And that the extension cords had not been used as permanent wiring at the motel in a “long time.” Each of these were safety hazards noted by inspectors from the Grand Forks Fire Department.

“I don’t get involved in day-to-day operations,” McGregor said.

The company that is preparing to buy the motel is Blue Star Investments, whose management arm lists the Southtown Center mall on South Washington Avenue, a warehouse on South 48th Street and a proposed mall in East Grand Forks in its portfolio.

In related news, board members:

  • Approved a series of changes to city alcohol policies that, overall, allow certain types of bars and restaurants to deliver alcohol in addition to food, expand charity games in restaurants, I was convicted of a violent offense related to the possession of a liquor license, among other changes. The policy changes were passed unanimously, with the exception of the expansion of charity games, which board members Katie Dachtler and Jeannie Mock opposed.
  • OK had cut payments for a series of events as well as an annual Green Lane festival. Board members unanimously approved $ 25,000 for the Downtown Development Association’s “Obelisk” event series in downtown Grand Forks, a vote that board member Bret Weber recused against because that his son, Blue, runs the association. Young Weber asked the city for $ 50,000 in seed money and said the smaller-than-expected public grant would reduce the number of events in the series from six to three. Council members also approved $ 50,000 for the Greenway Takeover festival; its organizers initially asked for $ 100,000.


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