FARGO — A bid of just under $1.5 million was accepted Monday night, Aug. 12, for the first phase of the new Fargo Civic Plaza called the "Sodbuster Landscape."

McGough Construction Co. of St. Paul, which did the pre-construction services, offered the low "guaranteed maximum price" and will start on the project next Monday, Aug. 19, with a completion date of sometime in October "before the snow flies," said architect Scott Bishop of Bishop Land Design of Quincy, Mass.

Bishop is also working on a conceptual design for the remainder of the civic plaza that could develop even more in 2020.

The main focus of the first phase will be placing the "Sodbuster" sculpture that once stood on the corner of Main Avenue and Broadway, showing a farmer plowing the prairie with a team of oxen. It was created by the late artist Luis Jiminez of New Mexico and was originally commissioned by the city about 40 years ago.

The statue will be in a 25,500-square-foot area next to the downtown city library. Prairie grass will surround the 1,300-pound, 19-foot-long sculpture mounted on a 42-inch-high foundation.

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Surrounding the sculpture will be a nursery of 170 trees that will eventually be planted throughout the plaza, 28 trees that will be a part of the project area, three viewing platforms for the lighted sculpture, an irrigation system, security cameras, two lawn or grassy areas for sitting, a library cafe terrace and paver pathways featuring a "crackle" design.

The "crackle" design of the pathways, Bishop said, resembles how dried clay looks and reminds visitors the Red River Valley is part of an ancient glacial lake bed.

The area could eventually be a type of sculpture garden, Bishop said.

With the bid of $1.5 million, Bishop said they were able to keep all of the facets of the first phase that he and others had envisioned.

"I think this will demonstrate and show people what the plaza can be about in the long run," he said.

Commissioner John Strand asked if the company was working with the city's forestry department on the tree nursery. Bishop said the company would be when it comes to future maintenance, but he and Public Works Director Ben Dow said with the tight timeline for the project and with the city orders already in for fall trees it wasn't possible to come together.

Among the species of trees planned for the nursery are red maple, aspen, basswood, ironwood and elm. There will also be various shrubs and perennials and grass mixes.

Strand also asked if the project would affect the controversial Ten Commandments statue that sits in the current plaza. Bishop said it was quite a ways away from the statue. However, the small parking lot north of the library will be lost in the project.

The city's planning and engineering departments are helping to oversee the project to ensure oversight, as there were contingency funds included in the project cost of $119,000.