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Erik Burgess, Published July 25 2013

Downtown appears to be favored site for new Fargo City Hall

FARGO – Chances are good the proposed new City Hall will be somewhere downtown.

During a meeting Thursday morning, a 13-person site selection committee charged with picking a location for City Hall cobbled together a list of about 16 places that deserve more consideration.

Fourteen of those sites are downtown, and the majority of the committee wants to seriously consider repurposing the current City Hall space along the riverfront, which could involve renovating the Fargo Civic Center and Centennial Hall.

“It gives a lot of physical room,” committee member Norm Robinson said of the current City Hall location. “Fargo started in this downtown area. We believe that accessibility and availability and so forth are all on our side there.”

The group has set a deadline of Oct. 3 to pick the site and present it to the public. City leaders want construction of the 60,000- to 70,000-square-foot building to be bid out by late fall 2014. The budget is about $8 million to $12 million, which will likely include some state aid.

The 13-resident committee, headed by Mayor Dennis Walaker and former Mayor Bruce Furness, was split into small groups Thursday morning, each one tasked with discussing potential sites and then marking those locations with red stickers on a map of downtown. Different groups were allowed to pitch the same site.

The location that received the most stickers was the current City Hall area. Some committee members said they want that space opened up into a greater civic quad.

Member Joe Burgum essentially gave a shortened version of the same pitch his father Doug Burgum, of the Kilbourne Group developers, gave to the Fargo Dome Authority in June. Joe Burgum suggested rebuilding City Hall at its current site and creating a “cultural corridor” from Broadway to the river. This goal is consistent with the city’s long-term planning.

Committee leaders stressed that these were just ideas and that the owners of the respective buildings or parcels on the list might not be interested in selling.

“This is the opening round to see what sites this group feels (are) worthy of being considered,” said Richard Moorhead, an architect with Image Group Architecture and Interiors who is a consultant for the committee.

While the map given to committee members showed only downtown, Moorhead implored the board to look beyond the downtown zone. Still, few ideas outside of downtown were offered.

One Fargo resident at the meeting who is not on the committee suggested leaders look at a site out by the Cass County Jail near Interstate 29 and Main Avenue.

Furness said after the meeting that he doesn’t believe constricting the map also constricted the committee’s thoughts.

“We just couldn’t get a map of the whole city (for the meeting),” Furness said. “A couple of (the ideas) came out a little ways from downtown or at least on the outskirts of downtown, and I hadn’t thought of some of those.”

Furness said based on the input he’s received, a downtown site is most popular right now.

Downtown Fargo is roughly considered to be the area between the Red River and University Drive, and from First Avenue South to Sixth Avenue North.

Other sites listed Thursday were:

- U.S. Bank Plaza, downtown.

- Mid America Steel building, 92 NP Ave. N.

- Professional Building, the 100 block of Fourth Street South.

- Former Pierce Company building and old Taco Bell, 1000 block of First Avenue North.

- Former Union Storage building, 1026 NP Ave.

- Nestor Tavern block, 1001 NP Ave. N.

- Former Carnegie Library site, corner of Second Avenue and Roberts Street.

- Island Park at the base of Broadway.

- Former Woodrow Wilson High School at 315 N. University Drive.

- Former Shakey’s Pizza parlor, corner of Fourth Avenue and Second Street North.

- Former Fargo Rubber Stamp building/Romantix adult bookstore, 400 block of NP Avenue North

- Border States Electric/Lighthouse, 100 block of 25th Street North

- YMCA, 400 1st Ave. S.

- Kmart, 2301 S. University Drive.

- Sunmart Foods, Seventh Street and North University Drive.

Furness said some of the sites probably won’t be feasible. For instance, City Administrator Pat Zavoral said the Island Park site wouldn’t work because it’s in the flood plain.

The committee will take a bus tour of the potential sites at its next meeting Aug. 8. Furness said the list could be cut in half after the tour.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518