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Fargo City Commission must choose developer for public health site; Hawley firm seeks help moving to city

Talks over finding parking for American Federal Bank have broken down, meaning the City Commission must choose between competing plans for 401 3rd Ave. N.

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Green Acre Company and Lloyd Company of Sioux Falls, S.D., have offered a plan that would include building a $38.5 million upscale hotel and apartment complex in downtown Fargo at the corner of 4th Avenue North and 4th Street.
Contributed / ESG Architecture and Design
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FARGO — Efforts to net Fargo a two-fer deal on redevelopment of the former public health building in the city’s downtown have hit a wall, which means the City Commission must decide who gets to develop the site.

In other news, the city is in line to be the new home of a Hawley, Minn., company that wants to relocate its manufacturing operations to the former PRx Performance building on the north side.

PharmaMed Automation, Inc. , of Hawley wants to move into 2402 8th Ave. N., but hopes to tap interest buydown funding from the state. It needs a recommendation from the city to do so.

On the downtown dilemma, two developers are vying to buy the public health building and parking lot at 401 3rd Ave. N.

However, talks to make both of the projects happen — centered on finding an alternative parking option for American Federal Bank — failed to gain any traction, according to Jim Gilmour, the city’s director of strategic planning and research.

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Gilmour told the city’s Economic Development Incentive Committee on Tuesday, April 26, that he will ask the City Commission to decide between the competing plans presented earlier this year by Fargo’s MBA (Mutchler Bartram Architects) Development, and a partnership of Sioux Falls, S.D., firms Green Acre Development and Lloyd Companies, along with ESG Architecture and Design of Minneapolis.

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“We met with the bank and we just weren’t able to come up with a solution,” Gilmour said. American Federal didn’t feel like the option presented was enough parking “and they wanted to stay with surface parking.”

Gilmour said City Commissioners have seen the presentations and they “will need to pick one or the other of the projects.”

The Green Acre/Lloyd/ESG plan includes a hotel, and to make it happen they proposed a land swap with the bank.

In their multi-step plan, the partners would buy the TruGreen property and American Federal Bank’s surface parking lot at Fourth Avenue North and Fourth Street, as well as the public health building.

They would raze the public health building, turning it into surface parking for use by American Federal. Then at Fourth Avenue and Fourth Street, they would build a $38.5 million AC by Marriott upscale hotel with 115 rooms, 108 market rate apartments in a second building, and 167 covered parking spots shared between them. That project would be completed by 2024.

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Here's a view of what the housing project proposed by MBA Development of Fargo might look like at 401 Third Avenue North. The building would feature enclosed parking on the first floor.
Contributed / Mutchler Bartram Architects

MBA offered a $13 million plan for a five-story L-shaped apartment building on the public health building site. It would have 68 units and first-level parking. The project can be revised to include retail space. That project would be completed in 2023.

Gilmour said he won’t make a recommendation to support one project over the other.

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PharmaMed makes automated equipment for pharmaceutical medical companies, typically custom automation for packaging and product handling. It has customers around the world.

PharmaMed President Dustin Hanson told EDIC members his firm wants to apply for an interest buydown program offered by the Bank of North Dakota, and use the proceeds to help buy the 19,380-square foot building, and repair and renovate it for his firm's operations.

The Bank of North Dakota can contribute up to $200,000 to buy down interest costs for business loans. That money must then be matched locally, Gilmour said.

In this case, the city can do that through the North Dakota Opportunity Fund, a statewide program that Fargo takes part in.

All that is required is that the city write a letter to the Opportunity Fund supporting PharmaMed’s request. No financial support from the city is required, Gilmour said.

PharmaMed employs 15 to 20 people, most of them highly skilled and well paid, Hanson said. The new facility is twice the size of their current location, Hanson said. Projections call for the firm to grow to 30 employees within five years, he said.

EDIC members approved sending the letter on a 3-0 vote.

Helmut Schmidt is a reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's business news team. Readers can reach him by email at hschmidt@forumcomm.com, or by calling (701) 241-5583.
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