FARGO—A towing company will close at the end of the month, but its building on the outskirts of downtown won't be empty for long.
Border Cities Service, 30 N. University Drive, will close on Friday, March 31, putting an end to the business that Clem Schnase started in February 1994.
The building is being purchased by Jade Nielsen and Ian Johnson, partners in a development company called 701 Collective that has high hopes for this neighborhood just west of University Drive. They'll lease it to Darrell and Celena Randle, a couple who launched Daran's Southern Soul Food and West Indian Cuisine last November out of commercial kitchen facility Square One.
Nielsen said he's been talking with Schnase for two years about buying the 1,949-square-foot service shop that was built in 1948, according to city property records. But the timing worked out recently as Schnase was ready to make a change.
"We thought that building as being the entrance into that neighborhood off of University was a prime spot to fix up and repurpose as a restaurant," Nielsen said.
Nielsen and Johnson are working now to get the city to include a two-block area just west of University, bordered on the south by NP Avenue and First Avenue North on the north, added to the city's Renaissance Zone.
At a Renaissance Zone Authority meeting last month, members gave city planning staff permission to put together paperwork for the request, which would still need approval from the authority and the City Commission.
The plans through 701 Collective call for establishing a taproom, theater and events center complex in the former CHS Sunflower Processing Plant at 18 13½ St. N. Nielsen said the pair are also in the process of acquiring a former appliance building at 20 N. University Drive.
The goal is to repurpose or clean up buildings while creating a "niche neighborhood" focused on entertainment, food and the arts.
Nielsen said he got the idea from his travels through concert promotion company Jade Presents, which he owns. He said he'd like to see this become a full-fledged artistic neighborhood like he's seen in other cities, including Minneapolis, Memphis, Tenn., and Austin, Texas.
He and Johnson also want to make sure their redevelopment will keep the neighborhood affordable for new businesses and ventures to be able to open and survive.
Nielsen said he reached out to Darrell Randle to ask if he would want to open Daran's in the former Border Cities building, which is scheduled to begin renovations in early May. The timeline now calls for Daran's to open in early July, but Nielsen said it remains to be seen if it's possible to finish renovations by then to retain the look and character of the service shop building while making it into a restaurant.
Randle said it's "very, very exciting" to have a space for Daran's. He hopes to be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner Tuesday through Saturday, and said he'll need to hire a staff to grow the business from the husband-and-wife operation it is today.
"We've been looking forward to this for a long time," he said.
Schnase said it's a good time to close Border Cities Service after 23 years in business. He's been helping his family farm in the Harvey, N.D., area the whole time, and said he'll now be able to focus entirely on farming rather than keep up with towing during the week.
"I think we're ready for a change," he said.
If all goes according to plan, the opening of Daran's this summer could mark the first of many projects by Nielsen and Johnson to spruce up this neighborhood on the edge of downtown.
"It's just a matter of putting the right pieces in place, and then hopefully the other development happens organically around it," Nielsen said.