Dave Olson, Published October 19 2013
Developer of Cardinal Muench seminary proposes park land swapFARGO – A developer who aims to transform the former Cardinal Muench Seminary into a housing subdivision hopes a land swap with the Fargo Park District can be part of the plan.
Demolition of the seminary at 100 35th Ave. N., which the Fargo Catholic Diocese sold earlier this year, may happen this fall, said Monte Kjos, president of Comstock Land Co., which is developing the project through Comstock Services, one of its divisions.
The housing development is called Edgewood Estates, Kjos said. Plans have yet to be submitted to the city for subdivision approval, he said.
For the project to move forward, the land must be rezoned.
Land for land
Kjos said the development would accommodate as many as 65 single-family homes.
As part of his plans, Kjos has proposed giving the Fargo Park District two pieces of land near the former seminary.
One chunk, about four acres in size, is just north of the former seminary.
The other piece, about 36 acres, is to the east of the seminary and is comprised of an oxbow that becomes cut off from the rest of the property during Red River flooding.
Kjos proposes making the smaller parcel part of a land swap involving about 2.5 acres of land in Rabanus Park in the area of 18th Avenue and 43rd Street South.
The idea, Kjos said, is that the park space could be used to provide additional parking for a business that needs the space to pursue expansion plans.
If those plans move ahead, Discovery Benefits, which is located in a building Kjos owns, could increase employee numbers from about 300 to about 800 over the next several years, according to a letter Kjos sent to the Park District.
Park officials have yet to give Kjos an answer to his land swap proposal.
Roger Gress, Park District executive director, said the plan presents a number of issues.
One involves the Rabanus family, which donated the land for the park and which has indicated it prefers the park remain intact.
Gress said there is also a worry that shaving down park land to accommodate development may have a chilling effect on future gifts.
Another issue: One area of Rabanus Park potentially affected by a land swap is close to an area earmarked for something called The Fargo Project.
The project is described on the city of Fargo’s website as a pilot effort to transform a neighborhood drainage basin into a community commons.
The work is a collaboration involving city officials, area community members and artists, and an ecological artist from New York, Jackie Brookner.
Funding for the project includes a $100,000 National Endowment for the Arts Our Town Grant.
Nicole Crutchfield, Fargo’s planning administrator, said city officials have sent a memo to the Park District reminding park officials that The Fargo Project is part of the city’s master plan for the Rabanus Park area.
She said that plan could be revised but hinted city officials would not be enthusiastic about it.
Gress said the proposed land swap will be discussed at a Park District facilities committee meeting set for 11 a.m. Oct. 30.
Kjos said his plans for the housing development do not hinge on the land swap happening.
He said his main reason for proposing the idea was to support Discovery Benefits’ expansion plan and the 500 jobs it could create.
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Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555