FARGO — Another struggle between Fargo's core neighborhoods and developers is simmering.
Following the protracted fight over the Newman Center near North Dakota State University in the Roosevelt Neighborhood, this one involves a 121-unit apartment complex and town homes in the historic Oak Grove neighborhood just blocks from downtown Fargo.
On Thursday night, March 21, about 15 residents discussed the project with developer Jesse Craig at City Hall in part of what has been a series of meetings.
Called "The River Lofts," the $19 million upscale apartment building and town homes along the Red River would be built in a block that is currently mostly an empty lot with zoning that allows such a structure.
Although permits are still needed from the city, Craig said he would like to start construction this summer on the five-story apartment building with the town homes to follow in phase two of the project.
The town homes were added to the project when Craig took note from the Newman Center complex where developers also added single-family town homes as a buffer to the neighborhood.
Residents, however, raised concerns about traffic, parking, the height of the building and crime.
Craig showed a time-lapse video taken at his 76-unit downtown Fargo complex showing how traffic was sporadic pulling in and out of the underground parking garage. In a 24-hour period, the video showed only 22 vehicles pulling in and 14 out of the garage. He realized he would have to double that for the 121-unit structure.
Residents argued though that there was a "choke point" near the site at Oak Street and 6th Avenue North and that traffic going to and from nearby Oak Grove Lutheran School added to the vehicle load.
As for parking, Craig said plans call for a parking spot for every bedroom in the building, including 146 in the parking garage and 78 in an outdoor parking lot.
Cheryl Bergian, who lives in the neighborhood, said she was initially concerned about the parking but that she was satisfied with the new plan.
She said the plan a year ago by a different development ownership group would have "maxed out" the property with no onsite parking.
"Something's going to happen on this property," Bergian said. "I'd rather have something going in with a responsible developer compared to what we saw a year ago."
However, she was in the minority at the meeting. Carol Pearson, a longtime resident, said in addition to the increased traffic, she didn't like the height of the building and thought something that would fit the contour of the land would be better.
Pearson said she walks in the nearby Wildflower Grove park often and thinks the taller structure would detract from the aesthetic beauty of the park and neighborhood.
She said it was another example of the struggle facing the city's core neighborhoods as they try to keep single-family housing versus multi-family projects.
As for the size, Craig said his development group had to figure out the finances and how many units were needed to make it work. He said pre-construction work of about $3.3 million is needed, including adding to one part of the nearby levee, soil work and demolition. He also said he would have to pay the special assessments for much of the utility and road improvements in the area.
The project would involve "industrial-feel" apartments on the first floor with high ceilings, then " modern apartments" on the second through fourth floor and higher-end penthouses and skylofts on the top floor with views of the river, the downtown skyline and the Hjemkomst Center from many of the units.
Craig still needs permits from the city for the project, although the residents knew they couldn't fight the zoning because the land was rezoned more than a decade ago to downtown mixed-use, which allows such a structure.