Hulett: A new city hall for Moorhead

Hulett Mike.JPG
Mike Hulett, opinion columnist for The Forum Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Moorhead is long overdue for a modern city hall with adequate room for staff and easy access for the public.

Prior to 1973, city hall was located on the southwest corner of Fifth Street and Center Avenue. The old two-story brick building was so cramped that the city council met around a large conference table squeezed into the employee coffee break room. Employed in 1972 as Moorhead’s first rental housing inspector, one end of that table doubled as the inspector’s desk.


  • McFeely: In bombshell move, Moorhead wants to sell city hall and adjacent property to Roers Development Fargo developer wants to redevelop property 'to bring new life to downtown'
  • Forum editorial: Moorhead has a huge chance to advance the city through a Center Mall makeover

West Acres opened in 1972. Downtown businesses were on life support. City planners decided it would be a great idea to scrape off traditional downtown stores and build our own mall as a means to keep Moorhead competitive. In order to assure mall developers of a worthy investment, the Moorhead City Council approved building a 4 story city hall smack dab in the middle of Fifth Street. The stated objective was to serve as a downtown anchor that, with any luck, would attract residents to an attached mall.
Council members assured employees and citizens that this city hall location was never intended to be permanent. The idea was that just as soon as the mall was thriving like West Acres, the building would be sold to lawyers, insurance agents or others needing downtown office space. Then, a convenient, easily accessible city hall would be built elsewhere. We distinctly heard “no more than 10 years.” That would have been around 1984, a mere 36 years ago!

When we moved into our new quarters in 1973, we could not imagine needing larger accommodations anytime soon. That didn't last very long. Hired by the City Council to create the human resources department in 1974, administration folks on the third floor were not happy about giving up room for the HR office. With space a persistent issue, the building codes department moved into an addition to the main fire station. By the time the first city manager was hired in the mid-1980s, things were really getting tight.


Today the City Council is finally considering the 1984 goal of selling the building. Great idea! But where do you locate the new city hall? Residents absolutely deserve easy access from every corner of Moorhead with no railroad issues and ample parking. Sorry, but "downtown" does not meet those criteria. It will be another decade, if ever, before we find over $52 million for two more railroad underpasses. The governor dutifully stopped by last year to look, but don’t hold your breath.

Not to worry, the city map reveals a great city hall location equal distance from the far north, far south and west borders of the city with unobstructed access and zero rail issues. Check out the 34th Street corridor near the Meadows golf course. Build a modern facility with council chambers, public service and other frequently visited departments easily reached from a large main floor lobby. Attach a first-rate six bay fire station, assuring no more train delays of critical citywide fire and medical responses.

Moorhead residents have waited 46 years for a proper city hall. This time downtown renewal can stand on its own merits.

Happy New Year everyone!

What To Read Next
Get Local