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Groundbreaking party for Block 9 tower set for next week

FARGO -- Groundbreaking for downtown's Block 9 highrise has been scheduled for 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 12, according to developers. The ceremony will be a public event with a family-friendly party on what's now known as U.S. Bank plaza and speak...

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An architect's sketch of the Block 9 tower that's planned for the corner of Broadway and Third Avenue North in downtown Fargo. Rendering by Skidmore, Owens and Merrill.
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FARGO - Groundbreaking for downtown’s Block 9 highrise has been scheduled for 4 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 12, according to developers.

The ceremony will be a public event with a family-friendly party on what’s now known as U.S. Bank plaza and speakers, including Mayor Tim Mahoney, according to Mark Dickerson, a spokesman for the R.D. Offutt Co.

The Kilbourne Group and RDO are partners in the project, which includes a 235-foot tower - the city’s tallest building - a parking ramp and a park at the plaza. The estimated price tag is $117 million.

The first sign that construction will start soon happened earlier this week when workers took down a billboard at the future construction site on the 200 block of Broadway, according to Keith Leier, the project manager from Kilbourne.

The next sign will be the closing of the parking lot off Broadway on Monday, Sept. 10. Workers will be bringing in fencing and Jersey barriers over the next two weeks to block off the site. Actual excavation is scheduled to start during the week of Sept. 24.

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Workers will drill deep holes for pilings and dig up the basements of both the tower and parking ramp at the same time, but the ramp is expected to be done first in June 2019. The tower would be substantially complete by fall 2020, which is also when the plaza is to reopen to the public.

Trucks hauling excavated material will use First and Fourth Avenues North to get out of downtown as parts of Main Avenue will be under construction during Block 9 construction, according to Leier.

The tower will include seven condo units at the top, followed by a 125-room hotel, office space, meeting and event space, RDO’s office space, and, on the ground floor, retail space and a restaurant. It will be linked via skyway to a 379-stall garage, which itself will be linked to downtown’s modest skyway network.

Both the garage and plaza, to be run by the Fargo Park District, will be open to the public.

Mike Allmendinger, Kilbourne’s general manager, said district is aiming for 200 events each year, including the Red River Market, Street Fair and any other downtown event.

For the Block 9 partners, getting to groundbreaking has been a long, convoluted road with many delays. At one point, they’d thought they would break ground in fall 2016, but missed that and several other self-imposed deadlines, in part, because of the time it took to get financing for the ambitious project.

Besides Kilbourne and RDO, the city of Fargo is also involved, providing land and tax incentives. The Kilbourne Group is owned by North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum, but he doesn’t control day-to-day operations, his administration has said.

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