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Erik Burgess, Published March 03 2014

Fargo commission OKs demolition of Centennial Hall

FARGO – This time next year, Centennial Hall could be no more.

City commissioners gave the OK Monday night to demolish the events hall attached to the Civic Center downtown in order to make it easier to build a new City Hall.

“It is not a difficult structure to take down. It’s actually a metal building, not a very expensive structure,” said architect Terry Stroh, who is helping to design the new City Hall. “But what it really does is it plants us in the right spot for City Hall for a long time.”

The demolition could happen as early as this fall, Stroh said, but City Administrator Pat Zavoral said it’s likely that construction of a new City Hall will be pushed back to spring 2015.

A city subcommittee is still working on designing the building. It meets again Wednesday.

Stroh has floated the idea of demolishing the roughly 15,000-square-foot Centennial Hall before, but it was always a possible plan for growth in the future.

On Monday, Stroh said there is now some urgency to remove Centennial Hall sooner so City Hall can be built farther away from Second Street, which will soon be shifted west to allow for a downtown flood wall. Some early City Hall concepts had the building tightly hugging Second Street.

“We were just too close to that road,” Stroh said.

Commissioner Melissa Sobolik said if City Hall is built too close to Second Street, it would remind her of Main Avenue, where buildings edge up against the road with narrow sidewalks.

“It just seems like if we’re going to do the City Hall piece right, we almost need to decommission the Centennial Hall at this time and then move forward with its removal,” Zavoral said.

Civic Center Director Bob Getz said the hall’s use has declined in the past four or five years. The Civic Center and Centennial Hall are used about 100 days a year, he said.

As commissioners look to redevelop the civic quad area, Zavoral said they should also consider repurposing the Civic Center into a performing arts facility.

He said city staff is a couple of weeks away from fitting a new convention center into the city’s downtown master plan so site options can be presented to commissioners.

“Then you could see all the pieces of the puzzle,” Zavoral said.

City Commissioner Brad Wimmer said the city still needs to decide if a proposed convention center should be built downtown or at the Fargodome.

“This just seems to give us more options,” he said.

Mayor Dennis Walaker said the city has plenty of time to discuss its options for a convention center and other redevelopment projects.

“We cannot lose sight of building a new City Hall,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518