MOORHEAD — A company tasked with redeveloping the Moorhead Center Mall is in the process of hiring an architectural firm as it works toward the next phase of revitalizing the city's downtown.

Fargo-based developer and builder Roers Companies interviewed architects this past week and is moving ahead with plans for the mall by having conversations with "multiple developers," the city and mall owners and Downtown Moorhead Inc.

The mall and its surrounding parking lots and ramp is the "primary catalyst site for revitalization," according to a 55-page Downtown Master Plan put together by city officials, residents and consultants.

Core to that plan is the redevelopment of the mall that sits along Center Avenue, a roadway in the heart of downtown scheduled to undergo major reconstruction next year from Eighth Street to the Red River.

Roers company officials and Downtown Moorhead Inc. President and CEO Derrick LaPoint say they've learned from engaging with the community that residents want a downtown where they can live and work. They'd also like to see more entertainment and retail options.

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Roers President Jim Roers said the redevelopment provides the opportunity for the mall area work to be a "legacy project" for the city.

LaPoint said Roers hiring an architectural firm is a significant development. It will prepare the vision and conceptual designs in the next few months when more major developments could be announced.

Residents have made it "loud and clear" that they would like to see a look influenced by the city's past downtown and have better access to the Red River, LaPoint said.

Two years ago, Roers and the city of Moorhead entered a pre-development agreement that allowed the company to represent the city in deals relating to the mall. The city owns the mall hallways, parking areas, and the City Hall tower that is part of the complex.

In a closed session last week, Moorhead City Council discussed the next step in that development agreement, though members did not provide any details on what the agreement might contain.

However, Roers appears poised to start the process of redeveloping the mall. Parts of the property are under contract for purchase, the company told The Forum.

"We hope all the current businesses stay downtown," the company said. "Our goal is to provide an opportunity for new businesses to locate in downtown, too."

Besides the city-owned portions, the mall has 11 businesses that own their store spaces, with an ownership group controlling the rest, including the deserted former Herberger's store on the west end of the mall next to the parking ramp.

While the mall appears to be the next major focus, other developers continue to plan and construct housing and multi-use buildings scattered throughout the downtown area.

Some of those recently announced major projects include a mixed-use building in the United Sugars Corp. parking lot along Center Avenue on the east end of the mall, and redevelopment of the Fairmont Creamery into apartment units.