| 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.
Projects that could start in 2023:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.