FARGO — With the first phase of the Fargo Civic Plaza completed, conceptual plans for the next phases of the wide-ranging project were unveiled at the Fargo City Commission meeting Monday, Oct. 21.

"This will be your Central Park," said designer Scott Bishop of Quincy, Mass., referring to New York City's main gathering spot for residents.

He also called it a riverfront space for the city's growing population that can change the character of downtown and offer a day and night venue for residents and visitors.

The plaza Bishop envisions would go from the prairie setting by the "Sodbuster" sculpture garden area next to the city library that was dedicated last week to a riparian forest type area closer to the river complete with a waterfall that would take advantage of storm water.

Bishop envisions a wide bridge that would go over the street and flood wall by City Hall and connect the downtown to the Red River providing a connection for bicyclists and pedestrians.

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Some of the new added features he proposed would be an outdoor amphitheater for smaller concerts or gatherings, a skyway cactus garden, a larger open plaza in front of City Hall for gatherings from 4,000 people up to 13,000, a designated food truck station, an indoor wetland pavilion with native and exotic plants, a splash pad, a forest pavilion with a timber tower jutting into the sky and a river overlook area.

The area would offer some of the indoor features for winter time enjoyment, which he said could use mostly solar power.

Bishop had a series of drawings showing the concept for the different areas of the project, which Commissioner Dave Piepkorn called "awesome."

He said he needed some time to absorb the work.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig, however, made a motion to seek proposals for a private company to develop the southeast corner of the plaza area in what is now a city parking lot east of the library.

"It's probably some of the most valuable land in North Dakota," he said. "And we just want to make it into a park?"

"We should see what's out there," Gehrig added about seeking proposals now so it could be tied in with any city plans that would be financed by taxpayers.

Gehrig's motion failed 4-1 to ask private firms for plans at this time.

The other commissioners weren't opposed to the plaza idea, but thought a financial plan, timeline and discussions with city staff were needed first. Piepkorn said he liked the idea of doing it in phases.

Commissioner John Strand thought maybe a task force should be formed to work on final plans.

There was also talk about seeing what's in store for a possible Performing Arts Center on the site of the Fargo Civic Center, the old MidAmerica Steel building that was abandoned along the river in a flood buyout and the former Fargo police headquarters buildings.

Bishop said his company received more than 400 responses in a community survey and that's what he included in the conceptual drawings. He said the next step could be more schematic drawings.