The following article by Wendy Reuer appeared on December 14, 2012 in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.
FARGO – Amid a faded sand-colored facade and windows shuttered in a rusted brown at 64 4th St. N., there lies a sunny space waiting for new life.
At least that’s the belief of Kilbourne Group, which bought the former 44,500-square-foot home of Fargo Rubber Stamp Co., Doyle Checker Cab and an indoor parking garage on Oct. 29.
The group saved the building from other bidders who considered razing the block-long building to make way for a parking lot.
With 72 acres of parking near downtown, creating more parking lots at the expense of a historic building is not the solution, said Doug Burgum, chairman of Kilbourne Group.
“We believe the solution for parking is going vertical – the solution is ramps,” he said.
Kilbourne Group is known for speeding up the pace of downtown Fargo development by attracting new businesses and creating a destination on Broadway. The group has purchased historic buildings and renovated them into mixed-use properties with room for retail, or business and residential.
A recent example of this is the Loretta Block, a $6 million renovation of the century-old landmark in the middle of Broadway.
Burgum said residential housing is not planned for the 22,000-square-foot FRS portion of the building.
He said a single tenant would likely be the best fit, perhaps a regional company looking to grow or expand its offices.
The Loudon building that housed FRS was built in 1916. The origin of its namesake is unclear, although city records show a man named Samuel A. Loudon operated a blacksmith shop near the corner of Third Street and NP Avenue around that time.
The building is the one-time site of Horton Motor Co., operated by W.H. Horton.
FRS, one of the oldest Fargo businesses, moved into the Loudon building in 1966 after a fire gutted its headquarters at 510 1st Ave. N.
FRS, or Fargo Rubber Stamp Works as it was also known, was a leader in production of rubber stamps, seals, celluloid buttons, ribbons and stickers over the years. For about 70 years, Fargo Rubber Stamp Works was operated by Hillsboro native Iver Fossum, until it was sold to employees in 1976. That year, it became FRS Industries.
It was that year, the more than 20 windows were boarded up, and a new storefront was added with a crushed rock finish.
Dale and Sheri Larson bought the business in 2007. They sold it in February to Kurt Kiefer, who later moved the operation to 1021 Center Ave. in Moorhead.
At that time, Dale Larson told The Forum he hoped the FRS portion of the building would be renovated. He saw potential for innovative design because the building once used as a bomb shelter sits in the Renaissance Zone.
A number listed for the Larsons’ residence in Moorhead has been disconnected.
The east side of the building remains empty – filled only with a few FRS remnants such as stickers and a metal screen printing machine – yet full of potential.
The Ball Building, as the westside portion was known before the two buildings were combined into one, was built in 1914 by Wilbur M. Ball for Ball Auto. According to the Fargo City Directory, Doyle Yellow Checker Cab Inc. – a more than 120-year-old Fargo business – moved into the 65 5th St. N. location between 1948 and 1952, where it remained until September 2011.
Doyle Checker Cab owner Jim Peinovich, who moved the business to 1418 Main Ave., said it was nice to hear that his business’s former home would find a new purpose.
Also on the west side, is a two-story parking ramp that remains in use today.
Kilbourne Group wants to make sure the parking ramp meets city codes before deciding its future purpose.
One option being considered for the westside space is an event center, said Tammy Swift, social media marketing director for Kilbourne Group.
“We plan to continue offering indoor parking inside the Ball Building for at least a few more months until construction begins,” she said.
Burgum thinks the city’s plan to do away with one-way streets downtown will make the location more attractive to prospective buyers.
“We have the retail and the restaurants,” he said. “It’s so much easier to recruit somebody to move downtown than it was five, 10 years ago because of all the great activity.”
Downtown Community Partnership President Michael Hahn agrees.
“A majority of businesses don’t want to be on a one-way street because they don’t want to be in somebody’s rear-view mirror,” he said. “That’s kind of the environment we want to get to make it friendlier for development.
Hahn said Kilbourne Group’s purchase east of Broadway is likely just the beginning of similar development, especially once flood control measures are in place.
“Once you get off Broadway, you have a few of those buildings that are a little bit different because they serve different purposes, and they have a unique style with them,” Hahn said. “Knowing the Kilbourne Group, I’m confident this will be done as a quality rehab.”
To read the article on The Forum website, click here.