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Anna G. Larson, Published April 06 2013

Downtown Fargo condos becoming solid investment as residents tout community feel, maintenance-free living

Pam Paseka upgraded when she downsized.

Paseka traded her 3,400-square-foot south Fargo townhouse for a 1,564-square-foot condo downtown two years ago. The self-described “Fargo-Moorhead girl” had never lived downtown before but thought the smaller space at 300 Broadway would better suit her busy lifestyle.

“I was afraid, but you have to dive in and make thoughtful decisions,” Paseka said. “It’s a mind-set.”

She says paring down her possessions felt like a fresh start – a view shared by other people who transition from larger to smaller living spaces, says Realtor Ben Schroeder of Park Company.

“They have been surprisingly relieved at how much easier it is to live in a condo and how much they haven’t missed not having the additional space,” Schroeder says. “It’s basically simplified their life.”

The maintenance-free living and amenities were also appealing to Paseka – no snow to shovel, grass to mow or yard to maintain. The building has a green space for her two small dogs, and her car is protected in the heated underground parking area that has space for bicycles and a car wash station.

“I can walk away and lock the door with no worries,” Paseka says.

The ease of condo living isn’t the only element encouraging people to downsize and simplify. The investment opportunity is just as alluring, Schroeder says. The value of condos is increasing, especially for condos downtown, and people are seeing them as wise investments.

“They continue to get bigger and bigger every year,” he says. “If you look at the population of people who are downtown as a whole – the businesses – investment wise, it’s good. People questioned that before, and I don’t hear that now.”

In the last two years, the demand and cost of downtown living spaces has surged. In 2012, three downtown condos were appraised to be worth well over $300 per square foot, making a 1,200-square-foot space worth $360,000, Schroeder says.

Condos downtown range in price based on location, amenities, finish levels and other factors, he says.

A 1,592-square-foot two-bedroom, two-bathroom at 300 Broadway is $367,400, while further up Broadway $450,000 buys a two-bedroom, two-bathroom 2,160-square-foot condo at 12 Broadway, according to a listing by Park Company. A smaller two-bedroom, two-bathroom unit was listed at $340,000 at the same location.

Properties on Broadway running from NP Avenue to Sixth Avenue are the “prime market” for value, Schroeder says.

Broadway views are particularly valuable. Paseka’s condo overlooks Broadway in the heart of downtown. The iconic Fargo Theatre sign is out her front door.

“I really like the excitement of being in the middle of everything,” she says.

Downtown Fargo is especially appealing to people who want a city feel but also a close-knit community, says Kilbourne Group’s general manager Mike Allmendinger. Kilbourne Group developed the condos at 300 Broadway.

“It’s rich in history, and that history creates a sense of place in a strong neighborhood. People get involved in this community. That’s what drives the energy in downtown Fargo,” he says.

Paseka and other 300 Broadway residents had a cocktail party during the winter holidays, where they saw each other’s homes and socialized, much like people in a suburban neighborhood might do.

She describes the building demographics as ranging from people in their 30s to 70s, professional people to retired people. Everyone has one thing in common, though – a desire to take part in community events.

“I think you almost have to be a little hip to live downtown,” she says.

While Paseka’s condo is in a new building, Kilbourne Group maintained the historic feel of downtown Fargo by incorporating elements into the new building that would complement the surrounding area.

For instance, the building’s height is comparable to those around it, the red windows complement the Fargo Theatre and the balconies complement the Fargoan Hotel.

“We really just walked up and down the sidewalks, looked at features of existing buildings and tried to take small components from each to make it fit into the context instead of designing something brand new that has no context at all,” Allmendinger says.

Creating more traffic on the sidewalks and more living spaces in downtown Fargo has a snowball effect, he says.

“It creates more restaurants, it’s good for the Fargo Theatre, and it’s good for everything” he says. “The idea for doing an infill project was a great opportunity for downtown Fargo because there are not very many spaces up and down Broadway where you have that opportunity.”

Paseka plans to stay put at 300 Broadway for the foreseeable future.

“I really like the simplicity, the ease of downtown living,” she says. “It’s there – why not take advantage of it?”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525