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Mike Williams, Published January 25 2013

Letter: Student concepts visionary

Thanks to North Dakota State University landscape architecture professor Mehren Madani and the fifth-year students for sharing their incredible talents and visionary concepts for creating a beautiful community space in the area east of the Civic Plaza along the river and Second Street in Fargo. Working with Madani, the city invited these young leaders to present their design concepts to improve this vital community area after the fall semester.

The students’ concepts build on the accumulative good work of many in the downtown 2002 framework plan that was the basis for revitalization of Broadway and the Renaissance Zone. The 2003 Riverfront plan, the 2007 downtown framework plan and the recent GO Fargo 2030 comprehensive plan all emphasize strengthening our city core and embracing the river that adds huge value.

While there is no single design that would likely be replicated, there are elements of many of the students’ work that could be incorporated into a final design. The purpose of the additional engineering study that was approved by the commission unanimously is to find out the geotechnical and topographical condition of the area to determine the best specific site for various options. When it’s determined, a separate task of the city is to do a comparative analysis to determine what project would provide the best community value with permanent protection, more economic development and community opportunities, and improving downtown’s connection with the river that showcases our rivers beauty.

There are many examples of turning downtown flood protection into beautiful community gathering spaces that have turned into regional destinations; The Forks in Winnipeg, The Confluence in Denver, Falls Park in Sioux Falls, Waterloo, Iowa, and Rochester, Minn., are a few examples.

There is unanimous support on the Fargo Commission for permanent flood protection of 42.5 feet for the entire city, and due to great work of city staff, we’re well on the way to meet our five-year goal set in 2011. We need this level of protection as even with a diversion there could still be 40 feet of water going through town in a major 45-foot flood event.

Improving this vulnerable downtown site is vital to protect the hundreds of millions in new investment in our revitalizing downtown and to keep traffic moving and businesses as usual during floods. In 2002 when the Renaissance Zone was established, the property value of downtown was less than $200 million and falling; through good community planning, targeted incentives and good work and investments by many, the value is now nearly

$600 million and rising quickly.

There are many exciting new projects coming up and years’ worth of wonderful opportunities for filling in flat lots with multiuse developments where more people want to come live, work, learn and play. Working together and building on the many years of planning for downtown and the river, the best is yet to come!

Williams is a Fargo city commissioner.