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This rendering shows the Block 9 development as it'll look in late 2020, when the building in downtown Fargo, N.D., is expected to open. IMAGE: Kilbourne Group

New kid on the block: Block 9 project will change Fargo’s skyline, draw people downtown

FARGO, N.D. – It’s a skyscraper. But it’s not a canyon wall.

That’s on purpose. And it’s one more architectural element that shows the thought and planning that’s going into the Block 9 project, which is now under construction in downtown Fargo.

If you’ve ever visited downtown Manhattan or Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, you’ve no doubt noticed the “street canyon” effect. That’s the feeling you get when the street is flanked by skyscrapers on both sides, especially skyscrapers whose walls start at the sidewalk and soar up.

Block 9’s not like that, as you can see from the rendering that accompanies this article. Instead, the tower is set back, while building’s lower portion – the podium – tops out at roughly the level of the surrounding buildings.

Here’s lead architect SOM, a Chicago-based firm, on the reason why:

“The tower is set back from Broadway to preserve the rhythm and character of the streetscape,” SOM’s website states.

“Its design references the architecture and materiality of neighboring buildings, while creating a slender profile on the skyline.”

Other elements of the design reflect similar choices, said Keith Leir, vice president of development and construction for Kilbourne Group, which is partnering with R.D. Offutt Co. in developing the project.

Consider Block 9’s ground level, which will include retail shops as well as an open-air community plaza. “Pedestrian friendliness is something that we’re always striving for,” Leir said.

“We want to have an ‘18-hour city,’ which means that in downtown, you can get a cup of coffee early in the morning, have a drink or a late dinner in the evening, and it’s energetic and bustling and has lots of people all day and evening long.”

The community plaza alone, which will double as an ice-skating rink in winter, will host events that could bring in hundreds of thousands of people a year.

“We’re always very cognizant of what the pedestrian experience is going to be when you walk past the building,” Leir said.

Besides the retail components on the ground floor, Block 9 will serve as R.D. Offutt Co.’s corporate offices upon completion in late 2020. The building also will feature office and residential space as well as an Aparium Hotel Group boutique hotel.

Tom Dennis

Editor, Prairie Business