This article was originally published in the September issue of Fargo INC! Magazine.
Every business benchmarks. Taking a deeper look at what your peers and competitors are doing is an excellent way to measure your success. It’s also a nice shot of learning and inspiration.
At Kilbourne Group, much of our benchmarking comes in the form of exploring other cities. When your job is to design great spaces and unique experiences for people, the best way to benchmark is to get out there and have some fun.
For years, the City of Fargo Parking Commission considered the pros and cons of building a parking garage downtown. While the need for parking infrastructure was apparent, a stark garage in the middle of your walkable retail district doesn’t appeal to the masses. Long expanses of cement can destroy what retail consultant Robert Gibbs calls your town’s “X-Factor.”
Then one day, the commissioners and city leaders boarded a bus to tour Sioux Fall, Lincoln, and Omaha, sister cities with similar historic mixed-use districts to Fargo. Mixed-use parking garages, particularly those in Lincoln, gave commissioners a front row view of how a parking structure can add to your downtown’s walkability, rather than detract from it. The idea for Roberts Commons was born. Parking is open at 625 Second Avenue North is open (first 2 hours free!), and the mixed-use building of apartments, retail, and restaurant space that will wrap the garage on three sides is well underway. Anticipated opening is late spring 2018.
Many of us have visited a new city and stumbled upon a crazy cool art space, alive with creators creating and full of intriguing local artwork you’ll never see anywhere else. It leaves an impression and imprints on you a lasting feeling of that city. For more than a year, Kilbourne Group has been working with The Arts Partnership, learning the language of each other’s business and partnering to find ways to work together to create more space for arts in downtown Fargo.
APT, a creative incubator in downtown Fargo, is a result of this partnership. It’s been a launching space for dozens of creatives and has contributed to our community in ways we wouldn’t have imagined. In August, a young receiver of a North Dakota Make-A-Wish grant, will fulfill her dream to have a gallery show to display her work and raise money for cystic fibrosis research. Hundreds of people have been through the space, interacted with the artists and their art, and become a bit more connected to our arts community.
The team at The Arts Partnership continues to explore the art spaces in other cities in an effort to continuously improve and to plan for a phase II of APT.
In 2011, Rapid City, S.D., opened Main Street Square, a civic open space in the heart of downtown, programmed for the enjoyment of residents and tourists alike. Today, more than 200 events are held annually in Main Street Square, which draw more than 600,000 people into the space each year. Data show that 80% of them are local to Rapid City, proving it is truly an amenity for the people of Rapid City.
Their weekly summer concert series draws more than 10,000 people per night. Their weekly outdoor movie night draws more than 800. Winter open skating sees more than 16,000 people lacing up skates each season. All in a space that used to be a surface parking lot.
And to top it off, the Main Street Square consultant we’re working with says that since the opening of the civic space, there are no vacancies in downtown Rapid City. The registers are ringing and the businesses are thriving.
The Downtown Fargo civic plaza (formal name to be determined) is designed after Main Street Square. The landscape architecture team, consisting of Land Elements of Fargo and REA of Indianapolis, has designed the plaza as a multi-use area with programming options available 12 months a year. Fargo Parks District is on board to manage and program the space, ensuring it is designed for all who wish to enjoy it. We continue to learn from Main Street Square, while creating something unique for Fargo.
They say imitation is a form of pure flattery and we’re grateful to every town along the way that has inspired us to try something new. What have you seen that you’d love to have in Fargo?