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Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service, Published October 02 2012

Georgia firm proposes massive pyramid-style housing project for Williston

WILLISTON, N.D. – An Atlanta firm wants to build a pyramid near Williston that would be the state’s tallest building and house 500 apartments, a mall, an entertainment center and more.

New Cimarron City, proposed by an investment group led by Camp and Associates, would be 371 feet tall with apartments built into four sides and the interior filled with retail stores, a movie theater, bowling alley, restaurants and indoor parking for 1,200 vehicles.

The pyramid would have exterior patios for the apartments and an exterior walkway surrounded by solar panels. The complex and its outdoor landscaping also would include a hockey rink, gaming center, baseball field and ponds. A restaurant and observation deck will be at the very top.

And that’s just phase one.

Gil Geiger, a builder and vice president for the firm, said they’re working to purchase an 80-acre parcel of land about 30 to 35 minutes east of Williston.

He estimates the project will cost

$130 million to $145 million, and he hopes to break ground as soon as next spring.

“It’s going to be pretty progressive,” said Geiger, who is based in North Carolina.

Geiger said he and his partner, architect Bill Camp, came up with the concept after hearing about the need for housing in North Dakota.

“I’m thinking with all the money that’s being spent in that area, why not make something that’s permanent and actually going to attract people to the area?” Geiger said.

Camp, who is president of the firm, said they wanted a design that would be energy efficient and unique.

“We felt like the hollow interior pyramid would be a great place to have entertainment and a shopping mall,” Camp said.

Neither partner has been to the Williston area, but Geiger has a son who lives in Fargo and has also visited Minot.

Camp said the largest projects he’s worked on are a $25 million airport expansion and a $30 million hospital expansion.

Geiger said they’re working with a larger firm that would develop more detailed plans for the project under their supervision.

“We’re a small company with big ideas,” Geiger said.

The pyramid exterior would be made of precast concrete and the complex would have its own water reclamation system.

Geiger estimates it will take 18 to 24 months to build, as long as they can find manpower. He anticipates more pyramids in phases two and three, with each designed differently.

Geiger said he believes the land they’re working to buy is zoned for agriculture, but the landowner’s attorney has told him it shouldn’t be a problem to change the zoning. Geiger said the attorney wants to remain anonymous.

Geiger said he hasn’t yet reached out to anyone in the county about the proposal.

“Once we secure the land and I’m able to get the county to change the zoning, then we’re all set to go,” Geiger said. “I think it will be relatively simple.”

But Williams County is receiving so many proposals for new projects that it can take months to get on the agenda for the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Williams County Commission Chairman Dan Kalil, who had not heard about the New Cimarron City proposal, said the process to rezone land from agriculture to another use is a big deal and is subject to public hearings.

“It’s not to be underestimated,” Kalil said.

Commissioners recently completed a comprehensive plan and conducted meetings around the county to gather input. People said they want to see the cities grow, not start whole new communities, Kalil said.

“It’s about efficient use of local services,” Kalil said. “How do you send an ambulance all over the county to small clusters of housing?”

Architect John Biggs, who manages the Williston office for Lightowler Johnson Associates, said western North Dakota counties tend to be less restrictive than cities about structures, but this project is not consistent with the current scale of projects going on in western North Dakota.

Biggs said he anticipates that neighbors would object to the concept because of the traffic it would bring. It would also be challenging to finance a project like this in North Dakota, he said.

“Nice fantasy, but I think it would be better in Las Vegas than North Dakota,” Biggs said.

In fact, the pyramid-style Luxor hotel and casino in Las Vegas is 350 feet tall, according to a hotel operator, 21 feet shorter than the New Cimarron City plans.

If the zoning change isn’t approved, the firm would not buy the land but look for another parcel near Williston, Camp said.

But Geiger said he has faith that he’ll be able to get people on board with this project.

“I think I’m offering something that’s much needed and I’m hoping it will be accepted by the community,” Geiger said. “Once we get some excitement going up there, we’ll run with it fairly quickly.”

Dalrymple can be reached at adalrymple@forumcomm.com or (701) 580-6890