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Keith Danks, donor of land for Alerus Center, dies at 81

Keith Danks Sr.

ERSKINE, Minn.—A Grand Forks businessman whose land contributions helped Grand Forks' westward expansion, including a donation for the Alerus Center, has died.

Keith Duane Danks Sr. of Erskine died unexpectedly Saturday in his home at Crystal Lake, according to his obituary. He was 81 years old.

Born in Bagley, Minn., Danks drove potato trucks for his father in Grand Forks before starting his own delivery company called Bekins Van Line, now known as Bekins Moving and Storage.

Danks was known for donating land to various projects as a way to beautify the area and invest in the community, his son Keith Danks Jr. said. Danks Sr. donated land for temporary housing after the 1997 flood, as well as land for park use in downtown Grand Forks, according to his son.

"He looked at things in a forward motion and thought he might want to leave a little bit of a legacy that might be there for many years," Danks Jr. said.

But his most notable contribution was for the Alerus Center. In the mid-1990s, Danks donated land near Interstate 29 so the city could build the arena there. The land known as Market Place West became home to the Alerus Center and UND football.

Danks also sold land to the city near the Alerus Center for an adjacent parking lot.

What followed was hotel, business and housing development in the area, including a 2003 deal to build a Canad Inns connected to the Alerus Center. Danks was instrumental in initiating the catalyst for what Grand Forks Mayor Mike Brown called a "destination corridor."

"I was very pleased he had the foresight and the vision to do that," Brown said of Danks' donation, agreeing the city might not have developed to the west as it did if that donation had not been made.

Most recently, Danks offered to donate land for a condo complex if the city preserved the now-demolished Arbor Park. The land he would have donated, according to a note he signed, would be located at 425 Kittson Ave., or a plot adjacent to Centennial Park.

Danks felt Grand Forks treated him well and he wanted to give back to the community, his grandson Cody Danks said. The developer had a hand in multiple pots that helped others and the community, but he will be remembered for helping others and "his giving heart," according to his obit.

"He didn't seek out attention for his acts of kind things he did," Cody Danks said.

Visitation will be 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Rodnes Lutheran Church in rural Erskine, followed immediately by a prayer service. Danks' funeral is at 2 p.m. Saturday at the church.

April Baumgarten

April Baumgarten joined the Grand Forks Herald May 19, 2015, and covers crime and education. She grew up on a ranch 10 miles southeast of Belfield, where her family raises registered Hereford cattle. She double majored in communications and history/political science at Jamestown (N.D.) College, now known as University of Jamestown. During her time at the college, she worked as a reporter and editor-in-chief for the university's newspaper, The Collegian. Baumgarten previously worked for The Dickinson Press as a city government and energy reporter in 2011 before becoming the editor of the Hazen Star and Center Republican. She then returned to The Press as a news editor, where she helped lead an award-winning newsroom in recording the historical oil boom.

Have a story idea? Contact Baumgarten at 701-780-1248.

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