FARGO — A plan to redevelop riverfront properties in downtown Fargo took a step forward Tuesday, March 2, when the Fargo Planning Commission unanimously approved the effort, describing it as consistent with city goals.
The plan calls for a tax increment financing district in the zone that could raise property value in the multi-block area from its current $60 million value to more than $200 million.
The Fargo City Commission would next have to approve the plan, which it will discuss at its April 5 meeting if approved by the Fargo Tax-Exempt Review Committee.
City Strategic Planner Jim Gilmour told the planning commissioners the proposal could produce similar results to the Roberts Street area of central downtown, which was once was a few parking lots that produced only $367 in city property taxes. That area has since transformed into mixed-use buildings that will eventually pay more than $1 million in taxes, he said.
On top of that, Gilmour said the Roberts Street district has created 11 new businesses and provided a huge improvement in downtown parking, with 454 spots in a new garage surrounded by housing units. The new Kessler mixed-use building currently under construction will soon join the already-constructed Roberts Commons and Dillard buildings.
Developers hope the City Commission will approve the sale of city-owned land next to the Veteran's Memorial Bridge that was once the site of the Park East apartment complex, said Gilmour, who explained there has been a lot of interest in the property.
Other 2021 projects could include demolishing and selling a city-owned warehouse at 419 Third St. N., selling the former Fargo Cass Public Health Building at 401 Third Ave. N., and developing flood control plans for the former Mid America Steel site.
In 2022 planners hope building demolition can begin on the Mid America site and to partner with the Fargo Housing and Redevelopment Authority, which plans to demolish the Lashkowitz High Rise and possibly replace it with new affordable housing.
Eventually, plans are for the TIF to help with work on a civic plaza next to City Hall and the Civic Center, where numerous architectural suggestions have already been developed. That area could also include a home for a proposed performing arts center.
The TIF district would run from the railroad on the north to near the Prairie St. John's behavioral health center on the south which is currently undergoing a rebuilding project. It would run from the west near Fourth Street to the river on the east.
Gilmour said there are also Renaissance Zone and Opportunity Zone incentives available to developers. He added that it would be 2024 before tax increment financing revenues started coming in if work started as soon as the plan was approved.
A TIF uses all or part of a developer's property taxes to pay for infrastructure improvements, such as streets, sewers or parking lots in the areas near a new development. Fargo typically employs TIF to encourage development of affordable housing, construction in areas where it wouldn't be done without aid, remove blight, help with costs such as pollution remediation, or to spur development of underused commercial or industrial properties.
Planning Commissioner Dawn Morgan said she thought the plan was "very exciting."
Another commissioner, Art Rosenberg, asked about the property tax consequences of the projects. Gilmour said property taxes would continue to be paid on the $60 million in private property already in the zone. As for any significant property tax revenue boost, he said thea major increase would start in 25 years when the TIF expired.