This is a story of community collaboration and a proven example of how street design impacts an environment. The latest reconstruction of Broadway in downtown Fargo was a series of small infrastructure investments that came together to create a major impact.
Like many downtowns, Fargo’s entered into decline in the early 70s when a shopping mall was built on the edge of town. City leaders reacted by redesigning Broadway as an outdoor urban mall. Concrete traffic bollards and large planters were added to create a meandering street and the sidewalks were covered with a continuous canopy to replicate an indoor mall. The result was a street with almost no on street parking and storefronts blocked from view of passing motorist. These misguided efforts accelerated the demise of downtown.
The north end of Broadway did not receive the pedestrian mall treatment. Instead, this section was overbuilt with four lanes of traffic. This section functioned more like a mini-highway instead of an inviting main street. Shoppers were deterred from lingering at storefronts as cars passed by too fast for comfort.
Redesigning Fargo’s Living Room
In 2000, the desire to revitalize Broadway aligned between city leaders, downtown business, building owners, and residents. Property owners and citizens participated in design charrettes that formed the vision of a walkable Broadway; a design very similar to the Broadway from the 1920s. The addition of diagonal parking, lane reductions, sidewalk bump-outs naturally slowed traffic, increased pedestrian safety, and made for welcoming space. As pedestrians returned, long-standing shops and restaurants welcomed new customers, and empty storefronts began to fill.
Incrementally, 32 small, locally owned businesses along Broadway have renovated their historic downtown storefronts. Ninety-percent of this private investment occurred after Broadway was reconstructed and owners saw the street’s new potential.
Since the start of the construction downtown property values have grown 165% from $278M to $738M. The roughly 250 projects that have renovated their properties as the downtown Renaissance Zone tax incentive have also resulted in a 500%+ increase in property values.
Since 2000, 600 new residential units with about 800 residents have been added, NDSU established a downtown campus with thousands of students attending class downtown, and recent redevelopment is focusing on infilling parking lots that will again increase the number of residents, businesses, and office workers.
Broadway is once again Fargo’s living room and is the backdrop to everything from parades, festivals, a thriving arts scene, dining, and arguably the most photographed area in the city. This project exemplifies how pedestrian friendly streets attract businesses, private investment, visitors, and can become a community’s source of pride.
*Special thanks to Downtown Dave Anderson for his input into this story and for all the people who came to the table to collaborate on this pivotal project.
Learn more about how great streets make great places from
Kilbourne Group’s Mike Zimney at the
ND Downtown Conference, October 18 and 19, 2016.