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Developer optimistic despite empty spaces

Second of two parts - Monday: Downtown development remains empty. - Today: Moorhead officials unsure of project's progress. Partially constructed condos and office/retail space in a downtown Moorhead redevelopment area remain empty, but the devel...

Graphic: Downtonw Moorhead

Second of two parts

- Monday: Downtown development remains empty.

- Today: Moorhead officials unsure of project's progress.

Partially constructed condos and office/retail space in a downtown Moorhead redevelopment area remain empty, but the developer is confident that tenants will fill the spaces.

Kevin Bartram, who heads up Fargo's Sterling Development Group and MBA Architects, said the units may remain unfinished as real estate agents work to court prospective owners.


"We are waiting to get some feedback before we move forward," Bartram said.

Nine condominium units sit vacant in the three-story building taking up the space formerly occupied by Ralph's Corner Bar on the northwest quadrant of Main Avenue and Fourth Street. The building, called Riverside Market and Lofts, will feature exposed brick and wood timbers.

Selling prices for the condos vary from $220,000 to $309,000, Bartram said.

Some of the units may remain unfinished for interested buyers to complete to their own liking, but Bartram said construction has slowed as they gather feedback from prospective owners.

As for the two-story, 5,000-square-foot office/retail building adjacent to the Riverside lofts, a lease has not been signed, either.

Although talks have been under way with several businesses to occupy the space, "it's going to take a little while to find that perfect fit," Bartram said.

Details were not disclosed about the possible nature of the businesses, but Bartram said each business could occupy a third of the space.

Moorhead City Council member John Rowell said he's not too worried about the empty spaces.


"I remain confident that ultimately it is going to be a project that does very well," Rowell said. "It will pay for itself and return a profit."

Time and patience are going to be important as people realize the benefits of the Quiet Zone project, which stopped train whistles from sounding in the downtown area, Rowell said.

The lack of tenants is "a little bit disappointing," but the redevelopment will take some time to adjust to, Rowell added.

Moorhead city manager Michael Redlinger is also confident that things will look up for the developing area.

"Downtown redevelopment is a success story in terms of providing some mixed-use opportunities that weren't there before with retail and with housing," Redlinger said. "On the balance, it's been very well-received and has been a success."

Construction on Third Street's Riverfront Condominiums will begin as soon as developers get a sense of how condos in Riverside Market and Lofts sell, Bartram said.

Planning in the area began in 1999. Revitalization kicked off in July 2004 and has resulted in the development of more than 100 residential units and commercial space in Moorhead's downtown.

In 2005, construction was completed on the East Fourth Street complex. Business tenants include Carlson Wagonlit Travel and Atomic Coffee. Three commercial condos and 17 apartments on the second and third floors, called Lofts on Fourth, are all rented out, Bartram said.


Across the street, Juan and Annele Mondragon opened Juano's Latin Bar and John Alexander's in the historic Kassenborg Building, which served as home to Kirby's Bar before it closed. About 6,000 square feet of space is still available for rent in that building, Bartram said.

West of the Kassenborg Building, the 30 apartments of Bridgeview Apartments are at full occupancy, he said.

The first floor of Woodlawn Terrace, south of the Kassenborg Building, is also rented out. There are 27 apartments in that building, which are at about 95 percent full, Bartram said.

The revitalization of the neighboring buildings is all a part of a multimillion-dollar facelift of Moorhead's downtown area, a decision that Rowell said he is proud the council made.

"The city poured a lot of money into this too," Rowell said. "I'm still satisfied that it was the right thing to do. If public officials go through life with no confidence in their city, nothing is going to change."

In 2000, the city bypassed work on downtown in favor of demolition and reconstruction of Holiday Mall, saying that area was the primary concern.

Moorhead Mayor Mark Voxland said he is fine with the progress in the downtown area.

"We try to set the table so that a developer or a business can go from there," he said. "We would like to see those spaces filled. ...We did our part. It's their turn to move forward for their projects."


"Nothing's happened in the last three or four months, but perhaps they're pausing for a breath as they move forward again."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kim Winnegge at (701) 241-5524

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