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Erik Burgess, Published November 22 2013

Fargo planners give green light to development near I-29 and 52nd Avenue South

FARGO – The city planning department is ready to put its stamp of approval on a major proposed commercial and housing development near Interstate 29 and 52nd Avenue South.

After a recent traffic study and changes to the proposal, city planners will recommend that the planning commission approve the 148-acre Christianson’s First Addition proposal at its Dec. 3 public hearing, said Planning Director Jim Gilmour.

Planners opposed the first proposal, which included about 900 apartment units that would have been adjacent to single-family homes in the Fox Run neighborhood on the development’s north side.

The new plan calls for an estimated 200 units of apartments and more single-family homes, Gilmour said. It also creates a buffer zone of single-family homes between the apartments and Fox Run.

“It looks in pretty good shape right now,” he said.

There will be some conditions attached to the approval, Gilmour said. The developer must maintain certain commercial design standards and limit the amount of commercial development facing the Meadow Creek neighborhood on the southeastern side.

Planner Joe Nigg said the developer has modified the proposal slightly to remove some commercial from that southeastern edge and replacing it with an assisted-living facility.

The city won’t allow the developer to build the assisted-living facility higher than 28 feet, Nigg said.

If approved by the planning commission, the Christianson’s First Addition proposal would go to city commissioners for a final approval. The development would likely be completed by 2016, Nigg said.

Better traffic flow

A traffic study for the Christianson plan made public this week shows that the proposed development should improve the flow of cars near the neighborhoods where some residents have publicly opposed the plan, said Fargo Traffic Engineer Jeremy Gorden.

The developer wants to extend 32nd Street South to the south through the development to connect it to 36th Street, an I-29 frontage road. Gorden said extending 32nd Street, which is now a dead end at the south of Fox Run, gives drivers another way to go south without needing to cut through neighborhoods.

The traffic study shows that 40 to 60 percent of traffic now cutting through the neighborhood roads of Fox Run to reach 36th Street would instead use an extended 32nd Street to eventually meet up with 52nd Avenue and the I-29 interchange, Nigg said.

While north Fargo neighborhoods are grid-like and offer many routes to get from point A to B, south Fargo neighborhoods tend to be more winding, and this area is one of the “worst examples,” Gorden said.

“This (32nd Street extension) is definitely needed from a transportation perspective,” Gorden said.

The traffic study shows that more cars will use 32nd and 36th streets if the Christianson development is built, but Gorden said those streets are collectors and are built to handle a higher traffic volume than they now receive.

An average of 1,835 cars per day travel on 32nd Street South, the traffic study shows. That average would rise to 3,580 cars per day with the development, but Nigg said that number is still “well below” the average daily traffic count for a typical Fargo collector.

The study also shows that average traffic on 36th Street South to the west of Fox Run will increase from 1,785 cars a day to 7,590 cars.

“That’s a substantial increase,” Nigg said, “and that’s how that frontage road is built. It’s built to handle that type of traffic.”

The southeastern leg of 36th Street South near the intersection of 52nd Avenue will go from 1,660 cars a day to 19,290 cars, the study shows. Gorden said that’s likely because of the proposed commercial zone, but he said he was surprised by the high number.

“I would say that would be very worst-case,” Gorden said.

Traffic on 52nd Avenue to the south of the development near the I-29 interchange is projected to go from 14,295 cars a day to 19,870 cars. Gorden said 52nd Avenue is a principal arterial street and is meant to handle that kind of traffic.

If the development is approved and built, the traffic study calls for traffic signals at 52nd Avenue and 36th Street, and at 40th Avenue and 36th Street.

The traffic study was completed by KLJ Engineering of Bismarck for developer Paces Lodging. It has been reviewed by the city, Nigg said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518