Downtown Revitalization: Fargo, North Dakota

June 11, 2014 8 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

Metro Jacksonville takes a visit to successfully revitalized downtown that most Jaxsons know very little about: Fargo.

About Downtown Fargo

Named after William Fargo, Northern Pacific Railway director and Wells Fargo Express Company founder, the city was an early stopping point for Red River steamboats during the 1870s and 1880s. Downtown declined in the mid-20th century with the coming of two interstates and a large shopping mall to the Fargo area. However, Downtown Fargo would not be in decline for long.

In 1983, much of downtown became a part of the Downtown Fargo Historic District, enhancing the area's redevelopment potential. Over the past 15 years, more than 460 apartment units have been built in downtown Fargo. In addition, more than 250 have been improved or created through rehabilitation projects. Another 50 units are scheduled to come online in Summer 2014. According to a recent inforum article, rents for downtown apartments typically range from $650 to $775 for one-bedroom units and from $800 to $1,000 for two-bedroom units.

Much of this success is the result of the city's Renaissance Zone and other tax incentive programs. It also does not hurt that downtown benefits from nearby colleges, including North Dakota State University, University of Minnesota Moorhead, and Concordia College. Furthermore, there are as many as 3,000 students taking classes within the downtown district.

The Renaissance Zone

: Started in 1999, the Renaissance Zone is a 39-block zone (236.6 acres and 10.3 million square feet) in downtown Fargo that exempts new development from property and income taxes for 5 years and exempts commercial tenants from State income taxes for 5 years. The zone is the foundation for the Downtown Fargo Redevelopment Framework Plan. That program has spurred more than 180 projects, including several mixed-use developments. Building values in the zone have risen 110 percent - from $103 million in 2000 to some $218 million in 2009. Among the $93 million in these projects is an $18 million Cityscapes Plaza, a newly opened retail and student housing project. More than 60 condos and apartment projects (infill and adaptive reuse) have been completed as part of this, expanding housing options. The local housing authority is also leveraging affordable housing programs, such as the Federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, and has built 559 units of affordable housing. A smaller historic preservation zone is within the Renaissance Zone, which leverages State income tax credits for renovations. Fargo's storefront and downtown rehabilitation program uses CDBG funds to provide 50 percent matching grants.

Today, Fargo is known for its low crime rate, affordable housing, and low unemployment rates. However, the city's largest challenge may be finding a solution to overcome Red River floods. Recent discussions have focused on a $1.5 billion diversion project that would channel the Red River's water away from the city.

Tale of the Tape

To help Jaxsons gain a better understanding of the scale of Fargo, here are a few statistics of the community in relation to Jacksonville:


Fargo City Population 2013: 113,658 (City); 223,490 (Metro 2013) - (incorporated in 1871)

Jacksonville City Population 2013: 842,583 (City); 1,394,624 (Metro 2012) - (incorporated in 1832)

City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Fargo (38,256)

City Land Area

Fargo: 48.8 square miles
Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles

Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2013)

Fargo: 7.05%
Jacksonville: +3.64%

Urban Area Population (2010 census)

Fargo: 176,676 (ranked 194 nationwide)
Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)

Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)

Fargo: 2,514.3 people per square mile
Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile

City Population Growth from 2010 to 2013

Fargo: +8,109
Jacksonville: +20,799

Convention Center Exhibition Space:

Fargo: Fargo Civic Center - 36,000 square feet
Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet

Connected to or across the street from Convention Center:

Fargo: Radisson Hotel Fargo - 151 rooms
Jacksonville: N/A

Tallest Building:

Fargo: Radisson Hotel - 206 feet
Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet

Fortune 500 companies 2013 (City limits only):

Fargo: N/A
Jacksonville: CSX (231), Fidelity National Financial (316), Fidelity National Information Services (426)

Urban infill obstacles:

Fargo: Parking lots, railroads and industrial uses limit connectivity between Downtown Fargo and Moorhead.
Jacksonville: State & Union Streets cut off downtown Jacksonville from Springfield.

Downtown Nightlife:

Fargo: Broadway Drive
Jacksonville: East Bay Street

Common Downtown Albatross:

Surface parking lots.

Who's Downtown is more walkable?

Fargo: 88 out of 100, according to
Jacksonville: 88 out of 100, according to

Next Page: Downtown Fargo Photo Tour

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