Reprinted from Emerging Prairie
By: Scottie Knollin
As the center of growth in Fargo, North Dakota, the downtown sector has seen abundant change throughout the past few years. From new buildings popping up in former surface parking lots to breathing new life in historic structures that have lined Broadway for decades, a collective mindset of growth has played a major role in the revitalization of downtown and allowed for a rush of new and exciting businesses who’ve now chosen Fargo as home.
Part of what gives life to a healthy downtown is offering the community the opportunity to purposefully enjoy each experience. For businesses, being in downtown Fargo means close proximity to a number of amenities like easy access to an array of restaurants and bars and ample parking. For events, putting up tents and inviting guests to enjoy arts, crafts, and foods makes sense when thousands of Fargoans live within walking distance of Broadway. For members of the community, downtown Fargo has been given a second life as a place of which to be proud.
Much of the growth that’s changed downtown Fargo’s landscape over the years, while still celebrating its historic buildings and community, can be attributed to the business owners supporting this change. Downtown Fargo has transformed itself into a liveable and walkable community on par with larger cities and markets around the country. And it’s only continuing to enhance those features.
Even before the ground was broken on the almost-complete Block 9, a landmark development on Broadway by Kilbourne Group and R.D. Offutt Company, several of downtown Fargo’s newest signature spots chose the locale based solely on downtown’s future. With a planned park located in the middle of the bustling Broadway district, Block 9’s neighbors have come from near and far to take advantage of the walkability that sets downtown Fargo apart from other similar cities.
Black Coffee and Waffle Bar, a newer food and beverage option that opened in 2019, is a concept from Minneapolis. The layout of downtown Fargo and the exciting redevelopment currently underway were two major factors in convincing the shop’s owner, Brad Cimaglio, into choosing Fargo as its next location.
“This area, in particular in downtown Fargo, is ripe for a renaissance, to steal the term from the Renaissance Zone,” says Cimaglio. “The feedback I‘ve gotten from locals has all been that this place is going through a revitalization and we wanted to be a part of that. Most of the conditions here make a lot of sense for us so we wanted to come here.”
Cimaglio compares what he sees happening in downtown Fargo to what he’s witnessed over the last decade in the North Loop, the fastest growing neighborhood in Minneapolis.
“I’m really attracted to the work the Kilbourne Group has been doing in downtown Fargo,” says Cimaglio. “I got to watch the evolution of the North Loop over a decade and see how it changed. I get those vibes here in what Fargo is trying to do, especially in that balance of reclaiming older properties and rehabbing them, but also building new construction in areas where it makes sense to do that.”
One difference between the neighborhoods that he’s quick to note: “The North Loop is nowhere near as walkable as Fargo. Fargo blows my mind. The North Loop is fragmented. There are streets that don’t form blocks. Here it’s laid out like a piece of graph paper.”
“We like urban areas,” Cimaglio continues. “The good thing about an area going through a revitalization is that it can only improve. Every city goes through its hills and valleys; Fargo is going up from here. It’s making the right moves. We looked at several spots in Fargo and this was clearly the best. The Block 9 project was a big draw, specifically being able to bookend the new plaza.”
The same could be said of Michelle Pulling, owner of Silver Lining Creamery. First based in Rapid City, South Dakota, Pulling found Fargo’s plans of a city-center park an appealing opportunity of which she couldn’t resist. Having been part of downtown Rapid City during its revitalization, Pulling and her family knew how exciting and beneficial it would be for downtown Fargo to build the plaza, and they wanted to be a part of it.
“We had already fallen in love with downtown Fargo when we learned of the planned plaza,” says Pulling. “The Silver Lining Creamery family loves downtowns, and has consistently been impressed with the kindness of the Fargo community, so we decided this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up.”
Now located on the corner of 2nd Ave and Broadway, Silver Lining Creamery is not only a can’t-miss establishment on the downtown strip, but it will enjoy optimal customer support once the Block 9 plaza opens.
Both businesses are located in the old Metro Drug building, which carries with it its own history that was honored during Kilbourne Group’s redevelopment of it. Other recently celebrated projects include the famed Black Building, whose facelift will pave the way for a number of businesses to find their next office locations in the center of Fargo’s burgeoning growth. (Emerging Prairie recently announced Prairie Den would be relocating to the Black Building in 2020, as well as the new Emerging Digital Academy.)
To find the right approach to bring growth to Fargo while maintaining its history and charm, community builders research other cities around the country who’ve found similar success. With a forward-thinking frame of mind, the growth in exciting Fargo properties coincides with the consistent population growth. Recent residents who’ve made downtown Fargo home include transplants from larger cities and metro areas who find Fargo a refreshing escape from the big city bustle, but still a place with an interesting mix of dining and shopping options, spaces that encourage health and wellness, and venues that welcome fans of all types of art and culture.
If the Red River Valley is to continue promoting growth, it will take having a resilient community equally bought in to its future. Luckily, downtown Fargo is made up of passionate people, businesses, and leaders inspired by Fargo’s history and motivated to continue making it one of the country’s best kept secrets.