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Helmut Schmidt, Published August 25 2009

Downtown Fargo ramp could be demolished soon

Downtown Fargo’s U.S. Bank parking ramp could be going under the wrecking ball in just a few weeks.

The City Commission voted 4-0 on Monday to have city staff work with a local firm to draw up a demolition plan.

City Administrator Pat Zavoral expects city staff to have contracts for engineering services and demolition ready in two weeks for the next commission meeting.

The estimated cost to demolish the ramp is $325,000, and to create a temporary skyway connection is $250,000, Zavoral said.

Those jobs were once estimated to cost $800,000, so “we’re well within that framework,” Zavoral said.

Building a new ramp on the site was pegged at $1.7 million.

The city has avoided paying that price for eight years through various repairs and maintenance, Zavoral told the commission. In the meantime, use of the ramp was moved away from the central helix and the city restricted the ramp to about 160 contract parking spots.

“We were living a bit on borrowed time,” Zavoral said.

With its vote, the commission directed staff to:

E Contract with Fargo’s Heyer Engineering to prepare a demolition plan and a plan to restore the skyway link as soon as possible.

E Declare the condition of the ramp an emergency, allowing for the suspension of the city’s bid requirement for a demolition contract to quickly get quotes from qualified contractors.

E Work with U.S. Bank staff to provide drive-up teller services on the site after demolition.

The city-owned ramp was closed Aug. 5 after structural engineer Jim Heyer declared it unsafe. The most dangerous area is the core helix and its connection to the rest of the ramp.

“These connections are in an extremely serious condition,” Heyer wrote in an e-mail. “There is a potential that if the core collapsed, it could bring some of the ramp with.”

An Aug. 10 inspection found problems serious enough to also close the U.S. Bank drive-through banking area.

A few days later, U.S. Bank and Kilbourne Group announced an agreement that gives developer Doug Burgum an option to buy the U.S. Bank surface parking lot and plaza. The deal runs 18 months, with an option for an 18-month extension.

Officials have said the city, which owns about half of the ramp land, the ramp and air rights, would be willing to partner with a developer to put a new ramp on the site.

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