| By Helmut Schmidt |
This article originally appeared on InForum. The featured image is a rendering by JLG Architects of the RiverHouse project.
FARGO – Brick by brick, parking lot by parking lot, downtown Fargo is filling in, and that makes Jim Gilmour a happy man.
Gilmour, the city’s director of strategic planning and development, pulls out a map of downtown and quickly points out a dozen spots that could potentially hold another five-, six- or seven-story building.
“There are probably 20-plus properties in the downtown” that are blighted or underused — good candidates for redevelopment — Gilmour said in a recent interview with The Forum. “There are probably even more parking lots that have some potential.”
In recent years, the momentum for urban infill in the downtown core has paid dividends, with hundreds of new apartments and condominiums, tens of thousands of square feet of office and commercial space, plus a new hotel in the gleaming RDO Building. “That’s really transformed the core of the downtown,” Gilmour said.
His gaze is also drawn to the Red River.
“I think we can probably try to spread out from there (the downtown core) now,” Gilmour said. “I think this whole riverfront has the potential to create a lot of housing, create a lot more activity, boost property values.”
Downtown Fargo has had a banner year for construction in 2022, and it appears the momentum will carry into 2023 and 2024. Here’s a rundown of some of the bigger projects completed, in the queue, or now on hold.
The Kilbourne Group leads the list with three big mixed use projects that brought more than 360 living units to the downtown in 2022. Two other projects announced this year are in development.
- The Mercantile opened April 1. The six-story building at 405 Broadway, built on the site of the former Schumacher Goodyear store, has 100 apartments and 17,000 square feet of commercial space (some of which is now taken up by a Fargo Police Department substation). The Mercantile wraps around a city-owned parking garage with more than 360 stalls, and on the northeast side of the complex is The Great Northern Block, a nine-condo development put together by Tom and Kari Smith, the owners of the neighboring Great Northern Bicycle Company.
- The Kesler building opened July 1 at 624 2nd Ave. N. It has 109 apartments and 9,000 square feet of retail space, with about 4,000 square feet of that ground floor space being turned into a liquor store – Bottle Barn Off Broadway . The six-story Kesler was built on what had once been two surface parking lots between First and Second Avenues North.
- The Landing at 1001 NP opened in late summer at 1001 Northern Pacific Ave. The four-story apartment and townhome complex, which also has space for a ground floor restaurant, takes up most of a block that once held the Nestor Tavern and Park Company Realtors. The Landing has 154 living units, mostly apartments and a few townhomes.
Projects that could start in 2023:
- Kilbourne is partnering with Global Development, Fargo Moorhead Community Theatre, and the city, on a $66 million mixed-use development that will fill two surface parking lots on the 600 Block of NP Avenue between North Dakota State University’s Renaissance Hall and the Old Broadway bar and restaurant. The complex will include a city-owned 500-stall parking ramp, 145 apartments, retail space, a 420-seat theatre and classrooms. A timeline hasn’t been released for the groundbreaking and completion
- Along the riverfront, Great Plains Block 3, an investment group led by Kilbourne Group, plans to build apartments at 225 Fourth Ave. N. and 419 Third St. N., which are the sites of a former military entrance processing station and a warehouse. The $28.8 million building will have more than 100 apartments and main floor parking. It is projected to be finished in fall 2024. The project was approved for tax increment financing by the Fargo City Commission, but Cass County commissioners recently voted not to participate in the TIF agreement.
EPIC Companies is well along in its vision of turning the area that was once the Gateway Center strip mall into a true gateway to Fargo.
The first of three buildings envisioned for the site, Gateway North, was completed in 2021. The second phase building, The Arch, is under construction. The purchase of the land for the third phase building, Unite, just completed. Here’s where things stand:
- Construction on The Arch , a seven-story, L-shaped mixed-use building, began in 2021 and is proceeding rapidly. The Arch will include underground and main floor parking, 16,500 square feet of commercial and office space, community room, fitness room, and the remainder of the space given over to 26 apartments and 32 condominiums, with one-, two- and three-bedroom options, many overlooking the Red River. “The Arch is the big thing for us in the coming year,” EPIC spokeswoman McKenzie Braaten said Tuesday, Nov. 8. It will open in the summer of 2023.
- EPIC sealed the deal for the seven-story Unite building on Oct. 31. The Fargo City Commission approved the sale of the property at 234 Main Ave. for $1.18 million. Construction is expected to start at the end of 2023, Braaten said. It will have parking underground and through Level 2, sharing space with commercial areas on the first through third floors. Apartments are planned for floors four and five, and condominiums for the top two floors. There will also be an outdoor plaza accessible to the public.
Work is continuing on the interior and exterior renovation of 520 Main Ave., which will become Bell Bank’s new corporate headquarters. The office tower, which previously housed Bank of the West , had another story added to bring it to 13 stories. Work on the tower, which overlooks downtown Fargo and Island Park, is expected to be completed in December 2023, according to Carrie Nett, senior vice president and facilities manager for Bell Bank. The project includes the $9.5 million purchase of the Island Park parking ramp.
Lashkowitz High Rise
The Fargo Housing Authority has requests for proposals to hire a contractor to abate asbestos in the now empty Lashkowitch High Rise tower , with demolition perhaps in the fall of 2023, said Chris Brungardt, CEO of the Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority. Once the landmark 22-story tower is gone, the housing authority plans to build 110 units of 1-, 2- and 3-bedroom apartments to take its place. Funding has already been secured for construction.
501 Main Ave.
A multi-story mixed-use building “is still on the table” for 501 Main Ave., according to Matt Torgerson, the director of development at JLG Architects in Fargo. JLG and project partner F.I. Salter company of Duluth, Minn., are aiming to get a sales and development agreement in place yet this year, Torgerson said Wednesday, Nov. 9.
However, rising interest rates could delay the project, which was first announced in late December 2020 , Torgerson said.
“I wouldn’t say it’s a slam dunk. We’re still hopeful that we could move that project forward,” Torgerson said. The project, which would be built on a parking lot on the northeast corner of Main and Broadway, was once envisioned as six stories. Now, it “may be less than that. Won’t be more than six stories, and likely less,” he said. And rather than a mix of apartments and condominiums, the housing component will be “likely just condos at this point.”
If the revamped project gets approval, work could start in 2023, Torgerson said.
“We’ve got the last mile to run yet. We remain optimistic,” he said.
Hotel, housing on hold
Plans for a $38.5 million hotel and housing project at Fourth Avenue and Fourth Street North are on hold.
In May, the City Commission agreed to sell 401 Third Ave. N., the former Public Health building, to Green Acre Development and Lloyd Companies, both of Sioux Falls, and ESG Architecture and Design of Minneapolis. The developers pitched a 115-room AC by Marriott hotel, 108 market-rate apartments in a second building, and 167 covered parking spots shared between them. The project was planned for completion in 2024.
Green Acre/Lloyd planned to buy the DVAW building (TruGreen) and a parking lot owned by American Federal Bank for the hotel and housing. The public health building was to be razed and that land turned into a parking lot for the bank.
Then, the Federal Reserve started raising interest rates to rein in inflation.
“They’re on hold right now because of interest rates and construction costs,” Gilmour said Wednesday, Nov. 9. He said the project start could be delayed into 2024.
Gilmour said the City Commission will likely discuss whether to allow the significant delay for the project.