FARGO — A compromise has apparently been reached to allow the controversial Newman Center housing project southeast of North Dakota State University to go forward.
The new plan, to be presented to the Fargo City Commission on Monday night, Feb. 11, was the result of several meetings between representatives of Roers Development, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association and St. Paul's Catholic Newman Center.
Four out of five city commissioners must approve the project, which has been in the works for years but has been a hot-button issue in the past half-year as final plans began to emerge, upsetting many neighbors who said it was too large and removed single-family homes from their historic neighborhood and children from nearby schools.
Mayor Tim Mahoney said Thursday, Feb. 7, that there will be a vote on the $40 million project and at least he and Commissioner Tony Grindberg plan to cast a ballot for approval. He said Commissioner John Strand also worked with the neighborhood and Roers on the compromise.
'I'm thrilled they have come to a solution," Mahoney said. "I think it'll be a fantastic addition to Fargo."
The final plan was given approval by all three representatives of the neighborhood association Wednesday morning and includes several more concessions by Roers, which was the target of most of the complaints from neighbors who didn't contest plans for a new Newman Center on the block. The facility's priests and staff work with NDSU students, who have testified in favor of the project that includes a new larger chapel, offices, meeting space and faith-based housing.
What the residents have voiced concerns about was the massive apartment building Roers originally planned for the project, which would fill out an entire city block along University Drive near 12th Avenue North, just off the southeast corner of the campus, and require demolishing about a dozen homes, many dilapidated.
The concessions in the new final compromise addresses that issue and includes:
- A reduction from the original 138 market-based apartments, mostly designed to house students, to 85.
- A reduction in the faith-based apartments from 29 to 24.
- The addition of as many as 11 town homes that will shield a huge parking lot from other homes in the area and provide more single-family residences to replace the ones being knocked down. It will include building seven units at first and possibly another four later on.
- Roers agreed to work with the Newman Center and the neighbors to possibly save two historic homes on the block and relocate them to another area of the Roosevelt neighborhood.
- More green space was added on the northeast corner of the block next to the new chapel to improve appearances.
- Some height concessions were made to areas of the apartment building that reaches five stories.
"That area really needed a face lift," said Larry Nygard, vice president of development for Roers, noting that many of the homes were beyond saving. "It's really going to transform the area and make a huge difference.
"I think this is a good solution that will work for everyone," he said about the compromise.
Ken Enockson, one of the three people appointed to represent the neighborhood, said they would have liked even fewer apartments to lower the density of the population there and that the height of the apartment building is still a concern.
However, he said the addition of more town homes that serve as a buffer was a positive so "the neighbors don't have to be looking at a parking lot."
He also liked the added green space.
Enockson said saving a few of the homes, including one he said was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, was also another concession by the developer that moved the compromise forward.
Although the neighborhood thought the project from the start was cramming two into one, Enockson said of the compromise, "We were at a point where it was pointless to continue to fight. They did work with us."
He also hoped that the concessions might set a precedent for other projects in the city's core neighborhoods where some homes are falling into disrepair and more multifamily projects are being proposed.
"We wanted all along to maintain our quality of life here and be smart about it," he said. "We wanted something that would compliment the neighborhood and not disrupt it."
"It's been a long slog," Enockson said.