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Downtown Fargo zone recognized

Six years of intense efforts to revitalize downtown Fargo paid off this week with international recognition. The International Downtown Association presented city officials with a merit award for economic development in the city's Renaissance Zon...

Six years of intense efforts to revitalize downtown Fargo paid off this week with international recognition.

The International Downtown Association presented city officials with a merit award for economic development in the city's Renaissance Zone.

The award was one of just 16 handed out during the IDA's annual conference Monday in Portland, Ore. Other winners included Phoenix, Milwaukee, St. Louis and Vancouver, B.C.

"When you look at who we're keeping company with, I'm impressed," said Dave Anderson, president of the Downtown Community Partnership.

Anderson and Fargo Senior Planner Bob Stein submitted a narrative and PowerPoint presentation to the IDA in May to nominate Fargo's Renaissance Zone.

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They pointed out that since the zone was created in 2000, more than 125 properties with a total value of $11.5 million in the 35-block zone have benefited from more than $58 million in project improvements. Those who invest in zone projects may receive five-year property tax and state income tax exemptions.

Just since May, the level of investment has increased to $61.8 million for 130 active projects, Stein said Friday.

The investments have raised property values downtown and improved blighted properties. Downtown's median household income is also on the rise thanks to the development of owner-occupied residential condos, they said.

Anderson, a member of the IDA board and public policy committee, said downtown Fargo should gain attention from the award. The IDA will produce and distribute DVDs with the award information for anyone who wants it, and it will also be available online, he said.

The IDA has more than 330 members in the United States and 37 in Canada, plus international members from 11 countries including England, Japan and Australia, according to its Web site.

Accepting the award in Portland were Fargo Renaissance Zone Authority Chairman Roger Gilbertson, Mayor Dennis Walaker and Richard Gray, Renaissance Zone manager for the North Dakota Department of Commerce.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528

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