FARGO - Scores of apartments and thousands of square feet of retail and office space will become available in downtown Fargo this summer and fall, with much more to follow with the completion of the 18-story Block 9 tower in 2020, Kilbourne Group officials say.

The down-to-the-walls renovations of the Bostad and Black buildings and new construction of the Dillard building and Block 9 are adding momentum to the Kilbourne Group’s continued efforts to make downtown a thriving place to live and work.

That’s being helped along by construction of parking garages on former surface parking lots - such as the 455 vehicle stalls at the multi-use Roberts Commons and the 379 stalls in Block 9. Another 370-vehicle ramp is envisioned as part of the planned multi-use Mercantile building project.

“Stack the cars as high as you can” and people will have the space to live and work downtown, Kilbourne Group President Mike Allmendinger said during a tour Tuesday, May 7. “Get the central business district back to what it was meant to be.”

The 84 apartments in the seven-story Dillard building at 247 Roberts St. N., will start renting about Aug. 1, Kilbourne Group spokeswoman Adrienne Olson said. The $17 million project also has space for several businesses, including a planned BeerFish fish and chips restaurant.

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The Dillard building is connected to the seven-story Roberts Commons ramp.

The $14 million Roberts Commons is at 625 2nd Ave. N. That project’s 72 apartments have all been rented. Only one business space remains open; the rest are filled by Pink Thread Boutique, ecce art gallery, Scoop n Dough Candy Co., Pure Barre, Power Plate Meals, Young Blood Coffee Co., 46 North Pints & Provisions and Edward Jones.

“We all remember them as surface parking lots, and boom, there is a building,” Allmendinger said. “We love seeing the changes in the downtown. … Seeing the parking lots being eliminated and going back to living and working” space.

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A couple blocks to the south at 117 N. Broadway, a much smaller, but perhaps more headache-inducing project, came with the $5 million rehabilitation of the Bostad Building.

The three-story Bostad, which includes the Teaberry, Subway and former Sweeto Burrito storefronts on the first floor, has seen extensive renovations to the second and third floors to create 22 apartments, Allmendinger said.

They should be ready to rent in a couple of weeks, Allmendinger said.

This Bostad building apartment seen Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 117 Broadway in Fargo, had no windows on the main level so a loft was designed. The change allows natural light through the apartment's second-level windows and a skylight to be opened later.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
This Bostad building apartment seen Tuesday, May 7, 2019, at 117 Broadway in Fargo, had no windows on the main level so a loft was designed. The change allows natural light through the apartment's second-level windows and a skylight to be opened later. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Repairs or replacement were needed for the roof, foundation, floors, walls, windows, and mechanical and electrical systems.

Bringing natural light to the interior apartments in the 120-foot-long building required ingenuity,

One fix was to create two-story loft units, opening the second floor to light from the third-floor windows, as well as using 13 skylights throughout the structure.

“This is our most challenging project as far as renovation,” Allmendinger said.

Other developers might have simply brought in a wrecking ball. But Kilbourne Group wants to preserve the history and feel of downtown, he said.

One aim is to help the city fulfill its Downtown InFocus plan. InFocus set a goal of getting 12,000 people to call downtown home, up from the 5,100 living there now.

By adding apartments and condos for 300 to 400 people a year, Allmendinger said that goal can be reached in 20 years.

“The housing downtown is great,” said Jim Gilmour, Fargo’s strategic planning director. “That’s something that’s been in our plans for the last 20 years.”

Twenty years ago, perhaps 75 percent of the housing downtown served very low-income people. Now, there’s more market rate and higher-end housing, creating more balance, Gilmour said.

“I think the new buildings downtown are generally renting up, so I think the market demand is there,” Gilmour said. “We continue to have population growth in the city. Instead of all on the edge, it’s nice to see some of it downtown.”

Comeback for Black

Kilbourne Group will soon be renting space in the Black Building, even as renovation continues on the basement and first and second floors.

Turn-key offices spaces on the fifth floor will be available starting in June, Allmendinger said.

This fifth-floor space in the Black Building in downtown Fargo is planned to be a turnkey office as seen Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
This fifth-floor space in the Black Building in downtown Fargo is planned to be a turnkey office as seen Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The $18 million renovation of the 125,000-square-foot Black Building “has been astonishing,” he said.

All 280 of the old single-pane windows at 118 Broadway have been replaced with modern, energy-efficient windows.

Asbestos was removed. And the mechanical systems and steam boiler were replaced in the eight-story building, which was completed and opened to the public in 1931.

Big plusses include terrazzo floors throughout the building, and windows on all four sides of the building allow in “a tremendous amount of natural light,” Allmendinger said.

In January, Doosan Bobcat North America announced plans to open an office in the Black Building geared toward innovation and digitizing its products and services. Bobcat will use all of the fourth floor and half of the third floor, Olson said.

Block 9 rising

A few hundred feet to the north of the Black Building, the $117 million Block 9 building is rising at a rate of a floor every 10 to 14 days.

Keith Leier, Kilbourne Group’s vice president of development and construction, said bitter cold and blizzards between Christmas and early spring cost four weeks of work time, crimping the construction schedule.

“We’re working extra shifts right now to make up for lost time,” Leier said.

The second floor of the skyway system allows a panoramic view of the worksite, as about 150 workers swarm the building, placing beams on the big block of the lower floors, and pouring cement for the higher floors. Leier said it’s hoped the sixth floor can be poured next week.

When finished, the mid-rise tower with its mix of offices, 125-key hotel and high-end condominiums will top out at 235 feet, shouldering itself above the nearby Radisson.

Construction on the Block 9 mid-rise tower in downtown Fargo continues Tuesday, May 7, 2019.
Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Construction on the Block 9 mid-rise tower in downtown Fargo continues Tuesday, May 7, 2019. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

R.D. Offutt, the anchor tenant for Block 9, will bring more than 350 employees downtown.

There is 7,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space planned, with a community plaza. The tower will have 32,700-square-feet of office space, the 65,000-square-feet hotel and 39,000-square-feet of high-end residential condominiums.

Konrad Olson of Konrad Olson Commercial Real Estate said Kilbourne Group is creating high-quality spaces.

“A lot of what Kilbourne is doing is improving the market,” the broker said. “You look at their projects, they’ve done wonders for downtown.”

Kilbourne Group’s capital, vision and mastery of the Renaissance Zone tax incentives are key, he said.

“It certainly opens up unique spaces for companies that kind of seek those kind of eclectic spaces,” Konrad Olson said. “I think it’s good, the effect it’s having on the market.”

Other residential and commercial projects in the Kilbourne pipeline include:

  • The Mercantile project at 401-403 Broadway would redevelop the former Schumacher Goodyear site. The six- or seven-story building will wrap around a 370-stall, $11 million parking ramp owned by the city of Fargo.
  • The Kesler building, which will sit across the street from Roberts Commons and next door to the Graver building, 630 2nd Ave. N. The Kesler will be six stories tall and is estimated to cost $10 million to $20 million, depending on its footprint, Allmendinger said.
  • Plans are still being worked on for the Nestor Tavern site, at 1001 Northern Pacific Avenue, though Adrienne Olson said it will include housing.

Allmendinger declined to say whether he had a favorite project

“What gets me most excited … is seeing more people walking downtown, more people having experiences downtown in Fargo,” he said.

“This was that historic, original neighborhood for Fargo,” Allmendinger said. “To see it come back … that’s what we’re most excited about. That’s pretty special.”