The following guest editorial by Doug Burgum appeared today in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. It also includes several supplementary “extras” that were not included in the original article, but which will help explain the potential and overall vision for our downtown.
On Sunday, Sept. 8, The Forum ran a front-page story on proposed downtown Fargo improvements, including a proposed concept for a Kilbourne Group-led project,the Block 9 tower, which would be located on existing surface parking lot on Broadway, immediately north of the current US Bank Plaza.
The aspirational vision for this mixed-use tower includes retail, a hotel with meeting room/event amenities, office space, residential condos, a restaurant/bar, underground parking, public lobby escalators to the existing skyway system, all adjacent to a rebuilt, city-owned public parking ramp and a re-envisioned public plaza at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue.
This significant project is intentional in its efforts to kindle a broad dialogue about thoughtful design, the positive economics of density, and the importance of a vibrant, walkable core to the economic health of our entire metro area.
Much work remains to bring this vision to reality, and Kilbourne Group welcomes all input, ideas, and concerns.
We are fortunate to live in a state with a strong economy and in a city with progressive leadership. Â Now is the time to set our sights high and lay the foundation for the next century.
Reporter Erik Burgess’ story was thorough and expansive in its scope, as he covered several complex, multi-faceted projects, some publicly funded, some privately funded, all in the same article.
Based on some of the follow-up coverage of the story, and based on the feedback Kilbourne Group has received, there is some confusion, particularly in the areas related to the use of public funds, and the flood plain, which we attempt to clarify below.
The truth about Block 9
The Block 9 tower project would be located three blocks west of the envisioned civic quad and three blocks from the 100-year flood plain.
We would like to emphasize that the public-private partnership regarding Block 9 relates to city-owned parking structures on City of Fargo-owned land. The Block 9 tower project would be funded from private investors.
The convergence of a) available funds, b) existing, available, city-owned land, c) flood protection, and d) the roughly parallel timing for these three civic projects, creates an unprecedented opportunity for our city to bring to life an exciting vision that has been proposed for several decades.
The Kilbourne Group does not seek credit for the core ideas which we strongly support: permanent flood protection for the metro area, civic buildings arranged around a civic green space, a high-density, mixed-use infill on Block 9, and a 2nd-avenue-aligned pedestrian/bike corridor running from NDSUâ€™s downtown campus, connecting all the way to Viking Ship Park in downtown Moorhead. The credit for this vision goes to those involved in multiple planning efforts across multiple organizations over several decades. Those processes were driven by dedicated civic employees, thoughtful citizen and volunteer input, and enlightened elected/appointed leaders.
Why infill pays
Seizing the opportunity for an integrated set of multiple civic projects now will certainly stimulate significant private investment in the downtown core in the near term. And private “infill” projects that utilize existing city infrastructure (e.g. streets, sewers, sidewalks, as well as fire/police protection) are more economic for all of us as taxpayers, vs. the cost of stretching the city’s infrastructure and services by developing on the city’s edge.
Infill “mixed-use” projects (e.g. residential, office, retail, hospitality, etc.) create different parking and traffic needs at different times of the day; this alternating flow can significantly increase utilization, which dramatically improves the economics of infrastructure such as parking ramps.
North Dakota today, with its enviable lowest-in-the-country unemployment, does face work-force challenges ahead. Â The American cities that will thrive in the coming decades will be those that attract and retain workforces, especially young people, both college students and young professionals in all fields. Tomorrow’s successful cities will have a strong, differentiated, unique urban core that builds upon, yet goes beyond the same big box retailers and franchise restaurants that exist across our country.
The Fargo metro area’s downtown core has accomplished a tremendous turnaround in the last decade. This progress can be credited to a broad group of entrepreneurs, investors, champions, businesses and institutions, such as highly impactful NDSU’s move toward the core. Â Now, with both public and private projects on the horizon, we as a metro area can raise our sights even higher, as the success of the core benefits all.
As noted by Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral in the same Forum article, “”The time is right – You gotta strike when the iron’s hot.”
And as we do raise our sights and seize the day, we will offer respect for the past, gratitude for the present, and inspiration for the future.
Chairman, Kilbourne Group
Chairman, Arthur Ventures
Just the facts: A quick run-down on proposed downtown projects
Here is a quick outline of the proposed downtown projects, the proposed budgets and their funding sources.
The physical location of the three civic projects as shown, arranged around a public plaza/quad, is land already owned by the City of Fargo (please see above graphic).
Flood protection, 2nd Street flood wall project.
o Proposed budget: $21-$40 million
o Decision-makers: City of Fargo/Corps of Engineers
o Funding source: Federal and city flood sales tax
New Fargo City Hall project:
o Budget: $8-$12 million
o Decision-makers: City of Fargo commissioners
o Funding source: City of Fargo/State of ND
Convention center/exhibition space/Civic Center renovation:
o Budget: To be decided after consultants’ feasibility study
o Decision-makers: Fargo Dome Authority recommendation with City of Fargo approval.
o Funding source: a portion of Fargo Dome Authority reserve fund ($37 million); other sources TBD
0 Budget: $90 million
0 Decision-makers: Kilbourne Group
0 Funding source: Private investments, including potential tenants
Publicly owned parking structures (which could include a city-owned ramp adjacent to the east side of the Block 9 complex, and an additional ramp, possibly on Roberts Street and 2nd Ave.)
o Budget: $20-$40 million for multiple ramps
o Decision-makers: City of Fargo commissioners
0 Funding source: A downtown Fargo TIF (tax increment financing), with primary funds from new property taxes generated by Block 9. These new property taxes for the City of Fargo would be allocated to the city-owned parking structure.
We encourage the public to attend the Loretta Grand Opening Thursday, Sept. 19, which will Â feature a presentation about these projects from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Fargo Theatre. Please register for this free event at: www.loretta.eventbrite.com
In addition, please feel free to send questions to [email protected] or to the following civic organizations. Each of these groups is seeking public input.
o Fargo Dome Authority (concerning convention center): [email protected]
0 Fargo City Hall Site Selection Committee: https://www.facebook.com/FargoCityHallProject
0 Flood Protection Plan: www.cityoffargo.com/2ndStreetFloodProtection