2nd Ave N and Broadway, Fargo, ND
RDO Tower, formerly called Block 9, is a mid-rise, mixed-use tower in the heart of downtown Fargo at the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North. After 43 years as a surface parking lot, RDO Tower has transformed the Fargo skyline. The project includes headquarters for hundreds of team members of R.D. Offutt Company, ground floor retail, a boutique hotel, restaurant, and residential condominiums.
RDO Tower also includes a programmed community plaza called Broadway Square which is over a half acre in size and serves as a gathering and celebration space for the region. Seasonal amenities include a skating rink, splash pad, vendor spaces, and a band shell for live performances. Fargo Parks District programs the award-winning space to incorporate live music and kid-friendly events, and the green space doubles as an ice skating rink in the winter.
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Built on a Dream
RDO Tower was not built on a dream for today. It is built on a dream for the next century. Created to fuel an already thriving community, while rising up to meet the future. The block has captured imaginations of people around the world as we’ve set out to dream of possibilities for the property. Held in 2010, Downtown Fargo: An Urban-Infill Competition garnered 160 design entries from 23 countries.
Partners in the project include R.D. Offutt Company, Kilbourne Group, and the City of Fargo. Through a mutually beneficial public-private partnership, Block 9 adds a new center of commerce into the heart of downtown. Bringing additional people downtown will have a positive impact on the growth of the neighborhood, its merchants, restaurateurs, residents, visitors, and other stakeholders.
The design of Block 9
The design of Block 9 is regionally-inspired, drawing from the local vernacular architecture and referencing North Dakota’s landscape of grain silos. Designed to reflect the scale and texture of the street, the podium echoes the architectural pattern of its neighbors while introducing new footprints for development at the core of the city. Soaring skyward, the tower — the tallest in Fargo — overlooks Broadway with expansive windows, and mix of programs within; office, hotel, and condominiums. Its’ glass façade is punctuated by vertical fins, emphasizing its height and dramatic presence on Fargo’s growing skyline, while providing sweeping views of the city and prairie. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), is one of the world’s largest and most influential architecture, interior design, engineering, and urban planning firms. SOM has erected architectural marvels throughout Europe, Asia, and the Americas– 7 World Trade Center in New York City, Al Hamra Tower in Kuwait, the new NATO Headquarters in Brussels, and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, which is currently the world’s tallest building. SOM is the architect of the Block 9 project in downtown Fargo.
“We were inspired by Fargo’s historic streetscape and the bold forms of architecture in the Great Plains. Designed to be evocative of both, Block 9 pays homage to the heritage and scale of Broadway Street while anticipating a future, well-integrated urban fabric. We hope the Block 9 building and its expansive public square re-energizes the city’s downtown with new spaces for the community to gather, nourish, work and live for generations to come.”
– Brian Lee, SOM Consulting Design Partner
Every good city has a city center; a vibrant hub where the community can gather, work, eat, and play. It is the central heart from which the rest of the city pulses and thrives. In Fargo, it is Broadway and the surrounding area, punctuated by the legendary Fargo theater marquee and peppered with restaurants, shops, and startups.
From a fire in 1976 to the ground breaking in 2018, the Block 9 site was 48,000 square-foot surface-level parking lot in the central part of Fargo’s thriving downtown community. Fargo continues to grow as a strong economic leader that attracts new residents from across the nation. We believe in the positive economics of density; that by filling the space with more places to eat, work, shop, and sleep, this will increase the economic growth of Fargo and elevate the entire community.
With the creation of RDO Tower, more than 650 additional employees, including new job opportunities, were added to the center of downtown. A study done by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) found 62 percent of office workers shop during the workday. The average office worker spends $96 per week during the weekday and, on average, eats lunch outside of their office three out of five days. This results in each U.S. office worker, on average, supporting 30 square feet of retail and restaurant (7 SF of restaurant and 23 SF of retail). The employees who work in RDO Tower alone will support around 15,000 square feet of retail and restaurant development.
The east 200 block of Broadway was the 9th block platted in City of Fargo. At times in the city’s history, it has been a focal point for activity in downtown Fargo.
Before being destroyed in the Fargo Fire of 1893, the plot of land was home to the Hotel Boulger and Keeney Block, which housed a number of small businesses, including a Western Union telegraph office, real estate office, music store, law office, and more. Hotel Boulger was a popular hotel owned by Richard Boulger, an Irish immigrant who settled in Fargo. Keeney Block inhabited the southern section of the block, while the hotel inhabited the northern section.
After the fire, the hotel was rebuilt, became Norman Hotel after a number of years, and eventually was home to Model Clothing House. Keeney Block was renamed Continental Block, and a variety of businesses thrived there until it was destroyed in another fire in 1976.
Travel back to the late 1800s, and the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North was a bustling corner of activity in Fargo. It was home to a beautiful brick building called Keeney Block. Open awnings hung over the second-story windows, home to many small businesses including a music house, a law firm, a dentist, and a Turkish bath. In 1893, the Keeney Building was one of more than 200 structures destroyed in Fargo’s historic fire. By 1910, the Keeney Block had been replaced with a mixed-use, multi-story building, called the Continental Block. Once again it became a hub of activity and commerce, housing an assortment of businesses over the years; a barber shop, shoe repair, and hotels.
However, fire once again struck when an arsonist torched the Continental Block in 1976. This corner of Broadway never truly recovered from this fire, and in 1983, the former Valley Hotel on the corner was demolished to make way for parking and the US Bank plaza.
Fast forward to 2008, when Kilbourne Group began seeking to revive the center of commerce that the Keeney Building and Continental Block once were. At the same time, R.D. Offutt Company was in search of a location in which to consolidate hundreds of team members. The family-owned business had been seeking the ideal spot for awhile — and when Kilbourne Group approached the Offutt family with the idea for Block 9, it was a perfect fit. Together, Kilbourne Group and R.D. Offutt Company worked to move forward with the project, leading to the option to purchase the Block 9 land on July 6, 2009. After establishing a public-private partnership with the City of Fargo, the project became a reality and the land was ultimately purchased by Block 9 Partners on August 31, 2018.
Although decades have passed since the time of the Keeney Building, Block 9 seeks to stay true to the historic roots of the corner on Broadway and Second Avenue North. The life and activity that once surrounded this spot are the foundation of the new vision for a center of commerce. With hundreds of employees working downtown, retail shops, dining options, and residential condos, the vibrancy of this historic downtown corner will once again be brought to life. Block 9 broke ground on September 12, 2018 and opened in the summer of 2021.