Written by Katie Mastel, Public Policy Coordinator
At our August Downtown Developments-focused Eggs & Issues, we welcomed in three community leaders to share about our three downtown communities. We were joined by Fargo Downtown Community Partnership President & CEO, Melissa Rademacher, West Fargo Economic Development & Community Service Director, Matthew Marshall, and Downtown Moorhead Inc. President & CEO, Derrick LaPoint. These three leaders gave an excellent presentation regarding the growth, challenges and exciting plans for our vibrant downtowns.
Rademacher began remarks about Fargo’s downtown by giving kudos to the Business Improvement District and the work that they do in order to carry out their mission to clean, maintain and provide a safe environment in downtown Fargo. She also touched on the importance of Renaissance zones, noting the impact they have had on downtown Fargo as “revitalization and development right outside our door!” She also encouraged visitors of downtown to check out the new parking ramp that has 455 parking spots. She concluded her remarks on the exciting downtown happenings noting the dynamic and culture of downtown Fargo citing simply the addition of three new ice cream shops contributing greatly to this feel.
LaPoint made mention to many new and exciting projects underway in Moorhead. Expressing his passion for downtown Moorhead to be a place of interest, he presented a plethora of projects in the works to enhance underutilized properties and boost commercial and retail properties in Moorhead. One interesting project they are working on is repainting the corridor on the bridge from Northern Pacific Ave in Fargo to Center Ave in Moorhead in order to create one lane each way and add a center turn lane. He added that “traffic data justified this change dramatically” saying that this project is “creating a more appropriate corridor.”
Marshall started off simply urging those who haven’t been down Sheyenne Street recently to check it out as they will notice it is dramatically different with a “completely different feel than it was even a year ago.” He noted the Sheyenne plaza being completed and another building under construction. He emphasized the importance of creating a community space noting that we have to “activate the space.” Excited for what the future brings he spoke of a grant that they just received from the state of North Dakota through the Governor’s Main street initiative saying, “this grant is a huge win for the city,” noting how it will allow for changes to the roads making for a more appropriate corridor as well as adding parking and walkability downtown.
When discussing the challenges that these three downtown areas were up against, all three leaders spoke optimistically about finding solutions to create success despite some unfavorable variables. On the Fargo side, Rademacher spoke of the importance of getting the right people at the table for discussions surrounding important topics such as liquor licenses and food trucks. The largest challenge that she noted, saying that it remains a challenge for many communities, is affordable office space and housing options. Looking ahead though, she ensured an effort to work more closely with Moorhead to “activate the river and embrace it” especially, as she admitted, due to the lack of green space Fargo has. In addition to this exciting news, she spoke about the plan to bring more art to downtown Fargo. Many of these kinds of exciting plans as well as a strong digital marketing plan are part of the Downtown in Focus plan that Rademacher referenced throughout the presentation. For the individual looking to contribute to this downtown development, she spoke of the downtown local gift cards that can be used at many downtown locations. She recognized this as a wonderful way to invest back into downtown Fargo.
On the Moorhead side, the largest challenge was to the surprise of almost none, the railroad tracks. LaPoint is determined to work around that challenge and ensure a strong downtown Moorhead. Another obstacle that he referenced was a lack of buildings and residents in the downtown Moorhead area. Keeping with a positive theme, however, he echoed Rademacher’s comments about the river, claiming we need to “view the river as a seam and not a boundary or barrier.” He finished his remarks speaking of the importance of a collective vision and “striving toward the same common goal and making it happen.”
For West Fargo, the theme of transportation was also spoken about as a challenge, however it isn’t railroads presenting a challenge, as Marshall explained, it is the lack of on street parking. Marshall talked about the obstacles that narrow sidewalks and wide roadways with little to no on street parking present. He said looking into the future he wants to be sure to include the “right mix of walkability and parking.” Marshall expressed excitement of the future of West Fargo though it presents many unique challenges that are different than its neighboring cities.
The recurring theme of the session was an optimistic vision for vibrant successful downtown communities. Looking at the recent improvements, projects underway and future plans, one can only agree these leaders are certainly going down the right avenue to create such downtown environments. Be sure to check out all that these downtown communities have to offer as well as be on the lookout for the exiting projects coming our way!
Check out these Tweets from attendees!
— Moore Engineering (@Moore_Eng) August 7, 2018
Hearing a lot of valuable self relection about how cars, traffic speeds, and lane counts affect people and downtown environments at #FMWFEggs this morning. Gives me a ton of excitement and hope for our future.
— Adrienne Olson (@adrienneolson) August 7, 2018
— Travis Koch (@travis_koch1) August 7, 2018
The evolution of downtown West Fargo will include at least seven new buildings, a new civic plaza and an urban renewal road project to create an engaging, active destination for our community! #fmwfeggs pic.twitter.com/htRbxw0CqY
— City of West Fargo (@CityofWestFargo) August 7, 2018
— Brenda Elmer (@brenda4moorhead) August 7, 2018
— Anne Blackhurst (@PrezBlackhurst) August 7, 2018
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