Significant Opportunity For Downtown Fargo

Joe Nigg
City of Fargo, Senior Planner

If there is one thing that I have come to recognize and truly appreciate during my time at the city it is the progress that has been made over the last 15+ years downtown. The energy and economic opportunity that exists today is explosive.

It is a fact that the healthiest and most attractive communities have strong and functional downtown areas – and Fargo has produced a revitalized downtown with a corresponding and somewhat organically developed brand / identity that has attracted the spotlight both regionally and nationally.

Downtown Fargo is in a prime position to realize an accelerated and exhilarant Renaissance over the next decade if the City, downtown stakeholders and greater community demand that critical livability and infill principles outlined in the recent Go2030 Comprehensive Plan remain a top priority – second only to comprehensive flood protection for the metropolitan area.

The first step in identifying and then ultimately capitalizing on this potential is through the development of a visionary, strategic and community developed master plan that elicits the community’s imagination and places a specific and intentional focus on the aggressive pursuit of appropriate urban-style redevelopment and infill.

The opportunities exist in downtown Fargo and anecdotal proof is evident in the number and magnitude of public and private sector investments that are currently in the queue as well as the range of catalytic ideas that remain part of the downtown conversation.

In terms of public projects and as a quick sample think city hall, performing arts venue, convention center, parking ramps, flood protection and a completely reconstructed roadway network and streetscape over the next 10 years.

Furthermore, with an already strong presence downtown and a fully built-out main campus, NDSU has publicly stated their next move is likely downtown.

Private sector and near term projects think Block 9, Union Storage, Woodrow Wilson, the pending project at 2nd Ave N & Roberts Street and the significant infill and investment potential on the 70+ acres of vacant, surface parking or underutilized property within the “core” of downtown.

The success of the next 10-15 years will largely depend on the community’s ability to (1) facilitate and stimulate infill projects; (2) build-up parking infrastructure; and (3) set a bold and audacious vision.

This vision needs to be underpinned to reality by a solid and sophisticated market study which should parallel a blueprint to guide public infrastructure and investment.

The City will then be in the perfect position to communicate this vision alongside the supporting analytics to developers, investors and opportunity seekers to ultimately drive investment and economic development in the downtown area and in turn further strengthen the economic resiliency of the City.

As downtown stakeholders and as a community, the opportunity is now and let’s make sure we do everything possible to capitalize on it.

As many of you already know, March will be my last month at the City as my family will be pursuing a new adventure. Thank you to downtown business owners and downtown stakeholders for the opportunity to play a small role in the excitement and energy over the last couple of years.

Also, thank you to the good people that comprise the leadership of the downtown community partnership for your friendship and support.