MOORHEAD - Work begins this summer to remake the former Southmoor Plaza strip mall into Southmoor Square, part of a housing and retail development aimed at reviving the moribund retail center - and the area around it - just south of Interstate 94.

The mall reconstruction is being done by West Fargo-based Enclave, which has already begun construction on an apartment complex that will stand just east of the mall.

City Manager Dan Mahli is excited about the plan to revive that quadrant of the Eighth Street South and I-94 intersection.

"There's a number of commercial projects that need help, this is one of them. There's a condition of blight there, everybody knows it," Mahli said Wednesday, July 14.

The mall buildings of the 1970s were building to last 50 years, "and here we are in the 20s now. It's time," Mahli said.

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The Enclave group "is a great partner. We're excited. They're new to working in Moorhead. Their work sizzles," he said. "I hope they find a great experience here and a place to do more neighborhoods."

Once the winning demolition and construction bids are selected, work on the mall will get underway, Enclave representative Brian Bochman told the Moorhead City Council Monday night, July 12. The council unanimously approved $178,932 in property tax exemptions for the mall part of the project.

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“The goal is to get started on this right away," Bochman said. He said the $6-7 million mall makeover should be completed by spring 2022.

Work began about two weeks ago on The Emery at Southmoor, a four-story, $17 million apartment complex just east of the mall, Bochman said. That project is interlocked with Southmoor Square in the overall vision for reviving that area.

The exterior of Southmoor Square will be freshened to better highlight entrances. The building will have about 20,000 square feet removed on the south side and be given considerable upgrades of the HVAC, electrical and roofing systems. (Rendering courtesy of Enclave)
The exterior of Southmoor Square will be freshened to better highlight entrances. The building will have about 20,000 square feet removed on the south side and be given considerable upgrades of the HVAC, electrical and roofing systems. (Rendering courtesy of Enclave)

The Emery will have about 130 apartments, with 40% of them designated for affordable housing as part of a tax increment financing agreement with the state of Minnesota, Bochman said.

The apartment complex will have a golf simulator, club room, pet spa, yoga and fitness studios - "all sorts of fun goodies,” Bochman said.

Mall tenants CVS and Murphy’s Pub will stay, said Derrick LaPoint, president and CEO of the nonprofit Downtown Moorhead Inc.

Creating Southmoor Square will require demolishing about 20,000 square feet on the south side of the current mall to provide a new entrance to the development. The parking lot will also be resurfaced.

Creating Southmoor Square will require removing about 20,000 square feet of the old Southmoor Plaza. That will provide space to create a new entrance for the mall, the developer says. This is a view looking north at the revamped mall. An apartment complex is being built just to the east. (Rendering courtesy of Enclave)
Creating Southmoor Square will require removing about 20,000 square feet of the old Southmoor Plaza. That will provide space to create a new entrance for the mall, the developer says. This is a view looking north at the revamped mall. An apartment complex is being built just to the east. (Rendering courtesy of Enclave)

A Dairy Queen restaurant and First International Bank and Trust have their own buildings just to the west of the main strip mall, closer to Eight Street South.

The remaining section of the old strip mall will get a new HVAC system, the building's roof will be repaired or replaced, and the electrical system and transformers will be updated and relocated. The exterior will be refaced with an insulation and finish system, stone and paint. New parapets will be added to differentiate the entry and tenant spaces.

Council members praised the project.

Deb White liked the outdoor spaces being created for living, socializing and shopping.

“I’m looking forward to this, looking ahead,” she said at Monday’s meeting.

Chuck Hendrickson said he was excited by Enclave’s project, saying the result will be “a nice gateway to Moorhead.”

“It’s going to be a beautiful site as you’re coming into Moorhead,” agreed Mayor Shelly Carlson.

LaPoint said residents of the apartments will have the CVS and other mall businesses to meet their needs, the Azool mall Hornbacher’s and the shops and restaurants in that shopping center to the south, and bus connections to the rest of the metro area.

A longtime stagnant area will be revived, LaPoint said.

“For us, from the city's perspective, we looked at those four corners as such a high traffic movement of people. To have action, and redevelopment, and some life in the area, I think will stimulate a lot of different things,” LaPoint said.

Mahli said there's plenty of potential for the other quadrants of the Eighth Street/I-94 interchange. Developers are working to fill the shuttered Family Fare building in the Brookdale Shopping Center in the northwest quadrant. "There are definitely some opportunities there, no doubt," he said.

And the former Days Inn at 600 30th Ave. S. (in the southwest quadrant), was recently listed for sale for $1.5 million by CBRE, Mahli said.

"There's been some interest; there's been some calls" on that property, he said. "That is a definite redevelopment area. That will be interesting to see what happens there."

Mahli said the city has put an emphasis on being development friendly.

"We're seeking alternatives instead of obstacles when it comes to the permitting process and requests," Mahli said. "We try to be very intentional about that. I know when I sit down and we're talking to folks that want to invest, I try to ensure them, I try to let them know that: A. We're hungry, and B, we want to give them the certainty that they need, to make sure their project is going to go through the process, be approved and be completed in a manner that is clear."

Mahli looks forward to more development.

"I'm hoping that we see a lot more of these - soon. I'm hopeful," Mahli said.