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Tracy Frank, Published October 01 2010

Downtown open to suggestion

Kilbourne Group is looking for ideas for the U.S. Bank Plaza and surface parking lot on Broadway in downtown Fargo.

The group is sponsoring an international conceptual design competition for that space along with the east half of the block, which includes a city parking lot (the former parking ramp site) and the U.S. Bank office building.

The winning design will not necessarily lead to new development, though entrants could influence eventual redevelopment of the area, said Doug Burgum, Kilbourne Group founder and chairman.

“It’s a rare opportunity in a city’s history that you get a chance to potentially re-envision an entire core downtown city block,” he said. “Given that things are so positive in downtown Fargo, we thought it would be important to be thoughtful about the use of that entire block.”

In August 2009, Kilbourne Group reached a real estate option agreement with U.S. Bank to purchase the surface parking lot and plaza, which make up the west half of the 200 block of Broadway.

A real estate option agreement allows someone to place a reservation on a piece of property. Kilbourne Group’s agreement expires in February but is renewable.

“We wanted to at least have the option to be able to secure that property while we pursued an idea,” Burgum said. “Economics alone could preclude development on that block.”

Designers are challenged to envision a multi-use urban development for the space that addresses retail, office, residential, parking, and plaza needs. One design constraint is that U.S. Bank would be an anchor tenant, Burgum said.

The contest – Downtown Fargo: an urban-infill competition – is open to all licensed architects, designers, engineers, landscape architects and students enrolled in related academic programs. There are 69 entrants from 25 countries so far.

First prize is $15,000, second prize is $5,000, and honorable mention prizes are $1,000 each.

Bob Stein, Fargo city planner, will be a judge.

“We’ve been looking at that location for a long time wondering what might happen there,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing what other people envision.”

Ron Robson, U.S. Bank regional president, another judge, said it’s an exciting opportunity for downtown.

“Not one person has all the answers, and they’re truly looking for the best fit for the space and best utilization of the space,” he said.

Finalists’ plans will be displayed at a public exhibit the week of Dec. 6. Winners will be announced Dec. 10.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Tracy Frank at (701) 241-5526