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Helmut Schmidt, Published February 17 2010

Fargo Planning Commission to decide on Hawthorne apartment project

Fargo planning commissioners will be asked to decide today if builder Al Carlson’s plan to put up 58 luxury apartments in the Hawthorne neighborhood is a good fit, or if the two five-story buildings should be modified to fit historic overlay rules.

The apartments would be built where the vacant MeritCare Island Park clinic stands at 370 and 390 6th Ave. S.

City planners say the five lots of the site should be removed from the Island Park Historic Overlay because they contribute nothing to the historic nature of area homes. The property is also surrounded by condos, a former hospital that’s now Prairie St. John’s, and flat-roofed apartments a few blocks to the west.

“The initial overlay was really geared to single-family homes,” planner Mark Williams said. “If you look at this piece of property and the area around it, it’s really non-contributing historically.”

Carlson hopes there is some room for compromise with neighbors.

“The first thing you learn in development is to try and be a good neighbor,” Carlson said Tuesday.

At the same time, “obviously we need to have a certain type of project to make it work,” he said.

In letters to the Planning Commission, neighborhood residents warn that the apartments will block views of Island Park, and cause parking and traffic problems. They also say the apartments will erode efforts to promote single-family housing.

“I would ask you to consider lowering the height of the proposed apartment building(s) so that the view of the Renaissance Condominium owners would not be obliterated,” wrote Janice Jackson.

Joanne Drenkow, president of the Fine Arts Club, said disregarding the historic overlay would be a bad precedent.

“We believe it is wrong to undermine the integrity of the entire historic district for this single project,” Drenkow said. “We believe this would open the door to a continual erosion of all the historic districts by cutting out parcels one by one.”

Jiwon Kim and Jaeha Lee predicted the “project will decrease the existing property value by increasing traffic, blocking views and raising privacy issues,” and the building’s materials and construction won’t blend with existing properties.

Carlson has built condominiums in the Hawthorne area at 404 8th St. S. and 385 7th Ave. S. (just south of the MeritCare clinic).

Carlson said the site is less of a single-family home area and more of a transitional zone with commercial properties and condos.

“We’ve done what we believe is due diligence,” Carlson said. “Have we convinced everyone they’ll love it? No.”

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