| By Jim Maurice |
This article originally appeared on WJON. The featured photo is by M.Schleif Photography.
St. Cloud is just in the beginning stages of a plan to revitalize its downtown, but if we want a good example of how to do it successfully we don’t have to look any further than our neighbors to our north in Fargo.
They’ve been working on their revitalization plan for about 20 years now after their mayor formed a task force. The city also developed a Renaissance Zone Development Plan and provided property tax cuts and other incentives to encourage investment in the downtown. The city also redeveloped Broadway Street with some new lighting and sidewalks and they changed the zoning ordinance to allow downtown development to be any kind of mixed-use development.
Jim Gilmour is Fargo’s Director of Strategic Planning & Research. He says developers have added over 1,500 new housing units.
“As well as some others being rehabbed. That’s brought some more 24/7 activity to downtown. If you have come downtown 25 years ago after 7:00 p.m. you didn’t see hardly a sole on the street.”
He says downtown Fargo now has about 5,000 residents that live there.
Gilmour says the downtown Fargo housing units are at about 95 percent capacity and developers are looking for more sites to build on.
Right now there is a new development that will have a 450-unit parking ramp, 100 apartments, and will be the new home to the Fargo-Moorhead Community Theater.
Another vacant building is being renovated into a new hotel. Gilmour says the units are attracting both young people and recent retirees who like the walkability of being downtown.
They’ve also created small amenities like a 20,000-square-foot park.
“People come downtown and skate there in the winter and watch other people skate. In the summer there’s a green area and a splash pad. There must be a certain magic to whoever designed it because it’s a people magnet.”
Laura Kremers lives and works in St. Cloud now, but she used to live in Fargo. She says Fargo has more areas to sit outside in the summer months like green spaces, not just on the sidewalk.
Megan Zayic also used to live and work in Fargo and now lives in St. Cloud. She says downtown Fargo park is nice because it has a small amphitheater with turf, tables, chairs and benches that hosts a variety of activities and small concerts in the summer months.
Both mentioned the variety of choices for things like shopping and eating out.
Gilmour says Fargo’s city leaders have taken trips to Lincoln, Nebraska; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and Winnipeg, Manitoba to learn from what they are doing in their downtowns.