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Is This The Future Of Downtown Fargo?

Photos submitted by Kilbourne Group

Kilbourne Group’s progress on Downtown Fargo’s upcoming multipurpose complex

Downtown Fargo is building in exciting ways. The population of residents living in the downtown neighborhood is growing for the first time in decades and as a result, new living spaces are coming online, offering more choices to those making the move. The growth of technology-driven companies downtown prompted Fortune magazine to dub it “America’s Most Undervalued Tech Hub.” I cannot overstate the powerful positive impact I believe R.D. Offutt Company’s decision to become our development partner and to relocate its headquarters to Downtown Fargo will have on our entire community for decades to come. Having the significant presence and legacy of RDO in the heart of Fargo’s Central Business District is a game changer.

Fargo Block 9

RDO’s new home, Block 9, is today a surface parking lot at the center of the most walkable street in our region. The corner of Broadway and Second Avenue North has been a surface lot since it’s mixed-use buildings were lost to fire in 1976. Kilbourne Group has been dreaming of and fine-tuning a project that will add wonderful new experiences to our urban core that you can only have in Downtown Fargo.

As a co-developer, RDO’s investment will equal approximately two-thirds of the total cost of this project. Along with providing office space for the employees currently at RDO’s Fargo and Moorhead field support offices, the project will include 30,000 square feet of office space that will be available for lease. In addition, the upper floors of the building will consist of 11 condominium units available for sale — three of which are currently under negotiation.

In 2010, we held Downtown Fargo: An Urban-Infill Competition to gather ideas for Block 9. The contest garnered 160 design entries from 23 countries. Thousands of community members and visitors attended an open house gallery and voted for their favorite design. Nearly all of the designs included a mid-rise, mixed-use building and a highly activated civic plaza gathering space for the community.

In 2015, we engaged SOM, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, to design the project. With projects in more than 50 countries, SOM is known for designing some of the most iconic buildings in the world, including the John Hancock Center, the Willis Tower and the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the world’s tallest building.

Fargo Block 9

This year, we have found a hospitality partner that fits the vision of Block 9 perfectly. Aparium Hotel Group will be the hospitality management partner for the to-be-named hotel and restaurant within Block 9. Known for creating one-of-a-kind, hyper-localized hotels and restaurants around the country, the Chicago-based hotel group will oversee operations for the hotel and food and beverage components, as well as lead the charge on the branding, programming and positioning of this highly anticipated development.

“… Block 9 will be a celebration of downtown Fargo’s renaissance, creating uniquely Fargo experiences that locals can get excited about and a destination visitors will seek out.”

We have found a strong and unique hotel partner in Aparium. Aparium’s track record of unique projects across the Midwest ( promises a hospitality experience that reflects and amplifies all that is unique and vibrant about Fargo. With Aparium as our hospitality partner, Block 9 will be a celebration of Downtown Fargo’s renaissance, creating uniquely Fargo experiences that locals can get excited about and a destination visitors will seek out.

Aparium seeks local people investing in their community to become part of the Fargo project. There are opportunities to invest in this Downtown Fargo hospitality experience and become part of the momentum that continues to grow.

The hotel in Block 9 will consist of 110 hotel rooms across five floors, as well as a ground floor flagship food and beverage venue. True to Aparium’s signature style and anchored in its “translocal hospitality” concept, the hotel and restaurant will be constructed and programmed with local influences to best capture the spirit of Fargo and engage with the greater community.

Block 9 will also feature multiple meeting and event spaces, condominiums with sweeping views of downtown, class A office space, additional ground floor retail and an expansive, open-air public plaza that will be programmed year-round with exciting events, concerts and celebrations for locals and visitors alike to enjoy. The development is expected to break ground in 2018 and debut in 2020.

Fargo Block 9

How does a project in Fargo attract the attention of these world-class companies? By being Fargo. They visit downtown and experience our restaurants, craft breweries and coffee houses, art galleries and local shopping, and they know it’s a momentum they’d like to be a part of.

We are grateful to R. D. Offutt Company, whose commitment to bringing its headquarters to downtown Fargo makes this project possible, to the City of Fargo for its partnership and to all the partners and supporters who have joined us on this journey.

Our team continues to work diligently to move the Block 9 project forward. We are excited to share this progress with you.

For anyone following the progress of Block 9, it has been a long journey from idea to execution. In fact, there is still a long road ahead for this to come to fruition. We asked several of the people who were integral to Block 9 what this means for the future of the community.

Charley Johnson Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau

Charley Johnson
President/CEO, Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau

“Block 9 is going to be a great addition to downtown. I’m particularly excited about the new plaza that will take place right next to it. I think the plaza will be a huge bonus and provide an opportunity for more activation. Downtown is already active but this will create a defined focal point throughout the whole year. It’ll be a great space to utilize in the summer and, with an ice skating rink, perfect in the winter.”

Michael J. Olsen Crisis Communications and Public Relations Consultant

Michael J. Olsen
Crisis Communications and Public Relations Consultant

“As a long-time resident of Fargo, I see Block 9 as the next logical step toward the reinvention of our downtown. Growing up here in the ’50s and ’60s, downtown was always vibrant, exciting and just a tad mysterious. This development has all of those traits, and will create a true center of town, complementing all that surrounds it.”

