BLOC project planned for Fargo's South University Drive clears last of big hurdles

Come May, "you'll see full bore going ahead" for the full-block apartments and commercial building, developer Jesse Craig said.

The BLOC commercial and apartment complex planned for the 1600 block of Fargo's South University Drive is depicted as viewed from the southeast in this rendering. Construction is expected to start in early May 2023.
Contributed / BLOC Partners LLC

FARGO — The BLOC project is primed for a spring start.

Jesse Craig, who leads the development group for the $30 million city block-sized apartment and commercial project, anticipates construction on the 1600 block of South University Drive will get underway about May 1.

“You’ll see full bore going ahead,” Craig said Tuesday, April 4. “So things will move pretty quickly then.”

Demolition of the eight homes on the west side of the block took place over the past couple of weeks. The building that once housed CJ’s Kitchen is also gone, Craig said.

Craig spoke with The Forum immediately after the Fargo Planning Commission voted 7-0 to give final approval to a planned unit development master plan for the five-story complex.


Construction will take 14 to 18 months, with completion in late summer 2024 if all goes well.

“We want to do it right,” Craig said.

The South Plaza strip mall on the 1600 Block of Fargo's South University Drive will eventually be razed as part of a plan by BLOC Partners LLC to build a five-story, multi-use building called BLOC on the site.
David Samson/The Forum

BLOC will have 127 apartments, 15,258 square feet of first-floor commercial space and 278 parking spots, with 162 of those parking spots enclosed on the main floor and underground. Once the main building is up, the two-story South Plaza mall and other commercial buildings on the site will be razed and the last of the work on the block completed.

Feedback has been good, Craig said, particularly since popular stops on the block, Duane’s House of Pizza, Great Wall Chinese Restaurant and The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy will be tenants in the new building.

“We’re still getting a lot of comments from the people that come in and frequent Duane’s Pizza. They’re pretty excited about everything. The pharmacy is excited about us building a new location. Great Wall is excited,” Craig said.

With the Planning Commission’s final action, “we can actually start marketing” to prospective retail and commercial tenants, he said.

BLOC was approved for most of $4.55 million in tax increment financing that could have been authorized for the project.

The City Commission voted 5-0 in late February to approve its share of the 15-year tax break to help redevelop the block.


The Fargo School Board did not hold a hearing on the issue, so by law, the non-action is taken as consent for the school district’s share of the TIF.

The Cass County Commission discussed the issue and voted March 6 to take part in seven years of the TIF. That decision was finalized March 20 as part of a consent agenda vote.

According to Jim Gilmour, Fargo’s director of strategic planning and research, the county commission’s decision to limit its participation in the tax break to seven years will mean the project will get about $300,000 less in TIF funds than it otherwise would have been eligible for.

An excavator prepares to demolish the last of eight houses on the west side of the 1600 block of Fargo's South University Drive on Thursday, March 23, 2023. Construction on BLOC, a large apartment and commercial complex, will start this spring, development group leader Jesse Craig said Tuesday, April 4.
Helmut Schmidt / The Forum

The city of Fargo receives about 20% of property tax receipts collected in town, Cass County receives about 17%, and the Fargo Park District about 10%, Gilmour said. The Fargo Public School District receives just over half of property taxes, and other entities such as the soil conservation district split the remaining funds.

Before demolition started, the 1600 block properties generated about $38,000 a year in property taxes. When completed, BLOC is expected to generate roughly $400,000 in property taxes per year, Gilmour has said, eventually climbing to about $438,000 a year.

The difference between the current property taxes and the higher property taxes for the completed project is the tax increment that will be used to pay a municipal note or bonds issued to help the developer pay extraordinary costs for the project. Those costs include land acquisition, demolition, soil cleanup and remediation, public works improvements and legal and administrative fees.

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