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A ‘Common Sense’ Approach to Building

A ‘Common Sense’ Approach to Building

| By Andrew Weeks |

Kilbourne Group has several commercial projects in the works in the Fargo area that it says will enhance the area’s quality of life.

The mixed-use developments – named the Kesler, Landing, and Mercantile – all are on track to be completed and open by early to mid-2022.

A number of mixed-use developments have gone up in the region over the past few years or are in various stages of development. Is this a trend?

According to one report by Constructor Magazine, yes.

“Office buildings, shopping malls and centers, hotels, restaurants and other mixed-use developments were already in flux because of market forces, new retail trends and an abundance of innovative technology,” it reported in April. “Those changes have noticeably picked up since the pandemic’s arrival. Until we understand the full extent of the virus’s impact on our society, the pandemic-driven accelerant of market trends offers valuable insights into the future of mixed-use.”

However, Keith Leier, Kilbourne’s vice president of Development & Construction, said he views mixed-use developments not necessarily as a trend but as projects done out of necessity. He calls it a “common-sense approach” that hints at America’s roots.

“The reality is this was being done well before Kilbourne Group or anybody else was doing it in recent years,” he said. “This is the way cities were built. Historically, there were people living and working and playing and doing business, and all of those things, in close proximity to each other. So it is just getting back to our roots a little, going back to things that used to work well.”

He said when a city is done right, it keeps people there throughout the day — whether to live, work or play. Mixed-use buildings help sustain the energy levels of cities because they are where so much of a day’s activities happen.

“That’s the way to do it and that’s the way cities were built, historically. And so we’re just giving that a nod,” he said. “If you look at historic Broadway in Fargo 100 years ago, to have retail on the main floor of a building and apartments above was pretty common.”

The thing that is different is the technology used in today’s buildings, such as the integration of smart systems in the units.

“There’s a lot of technology and software-driven experiences that we’re starting to implement into our buildings,” he said, which help “both from a user experience standpoint and from a maintenance and operation standpoint; it helps us a lot with monitoring and tracking buildings and the lifecycle of equipment and things like that.”

Here’s a brief look at three of Kilbourne Group’s projects in Fargo:



Photo by Dan Francis


The company welcomed the groundbreaking of the Kes-ler in October 2020. It was in the middle of the first year of the pandemic, but that didn’t halt the company’s plans to build the final project of a multi-phase development.

That multi-phased project started in 2016 and is a partnership with the city of Fargo to turn former parkings lots into viable commercial and residential space, according to Leier. The projects completed so far include the Roberts Com-mons and Dillard, plus a 455-stall enclosed parking garage.

The mixed-use development includes 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space for five new businesses, according to information from the company, and under-ground and first-floor heated parking.

Retail frontage is on both north and south sides, incorporating more “traditional window fronts.” Finally, the Kesler has 109 apartments above the retail development.



Rendering by JLG Architects

The Landing

The first thing commuters will notice as they approach the underpass on 10th Street is a building called the Landing.

“This one is really a nod to what used to be a railyard area,” Leier said, noting that rail cars would park not at a dock but rather on a landing platform. “So that’s really where the name comes from. When you walk into this building, or walk around its exterior, you’ll see some steel and old timber railroad ties. It has a kind of railroad car feel to it.”

It is meant to look “a little industrial,” he said. “It’s the first thing that greets you … the first place you land when coming downtown from one of the main arteries,” Leier said. “We feel like it really sets the mood for downtown and has an energy for what downtown is doing right now.”

Leier said the Landing has 152 residential units and parking for residents, both enclosed and surface; 5,000 square feet of restaurant space and large outdoor patio; five two-story walk-up units with private entrances; and outdoor patios with grilling stations and lounge seating.



Photo by Vern Whitten Photography


The Mercantile, located on Fourth Avenue North and Broadway, is a two-phase project. The first phase was a parking garage, the second a mixed-use development that wraps the garage.

The company said the project includes 367 public parking spaces, 100 apartments, ground-floor retail space, and a substation of the Fargo Police Department. A third partner in the development is building nine for-sale condominiums on the north side of the project.

“The aesthetic of this one is much more traditional architecture,” Leier said. “It’s meant to give a strong nod to the surrounding buildings and the historic three- and four-story brick buildings that are adjacent to this.”

And, he said, it has more of a traditional and elegant feel to it with moldings and cornices and some of the color palettes that are used. “It’s just a little bit more refined … and give nods to the traditional beauty of architecture that’s up and down Broadway.”

Its name gives a nod to the four-story brick Fargo Mercantile Co. building that opened in 1909 and was demolished in 1966.

Leier said there is a lot of energy downtown and these buildings help that momentum.

“People are gravitating towards that and it’s becoming a really cool experience,” he said of the area. “There’s momentum there and we’re always looking to continue and better that momentum and to keep the city on a strong trajectory for recruiting people to come here.”


This article was originally published by Prairie Business Magazine. The cover rendering is by TL Stroh.

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