Melissa Rademacher President and CEO Downtown Community Partnership

Melissa Rademacher
President and CEO, Downtown Community Partnership

“The positive momentum Downtown Fargo is currently experiencing is truly amazing. Fargo is a destination itself with a spectrum of experiences and opportunities for people of all ages and interests while offering a strong sense of place filled with vibrant culture, art and commerce.

“The Downtown Community Partnership believes that a key ingredient for creating a diverse downtown is to offer a unique combination of retail, restaurants and events that create a memorable experience for all ages. The DCP is a catalyst for change, helping to draw a new customer base to Downtown Fargo. We believe the announcement of these two projects, the Block 9 tower along with the plaza, will only complement and impact Downtown Fargo in a positive manner.

“The plaza has an amazing opportunity to become a key centerpiece of the community. The goal of daily, weekly and monthly programming could attract hundreds of thousands of visitors per year to the Downtown Fargo area. Events can help expose a wider portion of our community to the unique assets located in the heart of Fargo with the added benefit of engaging local merchants, artists and entrepreneurs to consider living and opening a business here.”

Joel Vettel Executive Director Fargo Park District

Joel Vettel
Executive Director, Fargo Park District

“We are certainly excited about any partnership, especially with great partners that can provide us an opportunity of expanding the amenities for our community. We really look at this as an opportunity to combine forces to create a space that will be instrumental in bringing people together. When you start talking about that public square and footprint that allows for people to congregate in a variety of ways, it certainly is an incredible opportunity to provide that, not only to the folks in our community, but we know that we get a tremendous amount of visitors that are looking for opportunities for entertainment and engagement.

“What’s really exciting is that this is a space that could be utilized year-round. People are constantly looking for opportunities to get outside, do things that are unique and congregate as a community. Whether it’s music, food, festivals or skating, all of those things are excellent opportunities for us to really partner with that group. At the end of the day, the Fargo Parks District is in the business of the quality of life for our community and wellness for our community.

“Two things that get us really excited is that it’ll be an outdoor ice skating rink that will not only provide skating for a couple of months out of the year, but it will have a cooling unit underneath, allowing us to keep that icerink colder and frozen longer. Instead of the traditional two-three months that we get out of an outdoor rink, we’re going to get five or six months. Also, being in a location that allows people to gather and have other events going around it — shopping, engagements for food — it almost brings in a Rockefeller Center feel in a much smaller scale while still providing the same level of engagement.

“During the warmer months, we really look at this as a public square where we’re going to be able to host public events. One of the biggest ones we’re looking at is an outdoor theatre setting. We’re going to have a stage and we’ve looked at a wonderful sound system for outdoor events. We’ll look at doing smaller events on a regular basis. The model we built this around has the possibility of doing up to 200 events every year. Based on the ice skating rink in the winter and the use as a public square during the warmer months, to do things like concerts or outdoor art opportunities, we would program it as a year-long space — bringing in a variety of events that aren’t only popular but gather people together for the engagement piece.”

“Downtown” Dave Anderson Sanford Health Senior Public Affairs Specialist

“Downtown” Dave Anderson
Sanford Health Senior Public Affairs Specialist

“The Kilbourne Group’s Block 9 project is firm evidence of Downtown Fargo’s next evolutionary step — from a great downtown to an outstanding downtown of the future and a model for communities across the country. At Sanford Health, we know from experience that healthy communities are not reflected solely by the wellness of their people, but also by the vitality and vigor of their spaces and places — the neighborhoods and villages in which people of all ages live, work, shop, play and learn. We’re committed to the growth of downtown, and we’re excited about this project by our neighbors, the Kilbourne Group. Downtown’s future continues to look very bright.”

Mark Nisbet North Dakota Principal Manager Xcel Energy

Mark Nisbet
North Dakota Principal Manager, Xcel Energy

“I am pleased by the tenacity of the Kilbourne Group in keeping this project moving forward even though there have been some setbacks. I am a past chair of the Downtown Community Partnership and realize how this will leverage and enhance the investments of time and money made by many people who believed in the concept of a vibrant and economically dynamic downtown.

“I think this is another giant step forward in the momentum Fargo and North Dakota are gaining on the national stage. Our strong educational system, our willingness to embrace and welcome entrepreneurs and our growing tech sector are making the whole metro area an attractive option for the highly qualified workforce we need to continue to grow.”

Scott Neal
President, Real Estate Division of R.D. Offutt Company

“R.D. Offutt Company is excited to bring our offices to the Block 9 project. We believe that this project will be a tremendous centerpiece for Downtown Fargo and that our involvement shows the strong commitment our company has to the community and its roots.”

Written by Mike Allmendinger

Mike Allmendinger is the general manager of the Kilbourne Group, a company that strives to be a catalyst of inspiration and action for vibrant downtown communities by redeveloping and creating infill projects in Downtown Fargo.

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