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Dave Olson, Published October 16 2013

Kilbourne Group buys St. Mark’s Lutheran Church downtown

FARGO – Kilbourne Group, a development company whose self-described mission is aiding in the revitalization of downtown Fargo, announced Wednesday it has purchased a church building downtown.

Now, Kilbourne Group is asking the public for help in deciding what to do with St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, a structure at 670 4th Ave. N. built in 1912.

“We realize this building is a vital part of our city’s landscape and historical fabric,” said Doug Burgum, Kilbourne Group founder and CEO. “As such, we’d like to invite the community to provide input and ideas on the types of concepts that might best fit this beautiful and distinctive space.”

Burgum said Kilbourne Group is looking for an “inspirational and economic” use that contributes to the vibrancy of downtown.

To that aim, the company plans to set up a large display board outside the church, upon which people will be encouraged to jot down ideas.

Kilbourne Group is also collecting ideas on its Facebook page and through emails that can be sent to: info@kilbournegroup.com

Founded in 1886, St. Mark’s was the first English-speaking church in Dakota Territory, according to research provided by Kilbourne Group.

According to that same research:

- The current building was dedicated in 1912 and expanded upon over time.

- Today, the 20,000-plus-square-foot church and its parking lot take up 1.2 acres of land, or about half a city block.

- Church membership peaked in 1960 at an estimated 1,200.

Congregation members put the property up for sale in March after deciding they could no longer maintain an aging and over-sized building. As members contemplate possible options, they are holding 11 a.m. church services Sundays at Elim Lutheran Church, 321 9th St. N., Fargo.

As part of the sale of St. Mark’s, the congregation was able to keep a number of fixtures, including three stained-glass windows and the pipe organ.

The congregation is looking to find a home for the organ, which was placed in storage, said Naomi Franek, church secretary.

One of the stained-glass windows went to St. John’s Lutheran Church in south Fargo, considered a daughter congregation of St. Mark’s because St. Mark’s was instrumental in the founding of St. John’s.

Other fixtures went to a variety of other churches, including Christ Lutheran in Minot, N.D., which suffered heavy damage in a 2011 flood.

Kilbourne Group has bought and renovated several downtown properties in recent years, including the Loretta building, which recently celebrated completion of an extensive restoration project. Burgum has said the number of downtown buildings the firm has played a role in renovating is “in the teens.”

Burgum has also floated the idea of building a new $125 million skyscraper in the U.S. Bank Plaza downtown, a proposal he hopes can dovetail with city-led efforts to build a floodwall and a new City Hall nearby.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555