This is a process I’ve been following with great interest since the first push for a downtown renaissance zone and redevelopment began. The first real project to grab the public’s attention was the proposed but unsuccessful hockey arena which would have been on the former site of the Fargo Cinema Grill, where Cityscapes Plaza is now. Even though the project was unsuccessful, it gave us an interesting glimpse into some of the ideas that were out there for developing downtown into something new.

Since then, I’ve smiled every time I drive by a new, fresh place where a vacant or blighted property once stood, and there are many. The old Northern School Supply Building is a beautifully renovated NDSU Downtown now, with the Technology Incubator and Klai Hall both occupying creatively redeveloped properties just blocks away. The Fargo Theater neighborhood on Broadway has been beautifully revitalized (minus an attraction on the US Bank Plaza, but we’ll get to that), the old Union Storage Building is undergoing a total gut, the Fargo Laundry building has been incredibly renovated into a massive, multi-million dollar downtown residence, and we’ve built a new library, too.

However, with flood protection rightly on the minds of Fargo residents, attention has turned to the riverfront, and Fargo is turning the first dirt now on the redevelopment of the City Hall/2nd Street Corridor and Floodwall.

Architect Richard Moorhead of Image Group Architecture & Interiors presented city leaders with a pretty dramatic vision of the redevelopment of Fargo’s riverfront as part of the new Floodwall, City Hall, and 2nd Street realignment. I must say, I am super-dazzled.

fargo-civic1Above, the new City Hall is on the right, with the present Civic Center next door. Top left is the existing library. The parking lot in the lower left of this photo (which is presently the parking lot for city offices) would be replaced by a structure in several of the concepts presented to city leaders.

fargo-riverfront1Above, the present map of the Fargo Riverfront neighborhood. Below, a Concept 1 map as presented to the city. Concept 1 includes a convention center to the north of the Civic, attached to the new City Hall via a skywalk. Click these images to enlarge.

concept1

 

Concept 1 would have apartments along the river, on the site where Mid-America Steel resides. I’m not a huge fan of that idea since we’ve seen a lot of that lately on the Moorhead side. I feel like I’d rather see a hotel along the river than more apartments, but that’s just me. ¬†Now, here’s Concept 2.

concept2

Concept 2 seems super-business friendly with two hotels going in along the river, one on the site of the present Howard Johnson, and a tower attached to the convention center on the now vacant lot where United Automotive stood until recently.

fargo-riverfront2

Strangely, if this vision comes to fruition, we’ll have a civic center, a convention center, and a concert hall, all within blocks of each other. Not only will they compete with each other to a degree, but the Fargo Theater and the Avalon might feel an impact too.

concept3

 

Concept 3 spreads out the events center concept a bit, but the part I like best is that it preserves some space for bars and restaurants in the same neighborhood as the present Side Street Grill. Concept 2 does as well.

concept4

 

Concept 4 seems to include a tower on the United Automotive site, but I can’t say for sure because we seem to have contradictory graphics in the image above. Concept 5 below seems to be the cheap idea — no convention center at all.

concept5

 

The apartments along the river in the Mid-America steel site in concept 5 aren’t appealing at all, but I do like that concept 5 includes a nice large quad between the new City Hall and the proposed new performance hall.

fargo-riverfront3The image above is a zoomed-out overview. Note the tall blue building center-right. That’s the tower Doug Burgum proposed some time ago on the site of the US Bank Plaza. Not shown in this view is the rumored eight-story RDO tower on the corner of NP Avenue and Broadway.

Consider this. No matter which of these five visions come to fruition, you’ll be able to walk from the US Bank Plaza on Broadway, east on 2nd Street, past Gate City Bank, the Radisson, Firestone, through the quad in front of the Civic Center and the new City Hall, over 2nd Street on the new pedestrian bridge, into the riverfront park, over the river into Viking Ship Park in Moorhead and you only have to cross the street twice.

The extension of the skywalk system to the riverfront is also an exciting development. If I could offer my own suggestion to the city planners, it would be for some balcony or rooftop seating overlooking the river so I can plunk my butt down on a hot July day and get an icy cold margarita.

Check out the PDF here. Riverfront Study begins on page 308.


Troy Larson is a father, author, and photographer from Fargo, North Dakota.