Renderings By JLG Architects
Picture this: you have a romantic night out planned for you and your beloved. You have a blueprint for a perfect evening. You’ll begin with a shared meal at your favorite Downtown Fargo eatery followed by some cocktails to enjoy together or a shopping spree at a local boutique. You pull up onto Broadway… and wonder where to park. I’m certain most of the downtown neighborhood’s residents and visitors can relate to this situation. I think for some there is a perception that downtown might be short on parking, or that spots are hard to find. In reality, that simply isn’t the case.
A cross most of the Fargo metro, we are blessed enough to have ample parking for everyone who lives, studies and works here. Almost every restaurant or storefront has its own dedicated space to accommodate customers. On-street parking and surface lots are plentiful in most places. The downtown district is different. It’s a true urban neighborhood, and the location of its parking reflects that.
Unlike most neighborhoods, the majority of Downtown’s parking isn’t visible from the streets. There is plenty of on-street parking, but given how busy that area typically is, it isn’t enough. The Fargo City Commission recognized this need in 2015 when it conducted a comprehensive downtown parking study. The results were clear. There was a parking deficit in the core area of downtown of roughly 500 spaces. Following the study, the Commission has taken action to not only meet parking needs but to stay ahead of demand.
The City of Fargo felt it was important to intelligently incorporate new parking spots. Relying too heavily on on-street parking wasn’t a realistic long-term solution. The parking study concluded mixed-use ramps with ample parking could address the downtown’s needs. Since that study, one such garage has been constructed and another is on the way.
The Roberts Commons (or RoCo for short) garage opened in June 2017. RoCo accommodates parking for more than 450 cars, and dozens of bicycles as well. It also incorporated a user-friendly model, operating fee-free in the evenings and on weekends. Parking is also free on evenings and weekends at the Civic Ramp along 4th Street N. The two ramps allow any visitor to the downtown neighborhood to park within a five-minute walk of any potential destination. Parking is only becoming more accessible.
Ground broke in December on the Mercantile Ramp, located along Broadway and 4th Avenue N. The Mercantile Ramp will add 369 parking spots to the downtown neighborhood by November of this year. Not only is it adding more parking, but it’s closer to many downtown eateries and shops. The mixed-use ramp will also be home to commercial and residential spaces thanks to the City’s partners.
The public-private partnership model used when making the ramps helps enrich the downtown as well by spurring additional development. After parking in the RoCo ramp, you’re only steps away from new boutiques, eateries and other shops. This walkability is one of our downtown’s attributes which make it a regional destination. The Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) deserves some commendation as well, for keeping sidewalks and crosswalks clear and traversable following even the nastiest of winter storms.
The next time someone states Downtown Fargo is short on parking, I’d implore them to compare it to the state of parking in other metros with urban neighborhoods (read: Twin Cities). It’s far too common to spend a quarter-hour cruising aimlessly, searching for a single vacant spot. I am glad Fargo’s Downtown does not, and will not, suffer the same problem.
The next time you’re at the beginning of a magical night with your special someone, a girls’ night out or just a quick bite in the downtown, consider the parking ramps. There is plenty of space, they are usually free and with all of the action-packed into the downtown, you never know what new experience you might discover during a short stroll. With plentiful parking, even in the middle of winter, Fargo’s arts and entertainment core can truly offer far more.