Editor's note: This is the second part of a series on small communities around Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo going through significant expansions as the metro grows.
DILWORTH — With three apartment complexes nearing construction and a new housing development getting started in the growing eastern side of Dilworth, the city is poised to reach the 5,000 population mark fairly soon.
City Administrator Peyton Mastera announced this week that the official census number is 4,612 residents — a substantial increase from 4,024 in the 2010 census.
The bedroom community that connects to Moorhead — its faster growing neighbor — has approved zoning changes for apartment buildings of 44 and 39 units on the western side of the town near Walmart and Slumberland and a two-phase complex of two 72-unit buildings on the booming eastern side.
With that in mind, Mastera said they should reach the 5,000 mark within the next two years. That will mean access to state aid for road improvement along with other funding benefits.
Mayor Chad Olson, who was born and raised in the town and is in his third term, said the town has been dominated by single-family home growth in recent years with a "slow but steady" growth of about 15 to 25 new homes in each of the past five years.
The new apartment buildings will provide something they have been seeking — more diversity in housing options, he said.
"We haven't had a lot of rental opportunities in town, and this will fill the need," said Olson, adding that many apartment dwellers' next step is homeownership. He hopes they will enjoy the town and decide to buy there.
On the west side of town, a three-story, 44-unit apartment building named Third Avenue Flats will be built with the help of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency to provide workforce and low-income rental units.
Across the street behind the Slumberland store and near U.S. Highway 10 will be a four-story, 39-unit structure featuring the town's first apartment building with parking garages on the main floor.
The major multifamily housing boost, with construction underway after a year's delay, will be the east side's 72-unit building being constructed by Dovetail Development near U.S. Highway 10 and the city's new Rail District business development.
Olson said the Rail District will be like a new downtown for the city covering about 30 acres. So far, the district has a butcher shop, coffee shop, bar and restaurant and a home decoration and antique shop on the 200 block of 15th Street Northeast.
The storefronts resemble the look of a downtown block, and a similar structure is being added across the street.
The new mixed-use building will also offer three condos above five main floor storefronts.
The district's bar and restaurant, called the Silver Spike Bar & Grill, is a standalone structure in the area and is fast becoming a popular spot.
Nora Jones, a 15-year-old sophomore at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton High School, was enjoying Roasted Rail coffee shop with three of her friends before the school's homecoming football game on Friday, Oct. 8.
She said the coffee shop, with its variety of drinks, was a really nice addition to the town she has called home her entire life.
Olson, who sat for an hourlong interview in the coffee shop, is excited about the Rail District that offers residents another option to shop, eat, drink and relax close to home.
"There's a lot of promise here," he said.
The Butcher Block is already realizing that, as it's also a busy place.
Bill Nelson, who owns the memory care center called Lilac Homes near the shops, said as he looked over the wide variety of meat selections with his wife that the district's shops are a "great addition."
He said it helps support the lifestyle of residents raising a family in the area, which includes the city's newest housing development, called Keystone, as well as rows and rows of newer homes in other eastside neighborhoods all built after 2000.
Olson said they aren't ignoring the older parts of town, though.
During the past two summers, they repaired and replaced aging sewer lines, and in the next few years they are going to work on fixing up streets in the central part of the city.
The mayor said they are also looking at building a larger recreational park in the north-central part of the city next to the current ballfields.
What will be in the proposed new park that is now a corn field "is up to the community," he said.
Dilworth Elementary School, which is undergoing a northside addition that includes a new gymnasium and art space along with security upgrades, has grown in enrollment to about 425 students in preschool through fourth grade.
Students in the higher grades go to nearby Glyndon, where the school is also being renovated and expanded with a new competition gym, library, science labs, performing arts suite and a community room.
With Dilworth's growing population will come more businesses, Olson said, and that's evident with 12 commercial building permits issued in the past five years.
Exciting to many is a Dairy Queen under construction on the west side of town next to the popular Pizza Ranch.
Olson said they are offering tax breaks to businesses that he thinks could attract even more commercial development in the coming years.
"I think we are going to be successful," the mayor said.
With slow but steady growth, he thinks it gives them time to "do it right."
"I want this to be a place that, if our kids go off and explore, that they will some day want to come back home," he said, adding that's just what he did himself.