Photo by Hillary Ehlen
Last month’s Fargo Monthly cover story celebrated the yesteryears of our fine city. We learned about the people and their cultures, the devastating yet renewing fires, the unique businesses and the fascinating stories that have shaped our community. While people and businesses come and go over the decades, a treasured stock of historic buildings remain today in the core of our city.
Each day I report to work in the lovely Loretta Building at 210 Broadway. I work inside a work of art. I can touch the mortar that was spread by hand between the bricks in 1909. The meticulous and thoughtful renovation of the building in 2012 uncovered her “good bones” and brought her internal systems into modern day standards. I’m greeted inside the front door by three stunning pieces of artwork by Robert Crowe, of the Bergstrom & Crowe Furniture Co. family, which operated their business in the Loretta for 60 years. Every day, I step into Fargo’s yesteryears.
Reviving History for a Better Today
Fargo’s brick-and-mortar buildings of the early 1900s have reached the point in their lifecycles where intervention is eminent if we want to keep these structures around for another 100 years. Take a walk through downtown and you’ll see the ones that have been taken under someone’s wing and either restored to former glory or respectably maintained through the years. Others are struggling to serve and shelter those who enter, sometimes in ways not visible to the passerby.
Take the Black Building, built in 1930 as a tower of commerce in a growing and thriving Fargo. In recent decades, those keeping shop inside did not have the promise of reliable elevator service, hot water, heat or cooling–a number of elements renters should be able to take for granted. Kilbourne Group is embarking on a $7.7 million renovation of the Black Building, about $6 million of which will be spent on new windows and electrical, heating, air conditioning and ventilation system upgrades.
At the corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North is the Dakotah Block, former home of Metro Drug. The building has been vacant since 2015. Since acquiring the building early this year, Kilbourne Group has made structural repairs to the more than 120-year-old foundation, added new water service, a storm sewer, sanitary sewer and electrical service. We’ve installed the building’s first fire alarm and sprinkler systems, and have invested $40,000 to remove all asbestos.
These projects are two of more than 230 Renaissance Zone projects in the City of Fargo, a program which has been central to the ability to invest in historic buildings in downtown.
You Contribute to Downtown’s Success
Another thing central to the success of downtown is you. When you eat, play or shop downtown, you are supporting your friends and neighbors in their livelihoods, and you are contributing the economic activity necessary to retain our historic buildings. Studies find that local businesses recirculate a greater share of every dollar in the local economy, as they create locally owned supply chains and invest in their employees.
Step inside the Plains Art Museum, the Ford Building (home to Northern Home Furniture), the Pence Warehouse (home to Family Health Care), the Hotel Donaldson, or any number of renovated historic buildings in Downtown Fargo and experience first-hand how buildings learn and adapt over time. You’ve likely heard, “we just don’t build ‘em like that anymore.” The truth behind this phrase makes the work and investment into taking care of historic buildings all the more vital to our sense of shared history and culture.
Respecting The Past
Our values at Kilbourne Group are rooted in a respect for the past. We learn and share the fascinating history of the Downtown Fargo sites we work to redevelop. We thrilled like urban archeologists when we uncovered the brick foundation walls of the grand Carnegie Library we lost to parking needs in 1976. We repurposed the chalkboards of the Woodrow Wilson School. We dusted off the ornate metalwork found in storage in the Black Building and find ways to reincorporate it into the building.
Kilbourne Group directs our time and talents to revitalizing Downtown Fargo through redevelopment of historic structures and creating mixed-use infill projects on surface parking lots left behind by demolition or fire. Our mission to be a catalyst of inspiration and action for vibrant downtown communities is born of an appreciation for and desire to recreate the early development pattern that resulted in our vibrant Downtown Fargo. This pattern allowed people to live, work, shop, play and learn all in the same neighborhood and created walkable, close-knit communities that have a new and growing appeal.
This wave of demand for walkable, mixed-use environments is being met with a new wave of construction downtown. We’ve seen a number of new commercial, retail and living spaces built, with more to come.
Rediscover your downtown. Whether you’ve spent your life here, visit for special events, or haven’t been downtown in years, there’s always a new experience to have, a new place to enjoy and a new friend to meet. See you downtown!
For more information
Kilbourne Group is a commercial-development firm that focuses on historic renovation and mixed-use infill in Downtown Fargo.