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City leaders discuss rising population, emerging needs in F-M-WF

Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour (left), West Fargo Economic Development Director Matt Marshall and Moorhead Economic Development Authority Executive Director Cindy Graffeo discuss emerging needs for their cities Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, during an event at the Courtyard by Marriott Fargo-Moorhead hotel hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber / Special to The Forum1 / 2
West Fargo's Matt Marshall (left) and Moorhead's Cindy Graffeo discuss population growth and future needs in their cities Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at the Courtyard by Marriott Fargo-Moorhead hotel in Moorhead. The Chamber / Special to The Forum2 / 2

MOORHEAD—As the community grows by a dozen residents a day, development experts in the three largest cities say they're already working on emerging needs that will come with this continued growth.

Fargo Planning Director Jim Gilmour told attendees at a Tuesday, Nov. 7, breakfast hosted by the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce that the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan statistical area is on track to gain 4,366 people each year through 2025 to get to a projected population of 276,560. That's a gain of about 12 per day.

Moorhead and West Fargo leaders, too, offered up statistics that will assist planning for a bigger future in these growing communities during the event at the Courtyard by Marriott Fargo-Moorhead hotel in Moorhead.

Housing slowdown

The booming housing market is slowing down, at least in the number of new houses.

Gilmour said while the number of households will continue to grow in the metro from 94,750 in 2015 to an estimated 109,500 in 2025, the construction of new single-family houses is down to 304 in Fargo so far this year. That's a decline from 368 last year.

West Fargo has seen a similar downturn, according to Economic Development and Community Services Director Matt Marshall, with about 240 single-family homes so far this year compared to more like 350 in recent years. Moorhead is down about 30 percent in housing starts, according to Economic Development Authority Executive Director Cindy Graffeo.

But population projections suggest Moorhead's construction won't stop anytime soon. She said the city is on track for a population in excess of 47,000 by 2020 and 61,000 by 2045 as the city gains an estimated 6,500 households.

"We are committed to staying the best small city in America even as we grow larger, and we know that this is going to take planning," she said.

West Fargo, meanwhile, has experienced a rapid makeover in recent years, according to statistics shared by Marshall.

The city now has 35,477 residents, a far cry from 25,830 counted in 2010. He said recent analysis determined the number of residents leaving to work is nearly the same as non-residents coming to West Fargo for work, a shift from when the vast majority looked elsewhere for employment.

West Fargo also now has the highest median household income in the region of $73,402, he said.

Future plans

West Fargo has several big projects underway, including efforts to revitalize downtown with the mixed-use Pioneer Place development. Another new development will come up at Interstate 94 and Sheyenne Street with the addition of a new Hornbacher's store, and the city is also looking at the Sheyenne 32 project that will add office and commercial space closer to housing.

Industrial demand is also on the rise in all three cities.

Marshall said all this work means West Fargo could be fully built up on its current land in the next five years.

Moorhead, too, is planning for its next chapter. Graffeo said the city has identified three possible growth areas, including one near Dorothy Dodds Elementary, and it's expected one of them will need to be online by 2030.

The city is also working to revitalize its downtown and discussing possible changes to Center Avenue when a street project starts in 2019.

Fargo continues to see its downtown progress years after its revitalization efforts were launched. Gilmour said the new City Hall will be occupied in the spring, while several apartment or mixed-use buildings are being built now or will start construction soon.

Gilmour said his staff recently crunched some numbers to find just how much the neighborhood has changed. The value of downtown property that paid property taxes was about $245 million in 2000 and bottomed out when it dropped 13 percent the following year. Since then, he said that value has surged to $541 million.

"That's $4.8 million more in property taxes being paid in the downtown," he said.

Ryan Johnson

Ryan Johnson has been a Forum reporter since 2012 and previously wrote for the Grand Forks Herald.

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