FARGO — The southeast and riverfront part of downtown Fargo is next in line for major developments as three major efforts are underway.
In recent meetings, the Fargo City Commission approved the sale of what is now a city parking lot near the corner of Main Avenue and Broadway. They also approved studying a possible Tax Increment Financing district and developing plans for the riverfront area.
Additionally, the Fargo Housing & Redevelopment Authority asked for proposals to redevelop the 50-year-old Lashkowitz High Rise next to the river at 101 Second St. S., with plans and bids due by Nov. 16 and a final decision to be made on Dec. 4.
The 22-story, 204-foot landmark structure could be torn down or renovated.
With the $28 million Main Avenue reconstruction project completed as well as flood protection along Second Street South, the city was hoping more development would be in store in that area of downtown, although some of the projects could take years.
Already, construction of a $12 million mixed-use commercial and residential building is underway. The four-story Gateway Center, 300 Main Ave. E., will be next to the Fryn' Pan restaurant near the river corridor.
Last month, the commission opened bidding for the city parking lot near Broadway at 501 Main Ave. for a minimum price of $500,000.
City Strategic Planning Director Jim Gilmour said at least one company has expressed interest in the lot.
The council resolution on the sale stated construction of a building on the site should be at least four stories high, with commercial or office space on the first floor. Above that may be office or residential units.
Gilmour said the sale of the lot will help pay for the new Mercantile Parking Ramp going up on Fourth Avenue North near Broadway.
At its last meeting, the City Commission took another big step toward development in downtown's southeast and riverfront area by voting 4-1 to have city staff begin preparing a renewal plan and the TIF district.
Although creation of the TIF could be months away and a public hearing would be held first, the plan was approved by the city's finance committee.
The committee is proposing the TIF could help pay for demolishing the former Mid America Steel buildings on the banks of the river next to Veterans Memorial Bridge, developing a large plaza by City Hall, a local share for a pedestrian bridge over Second Street for better pedestrian and bike access to the river, a Performing Arts Center, a skyway connection to City Hall and an addition to the Civic Center parking ramp.
Gilmour stated in the proposal that public improvements are often needed to encourage private sector projects.
Commissioner Tony Gehrig, however, voted against the idea of creating a TIF district, saying it takes money away from schools and other units of government with the taxes funneled to only the city to help finance projects.
"It takes money right out of their pockets and puts in ours," he said. "It's a bad idea."
He said collection of property taxes could be delayed for up to 25 years on some building projects if it's approved.
Gehrig added that the riverfront land is probably some of the most valuable property in Fargo, if not the state, and private developers will pay for it and for any structures such as another hotel.
Commissioner Arlette Preston, however, said it sometimes takes incentives to encourage people to invest. She said public projects will add to the value of surrounding properties and ultimately schools will benefit from taxes paid on any private projects rather than idle land.
Commissioner John Strand urged city planners and other staff involved in developing plans to "think big."
He agreed with Gehrig that it was a piece of "prime property."
Strand pointed out the success of Winnipeg's development along the Red River and also how Sioux Falls has worked on its Big Sioux River corridor through downtown. He also said to not forget to blend it in with what's happening across the border in Moorhead.
"I just can't wait to see what our plans might look like," he said.
The plan could also include a Performing Arts Center. In addition to all of the other plans, the city hired a consulting firm, called the Benefactor Group, for $52,750 to study and prepare a report on whether enough private funds can be raised to help pay for the center that a task force recommended be built on the site of the Fargo Civic Center.
Of course, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on some of the proposals and plans, at least for now.