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Tax breaks approved for historic Merchants National Bank building in downtown Fargo

The 100-year-old building, formerly the home of King House Buffett, will be upgraded for modern retail and office spaces. The first major tenant, a Chase Bank branch office, is nearing completion.

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The Merchants National Bank building at 122 Broadway in downtown Fargo. The building, seen here Thursday, Aug. 27, 2021, had for many years housed the King House Buffett restaurant. A Chase Bank branch will open soon there, and the City Commission recently approved tax breaks to help with rehabbing the rest of the building.
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FARGO - A development fund created by Kilbourne Group will receive tax breaks for major rehabilitation work planned for the Merchants National Bank Building at 122 Broadway.

The City Commission recently signed off on the Renaissance Zone application, which will make it possible for DFI BD LLC to get income and property tax exemptions for repairing and updating the building, which had been the longtime home of King House Buffet.

DFI (Downtown Fargo Investment) plans to spend more than $1.7 million on the project, according to city records.

Work will include improving the basement, the west section of the building for retail tenants, and the second floor for future office tenants. New storefronts will be created, windows and masonry restored, and electrical, gas and other building systems updated. A new roof has already been installed.

Emphasis will be placed on creating access to the alley, to extend the Roberts Alley storefront/restaurant experience south to First Avenue North, Kilbourne spokeswoman Adrienne Olson said Friday, Aug. 27. Similar alley access work was done as part of the Black Building rehab project and is part of the Kesler Building now under construction.

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Heavy construction machinery fills 2nd Avenue North and Broadway for an infrastructure project in downtown Fargo in this image that city staff says dates from the late 1940s. The two-story Merchants National Bank building is on the corner at 122 Broadway. To the south is the Black Bulding, which at the time had a Sears department store.

The east side of the 100-year-old Merchants bank building has been fitted out for a Chase Bank branch. That branch will be the second of three in Fargo and will open in early October, a Chase spokeswoman said Friday.

The Downtown Fargo Investment fund was created in 2016 and has about 77 investors, Olson said.

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DFI did the demolition work for the shell of Chase Bank, while the bank contracted its own fit-up, Olson said.
“Our team still has the other chunk of the building. We’re kicking off work on that soon,” Olson said.

The building, completed in 1921, is “really beautiful. It has a lot of architectural value. We’re cleaning it up and bringing it back,” Olson said.

The stone carving with the Merchant’s National Bank name remains on the northeast corner of the building.

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“It was originally a pretty grand building on Broadway,” Olson said.

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The Merchants National Bank building, 122 Broadway in downtown Fargo, as it appeared about 1940.

The City Commission voted 3-1 to approve the Renaissance Zone tax benefits at its Monday, Aug. 23, meeting.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig was the lone nay vote. Commissioner Arlette Preston declared a conflict of interest and did not vote. She is an investor in DFI.

The five-year property tax benefit for DFI will be $215,000, director of Planning and Development Nicole Crutchfield said.

The 2020 real estate taxes are $16,782 for the land and building.

DFI will pay property tax on the land, but will have no property taxes on the building for five years. In year six, the real estate tax revenue collected will nearly double from the 2020 figure to more than $32,000 a year.

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“We do believe this will be a benefit” to the downtown area, Crutchfield said.

Chase Bank opened its first Fargo branch on July 27 of this year at 4330 13th Ave. S. That bank branch was built on the site of a former Pier 1 store, which was torn down to make way for the new building.

Chase’s third Fargo branch is under construction at 3140 25th St. S., the former site of a Village Inn restaurant in the Southpointe neighborhood. It is projected to open in early November, the Chase spokeswoman said.

According to North Dakota State University archives:

Merchants State Bank opened for business on July 8, 1890, on the corner of Broadway and N.P Avenue. The building was destroyed in the fire that leveled most of downtown Fargo in June of 1893. The bank rebuilt on that site.

In 1906, the bank’s charter was changed and it was renamed Merchants National Bank. In 1921, it moved to a new building at 122 Broadway.

In 1964, the bank once again moved to a new, more modern bank building at 505 2nd Ave. N.

In 1977, Merchants National Bank and Trust became First Bank of Fargo.

Related Topics: KILBOURNE GROUPFARGO
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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