A six-story mixed-use building with a public arts plaza on the corner of Main Avenue and Broadway that will serve as a “gateway” to downtown took its first step in development on Monday night, Dec. 28.
The $21 million project, a joint effort of JLG Architects of Fargo and F.I. Salter Co. of Duluth, Minn., received unanimous approval by the Fargo City Commission as the city sold a parking lot to the companies for $505,000.
The next step that was also OK’d was for city officials to work with the companies on a development agreement that calls for office space on the first two floors, 55 apartments on the next three floors and 10 for-sale condominiums on the top floor.
JLG and Salter plan to hire ICS Construction Services, which has an office in north Fargo, to build the structure. They plan to start construction in May with completion expected in fall of 2022.
So far, the building planned for the northeast corner of the major downtown intersection hasn’t been named.
Three other offers were submitted for the parking lot project, but a team of seven city officials unanimously agreed the JLG proposal best suited the city’s plans for the area.
One other offer called for keeping the parking lot as-is, another offered a similar mixed-use building and the third had smaller commercial space on the main floor.
Matt Torgerson, development and real estate services manager for JLG, said in an interview earlier Monday that his company has outgrown its office space farther north on Broadway and will be one of two business anchors in the building.
The other tenant who has committed to leasing space is confidential at this time, he said.
City Strategic Planner Jim Gilmour said the project fits in with the city’s plans for more downtown housing, with plans for nine studio apartments, 36 one-bedroom units and 10 two-bedroom apartments, as well as the condos above.
Another plus is that office tenants will likely want to rent 50 to 90 parking spots in the little-used Island Park Ramp across the street, providing an additional $35,000 in annual revenue to the city.
The developers would like a special pedestrian crossing or skyway from the parking ramp across Main Avenue to the new structure.
In addition, the developers have an option to purchase a portion of the surface parking lot from the Lake Agassiz Development Council property next door to give it enough room for the entire project.
Torgerson said the Development Council have been “great partners” in working on the project.
Gilmour said JLG and Salter would like to work with the city to create a pubic art plaza and green space on the west side of the site on the corner of Main and Broadway that would not only enhance their building but provide what they called a “new front door” to one of the primary gateways to downtown.
Developers also described the project as “filling the gap” on the south end of Broadway.
Torgerson said they expect to address concerns about the proximity to the downtown railroad tracks during design development.
Commissioner John Strand said he was concerned about that safety issue with oil trains passing by. Gilmour said in his initial research he found that trains going at a faster speed is where problems can arise with cars derailing and starting on fire.
Strand, though, wondered about the train speeds through town. It was agreed that they would look into the matter with a report at the next meeting.
“We will mitigate their impacts to the extent possible,” Torgerson said of the nearby tracks.
JLG has had its offices downtown for 10 years and has been the architect on numerous buildings downtown including two Kilbourne Group projects currently under construction. Torgerson said they are The Mercantile Building on north Broadway and The Landing on 10th Street North on the site of the former Nestor bar and Park Co. Realtors. They have also worked on the Black Building, Vinyl Taco, NoBull Smokehouse and Old Broadway over the years.
Torgerson said his company is hoping to ramp up work in the coming months on designing the new Fargo Sports Complex in far southwest Fargo with its indoor walking tracks, soccer field and basketball and volleyball courts that is a partnership with the Fargo Park District and Sanford Health.
The company has been working with Sanford Health on building three new metro clinics, as well, he said. They are also continuing work on its hospital to add 32 inpatient beds as well as renovating its downtown medical center and the Roger Maris Cancer Center.
F.I. Salter has worked on many major projects in Duluth, including Lake Superior Helicopters and the $32 million Pier B Resort Hotel on the waterfront.
In a statement, Salter President Sandy Hoff, who also spoke via video at the meeting, said, “For years, I have admired the robust development culture and economy of Fargo. So, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to partner with JLG Architects to submit our development vision for the corner of Main and Broadway.
“Our goal is to develop a remarkable mixed use facility at the gateway to the Fargo downtown, with residential condominiums, market rate apartments and commercial space.
“I am energized by the entrepreneurial attitude of city leadership with a commitment to continuing the strong economic growth experienced in recent years,” he said. “Creating an extraordinary mixed use development which the community is proud of is our goal.”
The plan for the structure will ask that the companies receive a five-year Renaissance Zone property tax break on the project, meaning in the sixth year property taxes will be paid in full. It’s much smaller than many tax breaks granted by the city that are often in place for 15 years.
The lower incentive prompted Commissioner Tony Gehrig, who often opposes any tax breaks to businesses, to support the new project.