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Moose Lodge to be restored

A splinter of afternoon sunlight seeps through a stained glass window in the upstairs of Fargo's Moose Lodge, revealing a T-shaped hallway coated with dust and spray-painted graffiti.

A splinter of afternoon sunlight seeps through a stained glass window in the upstairs of Fargo's Moose Lodge, revealing a T-shaped hallway coated with dust and spray-painted graffiti.

The window, its inserted cardboard panel partially ripped down, is the primary source of light in this rarely-seen portion of the 97-year-old downtown building.

Aside from a few illegal tenants here and there over the years, the building hasn't seen much activity lately, said Lynn Fundingsland, Fargo Housing and Redevelopment executive director.

The upper level of the building next door -- also part of the Moose Lodge -- tells nearly the same story. An early 1900s-infused theater sits mostly dim and all but abandoned.

Both buildings ooze with development potential, Fundingsland said. The Housing Authority and city of Fargo are hoping others will agree.

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Earlier this summer, they teamed up to purchase the buildings at 305 and 309 Broadway in hopes of luring a private developer to transform the space.

The city and Housing Authority bought the buildings for about $178,800 using Fannie Mae credits and money from the city's Neighborhood Revitalization Initiative program.

Fundingsland said he expects each building will get about a million-dollar makeover in the next couple of years.

The Moose Lodge, which will move across the street to 226 Broadway, occupies the space until Sept. 15.

The city is accepting development proposals until Nov. 3, and redevelopment work could get underway shortly thereafter.

When renovation is complete, the buildings will contain at least six apartment units, which will not be income restricted. A residential component is required for the federal Fannie Mae credits to work.

Most of the space in the two buildings, a combined 17,450 square feet, will ideally be utilized by an entertainment-based business and a community theater.

A walk-way on the side of the south structure is also part of the property. It will likely be part of the end development, maybe for small walk-up shops, Fundingsland said.

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Although the Housing Authority doesn't often get involved in projects not focused specifically on housing, Fundingsland said this isn't the first time.

The Authority also played a hand in the development of Monte's restaurant and Herald Square in downtown Fargo.

"We're also a redevelopment authority," he said. "We're just acting as a catalyst to get those buildings back to a higher use."

It's also somewhat uncommon for the city and Housing Authority to team up on a project like this. Fargo senior planner Jessica Thomasson said it's necessary in this case because of the property management aspect.

Also, development of these properties may not have happened if the city and Housing Authority had not intervened, Thomasson said.

"We basically wanted to get the ball rolling for development," she said. "(The buildings) are just such a big part of that block. It will take a vision and an investment."

In the end, the goal is for neither the city nor the Housing Authority to own the buildings. At the same time, there are specific guidelines that they've established for anyone who submits a development proposal.

For example, the theater on the second floor of the north building must be preserved. Fundingsland said he's already had inquiries from local theater groups and from the Fargo Theater about making use of that space in the future.

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"We'd really like to see that as a community asset," he said.

Because of location, the buildings would qualify for Renaissance Zone property and state income tax exemptions and possibly the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Credit program and the State Historic Tax Credit program.

Fundingsland said the buildings will be restored to reflect their early 1900s historical roots -- inside and out.

"We just want to see those two handsome, historic buildings used to their capacity," he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mary Jo Almquist at (701) 241-5531

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