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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 06 2009

Structural issues force closing of downtown Fargo parking ramp

The US Bank parking ramp in downtown Fargo was ordered closed Wednesday after city officials were told it was no longer structurally sound and could potentially collapse.

Director of Planning Jim Gilmour said the city was notified in an e-mail from structural engineer Jim Heyer on Wednesday that an inspection found the core of the ramp had deteriorated to a dangerous level.

“We’ve been concerned about the structure for some time,” Gilmour said, adding that the condition of the city-owned ramp at the corner of Third Avenue and Fifth Street North is “significantly worse than last year.”

Heyer was quoted in a Planning Department news release on the closure:

“The center core ramp has deteriorated to what I feel is a dangerous level. I am also concerned with this core structure and its connection to the rest of the ramp. These connections are in an extremely serious condition. There is a potential that if the core collapsed, it could bring some of the ramp with,” Heyer wrote.

“Clearly, it’s not going to reopen until we can get some repairs made to it,” Gilmour said.

Gilmour said a bank drive-through area on the first level of the ramp will remain open.

Gilmour said tenants will be able to park in the Civic Center lot.

He said alternatives that will be explored are offering spaces in the underground Ground Transportation Center ramp or in other city-owned lots. A shuttle bus could potentially be run from the Island Park ramp, too, Gilmour said.

The abrupt closure gave many of the 150 people who park in the four-story ramp little notice, leaving them frustrated.

Sandra Bergquist of West Fargo has been parking at the ramp since 1979, and has watched as the concrete has cracked.

“We’ve been worried” about the ramp, she said. “Just look at the condition.”

Bergquist is also unhappy that the city is shifting parking tenants to the Civic Center lot, which has a cheaper rate, even though she’s paid for the month.

“You would think we’d be able to get a couple days’ notice,” Bergquist said.

Gilmour said the ramp will stay closed until a more thorough inspection. That’s expected to happen Monday, he said.

An estimate generated two years ago to repair the ramp, which is tied in to the city’s skyways, was about $1.3 million, Gilmour said.

The central helix of the parking ramp has been closed for years due to structural concerns, Gilmour said.

Fargo officials have debated rehabbing or replacing the facility for years, though the cost of demolition and replacement has long been a hurdle.

Recently, city officials have been waiting to find out whether local developers would tackle the block as a redevelopment project, perhaps including a new ramp.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583