BUSINESS INSIDER: Hub of Diversity and Culture
Kilbourne Group’s general manager says vibrant downtowns create healthy cities
Mike Allmendinger, General Manager, Kilbourne Group, Fargo
Q: WHAT ARE THE LARGEST PROJECTS KILBOURNE GROUP IS WORKING ON NOW IN FARGO?
A: Kilbourne Group is driven by respect for the past, gratitude for the present and inspiration for the future. Our current projects allow our team to live these values every day.
- Roberts Commons is exciting to watch. The construction site is right outside our window at the Loretta Building so we have a front-row seat. This project is powered by a public-private partnership that will be done in four phases and includes 455 parking spaces, more than 200 apartments and room for at least 12 ground-floor businesses one block off Broadway.
- The Woodrow Apartments are nearing completion. The new building has 63 units and is open for tours and ready to lease. The historic school is transforming into 34 one-of-a-kind residential units. The residents will share a courtyard, indoor gathering space, community grills and more. The next step is the construction of a new 2,500-square-foot, build-to-suit retail building on the southwest corner of the block.
- The renovation of the Black Building is underway. We’ve spent months working with the businesses in the building on continuity plans, in some cases moving them within the structure or finding them temporary alternate space downtown. The Black Building has been added to the National Registry of Historic Places and we’re honored to play a role in returning it to its rightful place in Fargo’s history as a destination unto itself. Our goal is for the Black Building to serve as an anchor of the downtown Fargo restaurant and retail districts and to celebrate local, authentic offerings and uniquely Fargo experiences.
- We’re excited to turn over the first floor of 1213 NP to Prairie Roots Food Cooperative so it can begin its fit-up. Prairie Roots represents the first new grocery store coming to the downtown neighborhood in over a decade. We continue work on the new third-floor addition and exploring unique opportunities to bring new life to the adjoining historic stable building.
- We’re grateful to be working with The Arts Partnership to create a two-year creative incubator in the building at 225 Fourth Ave. N. The project, named Apt, includes studio spaces, gallery walls and rental areas for arts workshops, classes, rehearsals, performances and more. Apt centralizes support and maximizes resources through creative sharing to provide a creative, collaborative and safe place for artists to make art and for the community to collide with it.
Q: WHY IS REPURPOSING AND REVITALIZING SPACE IN FARGO’S DOWNTOWN AREA SUCH AN IMPORTANT GOAL FOR KILBOURNE GROUP?
A: Repurposing and revitalizing space in downtown Fargo is an important goal for Kilbourne Group because vibrant downtowns create smart, healthy cities. Through the thoughtful redesign of existing structures, as well as the activation of brownfields or vacant lots through infill development projects, we strengthen our city as a whole. Our commitment to mixed-use development supports an 18-hour city, driving activity and eyes on the street 18 hours a day. It allows you the option of walking to work, to errands, to appointments and to shopping and dining.
Data and studies show that historic redevelopment and urban infill create the highest return on investment for our community without burdening taxpayers. As we’ve lost density over the past decades in Fargo, we also lost economic efficiency. More land to maintain creates higher costs for the city. Our goal for downtown Fargo is to have smart, mixed-use development in the areas that have become uneconomical and underutilized. Kilbourne Group is a catalyst for preserving Fargo’s heritage, culture and character, working to revitalize its urban core and economic vitality, and inspiring the future.
Fargo’s historic buildings are worth saving. They tell our story, honor our shared culture and provide unique spaces for experiences you can only have in Fargo.
Q: WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES YOU FACE, LEADING A LARGE, INFLUENTIAL DEVELOPMENT COMPANY?
A: Turning the herd. There are more government-funded incentives, outright and entitlement, for greenfield development, which has pulled investment away from urban cores. Kilbourne Group is an advocate for equal incentives for main streets and downtowns where infrastructure already exists.
For years, we have accommodated Fargo’s growth with a suburban style of development that requires heavy investment in infrastructure from our city governments, which are funded by our taxes. This type of development holds very little return on investment and, in fact, creates unfunded future liabilities that we all pay for. We believe infill is a valuable factor of our growth equation and provides a bigger spectrum of choices for people.
We look to the past for inspiration, to a time when cities like Fargo were designed as close-knit hubs of activity, allowing for people to conduct their daily lives with or without a car. Walkable, mixed-use development generates higher value and more in taxes to the general fund, costs less for the city, and, according to real estate trends, is proving to be a desirable environment. Kilbourne Group projects create new choices and options for where to live or locate your business.
Q: WHAT FACTORS HAVE LED KILBOURNE GROUP TO ITS LEVEL OF SUCCESS?
A: At Kilbourne Group, we are redevelopers, realtors, designers and investors who are passionate about and dedicated to a thriving downtown Fargo. We are citizens working to make our home one of the world’s most vibrant communities. We are building on the hard work of all the business owners and long-time residents who have remained committed to and have invested in downtown Fargo through good times and bad.
We don’t think of downtown as a trend; rather it’s being revitalized and brought back on the local market as an option for those who desire to live in a more urban environment. It lacked significant capital investment from the private and public sectors for so long. The City of Fargo takes input from thousands of citizens to create intensive community plans. The 2012 GO2030 is the most recent comprehensive plan, and lays out priorities including mixed-use, walkable neighborhoods and infill. It guides our work as it illustrates what is desired by the community.
North Dakota State University establishing a downtown campus was a catalyst for bringing thousands of students into downtown, which supports a growing commercial and residential district.
Our early success had much to do with the vision and leadership of our founder, Doug Burgum, and his commitment to changing the downtown Fargo economy in a way that makes it economically viable and worth it to save the historic buildings we still have and build on the lots where we’ve torn them down. He’s an incredible builder of teams and we are no exception. He has brought many people along on this journey who share the vision of a vibrant downtown Fargo and the risk tolerance to do something about it.
Today, downtown Fargo is a hub of activity, diversity and culture. Kilbourne Group is grateful to each and every person that has been part of the journey and revitalization of downtown Fargo.
Q: DOES KILBOURNE GROUP HAVE PLANS TO EXPAND TO OTHER CITIES AND EMPLOY SIMILAR REVITALIZATION EFFORTS IN THOSE DOWNTOWN AREAS?
A: The way Kilbourne Group is currently structured, we have committed to investing the capital in only the downtown Fargo neighborhood. If we are successful, and other communities want to apply our learning and formulas to their neighborhoods, we are very excited to share what we’ve learned and help revitalize more urban areas in the Midwest.