Maintaining Downtown: It Takes A Lot Of Work To Look This Good

Even the iconic Fargo Theater sign on Broadway needs maintenance and restoration.

Samantha Rachuy, MSUM Mass Communications

FARGO, N.D. — Visitors to downtown Fargo will tell you: The downtown area is beautiful, from the sidewalks to the storefronts. These visitors, whether visiting just once or visiting daily, don’t often consider the amount of work required to maintain the beautiful downtown area.
However,  Fargo city staff are all too familiar with the workload required to beautify the once-grungy downtown area.

Community development department commits to a clean Fargo
Keeping an entire city beautiful is not the task of one person; therefore, the city of Fargo has an entire team, the Planning and Development Department, devoted to keeping the city looking great. The department focuses on the problems and solutions citywide with housing, neighborhoods, homelessness, land use, parking and downtown Fargo.

“My position with the city of Fargo is a senior planner of downtown/parking,” said Robert Stein. “ I am directly responsible for managing the maintenance of 11 parking facilities and any type of repairs within those lots.”

While Stein spends a majority of his time managing parking facilities, he also works hand -in -hand with the Fargo Community Development Team and the Downtown Community Partnership.

“I work with all Fargo neighborhoods, specifically on neighborhood improvement issues,” said Nate Bailly, community development planner. “We have utilized federal resources to help make building facade improvements in downtown.”

Even though the city of Fargo has dedicated departments, the effort to preserve the appearance of downtown extends outside city staff.

Business and property owners join the effort

While the city of Fargo is committed to maintaining downtown, business and property owners are making efforts as well. The combined public-private effort is known as the Business Improvement District.

“The Business Improvement District, BID, formed when business and property owners banded together and asked the city to access them,” Stein said.

The Business Improvement District can be specifically targeted to improve the following maintenance projects:

  • Recycling programs;
  • Litter removal;
  • Sidewalk and driveway cleanup;
  • Landscaping and
  • Creation of maintenance crews and clean teams

“The BID will allow us to improve downtown better than we ever have before,” said Stein.

With multiple projects happening simultaneously, expenses accumulate rapidly; therefore, the city must have federal grants in place before efforts begin.

Grant provides funds for downtown maintenance

The Fargo Planning and Development Department has had funds available for business and property owners who wish to improve their establishments since 2000. According to the city of Fargo website, the Storefront/Downtown Rehab Grant program developed from “allocated Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds.”

“The central goal of the program is to improve blighted areas of the downtown area through the restoration of building facades,” said Bailly.

The program has potential funds available to building and property owners for

  • Renovations to buildings other than facade work;
  • Demolition of buildings;
  • Parking improvements;
  • Landscape work and
  • Design projects.

Program qualifications, according to the city of Fargo website, state that applicants are eligible “for a 50 percent matching grant, up to $15,000 (depending on available program funding).”

To ensure that the Storefront/Downtown Rehab Grant funding is distributed strictly towards downtown improvements, the eligible property must be located within designated areas of downtown Fargo. The following map provides detail about locations that lie within are within funding eligible areas.

The above map provides interested applicants a detailed description about which locations are eligible for the Storefront/Downtown Rehab Grant.

Building and property owners who are interested in applying for the Storefront/Downtown Rehab Grant must complete an application available on the city of Fargo website (top link on the right-aligned tabs) and return it to the Fargo Planning and Development Department.

12 Broadway before rehabilitation began. Photo provided by the city of Fargo.
12 Broadway after rehabilitation began. Photo provided by the city of Fargo.
14 Roberts Street before rehabilitation began. Photo by the city of Fargo.
14 Roberts Street after rehabilitation began. Photo by the city of Fargo.

Department provides restoration while maintaining historic preservation
The Fargo Planning and Development department spends a great deal of  time restoring downtown Fargo to look fresh and new; however, historic preservation must be taken into consideration before any changes are made.

“Historic preservation is a central driver to updating downtown,” said Bailly. “All downtown/storefront projects must be in compliance with the (U.S.) Secretary of the Interior’s standards for the historic properties.”

The Fargo Historic Preservation Commission must approve each project before any work begins. According to the city of Fargo website, the historic preservation commission is responsible for

  •  “Identifying, evaluating and designating properties’ significance in the history, architecture, engineering and culture of the community, state and nation.”
  •  “Retaining and enhancing historic properties while allowing their adaptation for current use by assuring that alterations are compatible with their historic character.”
  •  “Assuring that new construction and subdivision of lots in designated historic districts complies with the standards of the Land Development Code.

Historic preservation and modern renovations provide downtown Fargo character.

Enjoy the following sequence of photos that  show the unique character and beauty of downtown Fargo.


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