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Erik Burgess, Published September 19 2013

Committee wants new City Hall on downtown riverfront

FARGO – A 13-member committee charged with picking the site for a new City Hall decided unanimously Thursday that the city government center should stay downtown in the four-block area where the current City Hall and Civic Center are located.

The recommendation now goes to the City Commission for final approval.

Committee members agreed Thursday not to select an exact configuration for the new building after reviewing four conceptual drawings showing where it could go in that four-block area.

Former Fargo mayor Bruce Furness, co-chairman of the committee, said it would be unwise for the group to dictate exactly where the new City Hall should go because of other projects in the works downtown, such as a potential Fargodome-backed convention center and a floodwall on Second Street.

“We can’t make the final decision on the exact location because of all these parameters that we don’t know,” Furness said.

City Administrator Pat Zavoral has said that a City Hall building committee will likely be appointed this fall and will be tasked with pinning down more details for the proposed new city government center.

City leaders want a 60,000- to 70,000-square-foot building to replace the cramped and aging current City Hall. The budget is about $8 million to $12 million, which will likely include some state aid.

The site selection committee provided some guiding principles if the City Commission picks the four-block City Hall/Civic Center site for a new City Hall.

Committee member Linda Boyd said that wherever the new City Hall goes, the committee wants to maximize the “aesthetic and functional value of all associated green space,” which could mean a civic plaza area leading down to the Red River.

Committee member John Gunkelman also suggested that at least one site selection committee member be appointed to the building committee.

“Just to carry on the continuity of the thoughts from this committee onto that one,” he said.

City Engineer April Walker said the city is about 35 percent done designing a Second Street Floodwall, which could affect how much green space is available in front of City Hall.

Local architect Richard Moorhead, who has consulted the committee, said some questions will be left unanswered right now.

“There are many options of how we deal with green space, and those options really depend more upon decisions that are yet to be made by others,” he said. “What is the nature of the floodwall? What is the decision on Second Street? How can we connect to the river?”

Walker said a public comment period on the floodwall options is open until Monday.

She said about 140 responses have been received. To weigh in on the floodwall project, go online to www.cityoffargo.com/2ndStreetFloodProtection.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518