FARGO - Peter and Shannon Chamberlain have lived in some big cities, but they say downtown Fargo more than holds its own.
They recently stopped at Wild Terra Cider on the old city center’s west edge.
“Just the walkability for me,” Peter Chamberlain said Tuesday, Aug. 17. “Entertainment, food, beverages, there are three breweries, a cidery, a distillery and Young Blood (Coffee Co.) and 20 Below (Coffee Co.) that roast coffee beans, all in a one-mile radius.
“We used to live in Portland (Ore.). We lived in Boston. You can’t find that (much variety) anywhere,” he said.
The Chamberlains can both get to work quickly. In fact, Shannon’s office is a short walk from their downtown home.
“Why not live downtown where we can get anywhere in our limited time?” Shannon Chamberlain said.
“Sometimes, we just walk downtown without buying anything,” Peter Chamberlain said. “There’s an energy going on.”
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The downtowns of both Fargo and Moorhead are being transformed by development, with a big emphasis on building apartments, condominiums and townhomes.
Urban spaces once devoted to doing business are becoming vibrant neighborhoods to eat, sleep and play.
Hundreds of apartments have been added in downtown Fargo alone in the last few years, with more than 350 apartments expected to come online in 2022. Developers have also been casting their eyes and cash on downtown Moorhead.
A mosaic of housing options
West Fargo-based Enclave recently held the ribbon cutting for the upscale Mosaic complex at 312 11th St. N., in downtown Fargo, adding 92 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, just across the street from it’s 300lime apartments (303 11th St. N.), which opened with 94 units in 2017.
“Downtown has been a focus for five years,” Enclave’s CEO Austin Morris said Wednesday, Aug. 11.
EPIC Companies, also based in West Fargo, is now renting the first phase of its Gateway project - the Gateway North Building at 310 Main Ave., Fargo That building has 52 studio and one- and two-bedroom apartments, plus 13,000 square feet of commercial and retail space.
Construction is underway on The Arch, the second phase EPIC’s efforts at the former Gateway Center. The seven-story building will have about 60 condominiums and 20,000 square feet of commercial space. It is expected to be finished in late 2022 or early 2023, and EPIC spokeswoman said.
Kilbourne Group has been the most prolific developer in Fargo downtown, with its most dramatic project being the 18-story RDO Building, which includes the Jasper Hotel, the Rosewild restaurant, offices and condominiums.
Kilbourne has been a juggernaut when it comes to converting parking lots or run-down buildings into housing and commercial space.
Kilbourne’s projects in recent years include:
- The Woodrow Apartments, 97 units, completed summer 2017 (done in conjunction with Enclave).
- Roberts Commons, 625 2nd Ave. N., 72 units, completed spring 2018
- Bostad Apartments, 117 Broadway N., 22 units, completed summer 2019
- Dillard Apartments, 247 Roberts St. N., 84 units, completed fall 2019
Next year will see another three big Kilbourne projects completed:
- Mercantile Apartments, 405 Broadway N., 100 units, spring 2022
- Kesler, 624 2nd Ave. N., 109 units, summer 2022.
- The Landing at 1001 NP, 152 units, summer 2022.
- Kilbourne also says it was peripherally involved with The Edge Artist Flats, 1321 5th Ave. N., 41 below-market rental units built by Wisconsin-based The Commonwealth Companies. It opened in 2019.
“As more jobs move into our central business district, many of those people choose to live near their work, which creates demand,” said Mike Allmendinger, president of Kilbourne Group. “We also see a large percentage of our new residents coming in from out of state, moving to Fargo. More people living downtown means more vibrancy, activity, and commerce that supports the local small businesses that make the neighborhood unique and highly walkable.”
Enclave also has another project on the horizon, the Wild Oak apartment and condominium complex in the near downtown neighborhood of Oak Grove. Work on that project starts this fall, the company’s co-founder Ben Meland said.
Creating a good mix
Mark Williams, the assistant director of Fargo’s planning department, said it’s been important to create a good mix of commercial and residential space downtown.
“That helps it keep it vital throughout the full day,” Williams said.
Development over the last 20 years has changed the atmosphere in the downtown area.
