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Helmut Schmidt, Published March 23 2010

Carlson sells Island Park area site to Prairie St. John's

Developer Al Carlson has withdrawn plans to build two 29-unit luxury apartment buildings in Fargo’s southside Island Park area.

Instead, he said Monday that he sold the property to Prairie St. John’s, the psychiatric and addiction treatment facility just to the north.

Carlson planned to build at 370 and 390 6th Ave. S., where the former MeritCare Island Park clinic stands.

Prairie St. John’s CEO Dr. Emmet Kenney Jr. said his firm would renovate the building but plans no major exterior renovations.

“This acquisition will allow us to provide more behavioral health services to the residents of our region,” Kenney said.

Carlson said he wanted to build the project and was confident that he could have kept city officials and the neighborhood happy.

Then he was approached by Prairie St. John’s.

“It was a good deal for both parties involved,” Carlson said.

Feelings about the deal are mixed among neighborhood residents who had spoken out about Carlson’s plan.

Janice Jackson, 385 7th Ave. S., lives in Carlson-built condominiums just south of the empty clinic.

“It’s certainly very good for us” because the apartments would have ruined views and turned the block into “a mass of brick buildings,” she said.

She expects Prairie St. John’s will be a good fit.

“I think it’s really positive. I was delighted to hear that,” she said.

Lee Watkins, 384 8th Ave. S., said he now wonders what Prairie St. John’s may do with the site.

“We are so vulnerable,” he said of the older housing stock. “It just really isn’t cool to have apartments on every other corner.”

He said the Prairie St. John’s deal shouldn’t hurt the area “unless they get into expansion mode” and move to the south.

Debby Frederickson, 823 8th St. S., is president of the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association. She said she thought Carlson’s project had merit but that many others in her group didn’t agree.

“I’m in a wait-and-see mode as far as Prairie,” she said.

The building on the site will be used to centralize child, adolescent and adult partial-hospitalization programs, Prairie St. John’s said in a news release. It will also include a community meeting area, allowing groups to meet at the facility and Prairie St. John’s to hold seminars for behavioral health professionals in the area.

“For us, I’m disappointed,” Carlson said. “This just worked out for myself and my family to be a better deal.”

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