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Fargo leaders OK new downtown parking ramp

FARGO - The City Commission on Monday agreed to develop a new parking ramp downtown using parking revenue.

FARGO – The City Commission on Monday agreed to develop a new parking ramp downtown using parking revenue.

The group also agreed to put in place a financing mechanism to develop another ramp.

Each parking ramp would be large enough to accommodate 400 vehicles and be built behind private-sector commercial and residential buildings to encourage a more walkable downtown. City staff estimates each ramp would cost $8 million to $10 million, but they would encourage private sector investments worth more than $50 million altogether.

Commissioners voted to create a tax-increment-financing district around each ramp: one where Schumacher Goodyear is now on Broadway and one behind the Black Building. This means when investors build by the ramps and increase the taxable value of their property, any additional tax revenue would go toward the ramps.

Commissioners also voted to authorize $10.3 million in bonds to pay for one ramp, which would need a second vote in 60 days. The city has that much time to get a business plan together and the public has time to comment, said Mayor Tim Mahoney.

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Planning Director Jim Gilmour said parking revenue from one new ramp and from existing parking facilities would be enough to pay back the bond. Money raised from tax-increment financing would contribute to the second ramp, he said.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig, elected in late April, complained that city leaders are rushing into the project and had not gathered enough information to know if it will be cost-effective.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said city leaders have been talking about new ramps for more than a decade, even touring other cities with similar developments combining parking ramps and commercial and residential buildings.

Gehrig was outvoted by Commissioners Mike Williams, Piepkorn and Mahoney. Commissioner Melissa Sobolik was absent.

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