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Committee considers adding fourth floor to proposed new Fargo City Hall

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FARGO – The committee tasked with designing a new City Hall here is considering adding a fourth floor to the proposed building.

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“I think the idea is make it future-ready,” City Commissioner Mike Williams said during a Wednesday morning meeting.

The building as currently designed has a two-story section on the west and a three-story section on the east side of the building. The two sections are connected by a glass atrium space in the middle.

Architect Terry Stroh said adding a fourth floor to the east side wouldn’t be difficult, and City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said it would save the city money in the long run.

“If we’re going to need extra space let’s say 30 years from now, the cheapest time to build is right now,” Piepkorn said.

The floor could stay unfinished and empty, he said. Commissioner Tim Mahoney, a surgeon at Essentia Health, said sometimes when hospitals are built, empty floors are included for future build-out.

The committee also talked at length about how to preserve open, pedestrian-friendly space to the south of the building.

Current design plans for City Hall have a large parking lot on the building’s south side, which would act as the main entrance. But Williams said the committee shouldn’t forget the city’s ambitions to create a civic riverfront quad, as spelled out in long-range planning.

“The Second Avenue corridor has always been important, and featuring the river has always been important,” he said.

Architect Richard Moorhead drew up one idea that had a parking lot on the south side of City Hall with a terraced pedestrian walkway that extended over the top of the parking lot on its north side.

This would create a subterranean parking-level entrance into City Hall. There would be a lobby space beneath the first floor, with escalators up into the first floor, creating a kind of ceremonial entrance.

Some committee members wondered if this was too ornate for those who want to come to City Hall to pay a water bill.

“If they’ve gotta use this roundabout, subterranean entrance or park a long way away and walk up, that’s just kind of difficult to get to that front door of the building,” said Planning Director Jim Gilmour.

Piepkorn, who has a son who uses a wheelchair, said he is concerned about accessibility and that the ceremonial entrance could only be fully experienced by those who can use stairs or escalators.

“What you’re proposing there is not accessible,” Piepkorn said, as Stroh and Moorhead assured him that elevators would be available.

There would be other entrances to the building: on the north side and on the south side on the same grade level as the Civic Center.

Stroh said his team would study the options for the southern parking lot and present them to the committee. He said construction is on track to start in February.

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Erik Burgess
Erik Burgess covers city and county government for The Forum. He started as the paper's night reporter in 2012, after graduating from Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn. He was born and raised in Grand Forks, N.D., and also spent time interning at the Grand Forks Herald.  Have a comment to share about a story? Letters to the editor should include author’s name, address and phone number. Generally, letters should be no longer than 250 words. All letters are subject to editing. Send to letters@forumcomm.com
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