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Published December 07 2010

US Bank Plaza proposals unveiled for public

An enormous solar panel array isn’t likely to materialize in the heart of downtown Fargo anytime soon. Neither is a sprawling self-sustaining greenhouse. And a man-made ski hill incorporated into the side of an office building is probably out of the question.

But not, it seems, out of the realm of the imagination – at least not for the would-be urban architects who pitched their visions of the city in a competition to design a new use for Fargo’s U.S. Bank Plaza, currently a pedestrian mall and parking lot.

The entries, which were unveiled Monday, depict potential projects ranging from glitzy mixed-use complexes to eco-friendly green spaces to quirky structures that take their themes to colorful extremes.

The contest, run by the downtown-centric Kilbourne Group, produced 160 responses from 23 different countries. Eighteen of those submissions came from North Dakota; the rest were from a mix of students and professional architects as nearby as Minnesota and as far-flung as Malaysia.

Kilbourne Group Chairman Doug Burgum said the contest was meant to “stretch the way people think” about potential uses for the 48,000-square foot site, which covers much of the 200 block of Broadway just north of Second Avenue North. Among the more eye-catching submissions: A development powered by a massive solar-panel façade, a building designed to shrink under its own weight over time, and a skyscraper visible for miles outside of the city.

“I’m excited about the breadth of ideas that have come in,” Burgum said. He’s part of a panel of developers and design experts that will pick contest winners.

The degree to which the winning designs will influence the actual development of the plaza isn’t yet clear. Mike Allmendinger, the Kilbourne Group’s general manager, said the plaza is a likely candidate for mixed-use development, but said there’s no timetable for a project. The group has about 19 months remaining on a three-year deal to purchase and develop the site.

First prize in the contest is $15,000, but the Kilbourne Group isn’t obligated to use the winning proposal.

Burgum said the plaza, which sits at a prominent intersection and connects to Fargo’s skyway, has the potential to be a “centerpiece” of downtown. He also said the parcel presents a unique opportunity to develop an expansive urban space all at once.

“It’s a rare thing that you get an entire city block in any city that’s not carved up into itty-bitty pieces,” he said.

The entries are on display through Dec. 18 on the second floor of the Loretta Building at 208 Broadway. At the exhibit, members of the public can vote for “People’s Choice” winners through Wednesday. Winners will be announced Friday.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Marino Eccher at (701) 241-5502