"I know there’s a lot of different people with different socioeconomic backgrounds and ages that really enjoy the downtown and what it supplies,” Williams said. “I know our downtown is pretty healthy and vibrant right now.”
Steve and Kim Zimmerman are downtown residents who’ve watched the area get heathier.
“We still love it after 17 years,” Steve Zimmerman said in an email to The Forum. “We view the new construction with awe and are happy for it. We feel safe. Of course, one needs to be aware, but still we feel blessed being able to live in Fargo and, especially, downtown.”
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney said the changes downtown help make the city “one of the Upper Midwest’s crown jewels.”
Mahoney said he’s enjoyed the influx of people downtown.
The amenities in some of the newer buildings “make them places to nest,” Mahoney said. “You almost become a community within a community.”
On the east side of the Red River, Moorhead’s downtown has also seen a revival, particularly in the number of apartments that have been going up.
Moorhead officials set a goal in 2018 of getting 500 more apartments or other living areas in the downtown area, and a mix of developers have gotten the city to well more than halfway there, said Lisa Bode, the city’s governmental affairs director.
Some recent and coming additions to downtown Moorhead include:
- EPIC Companies’ mixed-use, 33-unit Vanne building is now open at 1530 1st Ave. N.
- EPIC mixed-use Block E building at 8th Street and Main. It added 12 apartments to the downtown mix in 2018.
- EPIC’s mixed-use Bolig Square project at 1 4th St. S. remains on hold, Bode said. It was envisioned to have 30 apartments.
- Developer Justin Berg’s 12th and Main will soon open with 33 apartments at 1205 Main Ave.
- In 2020, one apartment was added in the restoration and addition to 808 Center Ave. above Swing Barrel Brewing.
- Developer Kevin Bartram has been particularly busy in downtown Moorhead. (Bartram’s well known for his development of condominiums and lofts next to the river and the historic Kassenborg Block.)
- Bartram’s Block 37 Flats brings 28 apartments at 113 10th St. S.
- The 47-apartment 9Thirteen Lofts at 913 Main Ave., is another Bartram project.
- Simon Warehouse Lofts at 8 10th St. N., came online in 2020, with 65 apartments. And Bartram has also developed the neighboring Armory Event Center at 904 Center Ave., opening soon.
- Bartram and Sterling Companies recently purchased the United Sugars building next to Center Mall and the parking lot at Center and 7th Street north. Bartram plans to develop the parking lot into a mixed use building with commercial space and apartments, and perhaps condominium. United Sugars will remain office space.
Derrick LaPoint, president and CEO of Downtown Moorhead Inc., said he likes what's happening.
“What we’ve been hearing from the developers is that every (housing unit) they’re putting on the market is being occupied,” LaPoint said Wednesday, Aug. 18. “The market is really strong. We’re getting a really good mix of individuals living there. You’ve got some students, you’ve got some young professionals, some retirees.”
The influx of downtown residents is drawing businesses such as Swing Barrel Brewing and Sol Ave Kitchen, LaPoint said.
Dave and Linda Anderson were longtime south Moorhead residents who decided to move to Fargo's downtown when they realized that their 3,500 square-foot-home was just too large.
They moved to a 1,200-square-foot condominium in The Fargoan downtown three weeks ago, Dave Anderson said Tuesday, Aug. 17.
Anderson, 68 and now retired from Sanford Health, is no stranger to downtown Fargo. He picked up the nickname “Downtown Dave” after years serving as head of the Downtown Community Partnership.
“So far, we’re really enjoying it,” Anderson said. “Downtown just really seemed to be the right choice."
He loves being at the center of the neighborhood. He’s across from the Fargo Theatre, a half a block away from Sandy’s Doughnuts and The Toasted Frog and numerous other bars and restaurants.
The transformation of the downtowns has “been pretty cool," Anderson said.
“One of the points I always made … Is that downtown is a living, breathing organism, It’s not a product that has an end date. That’s the part that Linda and I are enjoying. It’s ever changing," Anderson said. "“Downtown Fargo and downtown Moorhead are going to grow and to change and to blossom.”