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New Mercantile building an impressive addition to Fargo's downtown

Partnership between Kilbourne Group, the city and other private partners brings healthy mix of apartments, condos, parking and commercial space to the old city center.

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The Mercantile, a Kilbourne Group mixed-use building pictured here Tuesday, April 19, 2022, recently opened in downtown Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum
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FARGO — The Mercantile is ready to do business.

Since it opened April 1, 60% of the six-story building’s 100 apartments have been leased.

There is also 17,000 square feet of first floor commercial or restaurant space fronting Broadway and Fourth Avenue North available for fitup.

Keith Leier, vice president of development and construction for Kilbourne Group, says his company and its partners have turned an underused corner into an impressive addition to Fargo’s downtown.

“It’s a pretty prominent corner and it was basically a parking lot,” Leier said during a Tuesday, April 19, tour of the building. Now, “it’s the first apartment building built on Broadway in 75 years.”

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The Mercantile complex includes a city-owned parking garage with more than 360 stalls, and The Great Northern Block, a nine-condo development put together by Tom and Kari Smith, the owners of the neighboring Great Northern Bicycle Company.

Once the apartments and condos are filled, there will be another 200-plus people living downtown, Leier said.

“There’s a very strong demand for people wanting to live downtown,” Leier said.

The Mercantile at 405 Broadway was designed to blend in with the older architectural styles downtown, with its first four stories faced in brick, while offering modern amenities.

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The kitchen in a corner apartment of the Mercantile, as seen Tuesday, April 19, 2022. The Kilbourne Group mixed-use building which recently opened in downtown Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

All of the units have washers, dryers, and their own heating and air conditioning units.

The apartments have remote Bluetooth access, controllable through tenants’ smart phones. Sensors in the apartments can tell if heating units fail or if a washer leaks, giving the property management company a notification.

“It gives you a little piece of mind, which is good,” Leier said.

Many of the apartments have floor to ceiling windows, bringing in natural light and immersing residents into downtown life.

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For example, a fourth-floor apartment, with windows on the Broadway and Fourth Avenue sides, offers beautiful views of Broadway to the south - a plus for lovers of the annual Christmas and St. Patty’s Day parades.

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A view of downtown Fargo along Broadway and Fourth Avenue North on Tuesday, April 19, 2022, from one of the corner apartments in The Mercantile, a Kilbourne Group mixed-use building.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The building’s name is an homage to a four-story brick structure which was built at 401 to 403 Broadway in 1909 for Fargo Mercantile Co., a wholesale grocer that had been operating in Fargo since 1895.

That building was designed by the Hancock Brothers and constructed by C.H. Johnson & Co. The company’s offices were on the first floor, the second floor was dedicated to packaging and cigars, and the rest of the building was given over to storage. A railroad spur behind the building gave it direct access to the nearby Great Northern Railway tracks. It was demolished in 1966.

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The Fargo Mercantile Company, a wholesale grocer, built a four-story brick building at 401 to 403 Broadway in 1909. The building was razed in 1966, but became the namesake for Kilbourne Group's Mercantile mixed-use building, which opened at 405 Broadway in April 2022.
Contributed / North Dakota State University Archives

In 1968, the single-story Goodyear Service Center was built. It served the downtown community for 48 years before closing in 2016.

In December 2019, ground was broken for the Mercantile. The first phase to be completed was the parking ramp, with nearly 370 stalls. It opened in late 2020.

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The Great Northern Block condominiums are seen under construction Tuesday, April 19, 2022, on the northeast corner of the Mercantile block development in downtown Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

The northeast corner of the development is called The Great Northern Block, with nine condominiums designed to look similar to row houses seen in New York and other major cities.

About half of the three-story condos are sold, with completion expected by late summer or early fall.

“I think we really feel a strong connection to downtown and preserving and generating things downtown,” Tom Smith said Tuesday.

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The Smiths were instantly attracted to the Mercantile project.

“Kari and I decided that this is something we felt strongly about,” Tom Smith said. “We thought we’d jump in and be a part of that development.”

The condominiums range in price from $350,000 to $700,000, depending on the square footage, with buyers getting some flexibility in layout and fit-up.

The condos also have a “top yard,” a 5,000-square-foot community space on the roof with a complete kitchen, a “club house,” bocce ball court and theater.

The condos are eligible for Renaissance Zone and Opportunity Zone tax incentives worth between $50,000 and $150,000.

“It’s a great job of paying homage to older architecture,” Leier said. “They’ve done an awesome job.

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Keith Leier, Kilbourne Group vice president of development and construction, is seen Tuesday, April 19, 2022, in the lobby of the Mercantile mixed-use building, which recently opened in downtown Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Hundreds of apartments have come online in downtown Fargo in recent years.

In fact, Kilbourne Group will be responsible for about 360 apartment units this year.

In addition to the 100 apartments in the Mercantile, two other mixed-use projects will open this summer:

Kilbourne Group also has two other projects in the works.
The developer received the nod from the City Commission in early April to develop the site of a former Fargo School District warehouse at 419 3rd St. N. The company plans to build a $25 million, 115-unit apartment complex. Kilbourne is also purchasing an adjacent property for the project.

In February, the City Commission voted to have city staff move ahead with planning and creating a development agreement between the city, Kilbourne Group and Global Development to build a multi-story mixed-use building on an NP Avenue parking lot that could also determine how the former Herbst building on Broadway is redeveloped.

The public-private partnership aims to turn the surface lot on the 600 Block of NP (between the Old Broadway and North Dakota State University’s Renaissance Hall) into a building with main floor commercial space, 150-200 housing units on the upper floors, and a parking garage with 500 to 600 spaces.

Mercantile tenants so far include empty nesters, young professionals, families with children. “You’re really getting a good cross-section of people,” Leier said.

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A billiards table is seen Tuesday, April 19, 2022 in the commons and entertainment area of the Mercantile, a Kilbourne Group mixed-use building in downtown Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

It helps that the building is pet friendly (there’s a dog washing room), and a storage room designed to safely keep dozens of bikes.

A second-floor community room has a pool table, entertaining area, and access to an outdoor rooftop patio with firepits, grilling stations and plenty of seating.

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A view Tuesday, April 19, 2022, of the rooftop patio of the Mercantile, a Kilbourne Group mixed-use building in downtown Fargo.
Chris Flynn / The Forum

Mercantile Rental rates start at $1,050 to $1,250 per month for a studio apartment; one bedroom units run $1,150 to $1,800; two bedrooms run $1,900 to $2,300, and three bedrooms (all of which have been rented), are $2,600 to $2,800.

Leier said Kilbourne Group has made it a point to align its goals with the city’s long-term plans for the downtown.

“We’re on our way to achieving what the city laid out 25 years ago,” Leier said, adding that there’s no reason that downtown Fargo couldn’t end up having 20,000 to 25,000 residents.

“Downtown is doing great things,” Leier said.

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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