Fargo seeks ideas for riverfront Mid America Steel property

Consultant said commercial, residential, public use and parking ramp among considerations

Joe Burgum.jpg
Community builder and co-founder of the Folkways organization Joe Burgum studies a map showing the various parts of the former Mid America Steel site along the Red River. Barry Amundson / The Forum

FARGO — Several residents provided ideas for what they would like to see done on the riverfront Mid America Steel site, often viewed as a prime development spot for a commercial or residential structure or for improved downtown access to the Red River.

The city, who has hired SRF Consulting of Fargo to work on developing options for the site, is hoping to have a final report to present to the Fargo City Commission in July with three to five alternatives.

The commissioners could then ask for development proposals for the city-owned site, which was damaged in two suspected arson cases apparently set by juveniles and one 18-year-old this spring.

Due to the fires, efforts were sped up to demolish and plan for the site which has about 10 acres available for a project or projects. Earlier this week, the commissioners accepted a bid to demolish all 10 buildings on the property that was first developed commercially in 1905.

Scott Harmstead, with SRF, told residents at an open house in the Sky Conference Center in the Fargo Civic Center on Thursday, May 20, that no decisions have been made for the site and are simply gathering resident input.


Harmstead said in brainstorming so far, the city and his firm have listed as alternatives a commercial project such as a medical or retail building, an entertainment venue such as the proposed city performing arts center, residential housing, a mixed-use structure, a parking ramp or a storm water collection area.

There's even talk of straightening out NP Avenue that curves around the site before reaching the bridge that connects with Center Avenue in Moorhead.

Residents at the meeting offered other ideas.

Paul Gleye said most of the city's downtown development in the past few years has been moving to the west and he would like to see more done towards the Red River on the east side.

Gleye added it could be a way to draw more life into that area of downtown and the riverfront, and suggested more of a connection to the river with at least a greenway or walkway.

Community builder Joe Burgum thought the city should work with Moorhead, too, as they further develop their downtown.

Other suggestions for some or parts of the site were to make it into an open air concert site, a city park, a plaza and a botanical garden while a veteran's group suggested a parking area on the four acres of the site along Main Avenue and near Veterans Memorial Bridge.

That four acres on the southside of the Burlington Northern railroad tracks that divides the property is buildable, said Harmstead, but difficult for any major project to be undertaken with a myriad of constraints.


Harmstead said the northwest part of the property of about six acres is the most likely spot for any development as there are city utilities in place with the best road access from NP Avenue on the north.

Closer to the river, an earthen dike is currently planned to protect the property from flooding, but Assistant City Planning Director Mark Williams said a flood wall is still possible and that a timeline isn't in place for the work yet.

Preparing the site for a project or projects is the first step, he said. The city purchased the land as part of a flood buyout in 2015 from Mid America, which moved its facilities to the northwest part of the city.

Also complicating the development is soil and groundwater contamination, and the city may have to work with the federal Environmental Protection Agency on any cleanup effort before development.

Josh Kadrmas of Braun Intertec of West Fargo, an environmental consulting firm who has been studying the site, said monitoring wells have been installed to continue checking for contaminants.

Kadrmas reported a section of the land 's top soil is contaminated with a commercial solvent that was used by Mid America, but could likely be removed fairly easily and disposed of with any development project. The deeper soil contamination may require capping, digging and hauling away or soil stabilization efforts.

Kadrmas added the arsenic found in groundwater on the site, which is common in the region, doesn't pose a major problem with levels low.

A second meeting to provide input is scheduled for 5 p.m., June 10 at Fargo City Hall.

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