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Dave Olson, Published November 28 2012

Downtown Fargo may ramp up parking

FARGO – The roughly 2,000-plus off-street parking spaces owned by the city of Fargo are filling up, reviving talk of a parking ramp at Roberts Street and Second Avenue North.

The occupancy rate of the city’s eight surface parking lots and three parking structures is about 90 percent, so the city needs to get out in front of demand, said Bob Stein, senior planner for the city of Fargo.

“If we were to get a company that would want to bring a business to downtown with 100 or 200 employees, we would find ourselves way behind in terms of providing parking for them,” he said.

The subject is on the agenda of Friday’s Parking Commission meeting, but it will be up to the City Commission to decide if it’s time for a project, Stein said.

Several years ago, the city identified the Roberts Street location and the US Bank plaza area as potential sites for parking structures downtown.

Kilbourne Group, a Fargo development company, holds an option to buy the US Bank plaza, and the company has talked about a vision for the site that would include parking.

The purchase option is set to expire this summer.

Mike Allmendinger, general manager of Kilbourne Group, will be at Friday’s Parking Commission meeting to update city officials on Kilbourne Group’s plans.

Allmendinger said several ideas are being considered for what is now being called the Block 9 project.

He said plans differ in scale. The preferred option will depend on the number of retail and housing interests that decide to participate, he said.

All of the plans include a multilevel parking structure owned and operated by the city that would accommodate about 350 parking spaces.

Allmendinger said plans call for wrapping the parking ramp with retail stores or housing, which he said would discourage formation of “dead zones” that can occur around parking ramps.

He said significant development could also occur above the proposed parking ramp, depending on the size of the project.

Allmendinger said Kilbourne Group supports the idea of Fargo building a parking ramp at the Roberts Street site, where the city owns land but would need to buy at least one additional parcel to do a ramp project.

One idea being discussed for Roberts Street – a three-level ramp housing an estimated 400 parking spaces – is doable on the site, but specifics of what might be built have not been decided, Stein said.

He said a parking ramp at Roberts Street would include a mix of monthly rentals and hourly spaces controlled by parking meters.

State law prohibits parking meters on city streets, but meters are allowed in parking ramps.

The city-owned parking ramp at Island Park contains about 477 parking spots, with about 26 controlled by meters and the rest rented by the month.

Stein said there will be a discussion at Friday’s meeting about how to deal with parking meters at the Island Park ramp because enforcement is an issue.

“Every time we talk about enforcing parking meters, police say: ‘We don’t know if the existing ordinance will allow us to enforce that,’ ’’ Stein said.

He said an ordinance change about 10 years ago gave the city authority to fine violators. Documentation of the change will be presented at Friday’s meeting.

Stein said downtown Fargo’s population has increased by more than 2,000 over the past decade. That growth, along with a vibrant business community, is putting pressure on parking, he said.

Available parking space can be found in only three of the city’s parking lots: one at NP Avenue, one at the Civic Center and one on the south side of Second Avenue North at Roberts Street.

And the NP Avenue lot, Stein said, “is getting close to capacity.”

The Parking Commission meeting will be at 8 a.m. Friday in the City Commission room of City Hall.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555