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By Barry Amundson, Forum News Service

Block 9 site on April 1, 2019

With steel and concrete work accelerating, the $117 million Block 9 building in downtown Fargo is well out of the ground and on schedule.

In the coming months, expect another story to be added to the main tower of the building every two to three weeks.

By September, all 18 stories or 235 feet of the mixed-use building’s main tower, which is currently 18 percent completed, will have shot up into the skyline and will be enclosed, ready for interior work.

Also by late summer or early this fall, the 379-stall parking garage, which is currently 65 percent complete and being pieced together like a Lego set with precast concrete, will be open for business and available to the public for downtown parking.

Once the glass-covered main tower is up with its tan and gray exterior trim, workers can complete steel work that wraps around the Broadway and Third Avenue sides of the building. That portion will house the R.D. Offutt and Co. corporate headquarters and other office space as well as two or three retail business locations. That part of the project is six stories high.

Project Manager Keith Leier of the Kilbourne Group added that “with winter behind us, we have a lot more control and will really start moving as the majority of the unknowns are behind us.”

The foundation, completed earlier this winter, has 367 piers that are 110 feet deep and include 19 tons of rebar and more than 300 truckloads of concrete.

The two-year project is on schedule, with the opening still scheduled for fall 2020.

In the meantime, Leier and Hoeschen continue carrying out a plan that started about two years ago with city officials to cause as little disruption to downtown and Block 9 neighbors as possible.

So far, so good. At least that’s the general opinion of Noah Kildonk, who owns and operates No Coast Tattoo just across the street to the north of the project.

Here's an artist's rendering of how the parking garage will look like and a view of the north side of the Block 9 building. Submitted
Here’s an artist’s rendering of how the parking garage will look like and a view of the north side of the Block 9 building. Submitted

He said Kilbourne Group and the construction workers at the site have been respectful, friendly and gracious. He cited examples where Kilbourne helped with snow removal in front of his business recently as well as receiving email construction updates from the company.

He may have even picked up a few potential customers from the construction crew.

The only problem is the parking that has been lost and occasional noise and building shake.

Leier acknowledges some disruptions, but said, “it’s going to be a great building and we want to show the city we can have projects like this here and not shut down a downtown. And it’ll be done professionally and done right.”

The project logistics involve a lot of planning and tweaking.

The main effort is keeping all activity inside the fenced-in construction zone in the midst of downtown. Not only are all of the cranes inside the fences, but so are vehicles.

The cranes, a curious part of the project to many residents as they rise well above the construction site, will go even higher this summer, said Hoeschen, as they will reach above the top of the 18-story building. They currently stand at 305 feet on the west side and 264 feet on the east side. He said the crane operators are still climbing to the top of the crane to the cab each day despite some poor weather this winter.

To also help with not disrupting downtown, Leier said deliveries of materials and equipment are timed to not block streets when semis come rolling in.

About the only disruptions planned this summer are a shutdown of the avenue on the north side of the site for about three weeks to complete the parking garage. Also, there will be some much shorter shutdowns near the site as crews tie into city and other utilities this summer and fall.

Otherwise, crews are working hard to minimize any problems for other downtown businesses and residential neighbors, Leier and Hoeschen emphasized.

Local construction employees, which currently number 100 and will grow to 250 this summer, are parking away from downtown throughout the project so as not to take up valuable parking spots.

They have also agreed not to park in the new parking ramp, which will be available to the public starting this fall, with daytime charges and free parking at night and on weekends.

When the project is complete, the garage will be reserved during the day for the 300 R.D. Offutt and Co. employees who will be moved from four other locations around the metro area to the downtown site and for the 125-room hotel guests as well as workers at other offices spaces that so far haven’t been leased.

Meanwhile, the seven high-end condos on the top floors of the building are being sold, with only a few left on the market. The $7 million condo on the top of the building is among those sold, although Kilbourne officials wouldn’t say who purchased it. However, it was noted that neither Gov. Doug Burgum, who owns Kilbourne Group, nor Offutt Co. founder Ron Offutt are the purchaser.

The project is being completed in phases with the parking garage first, then the main tower and finally the community plaza to the south of the structure. Leier said the plaza work will begin this fall, but finishing touches can’t be completed as it’s being used as a staging area for construction.

The plaza will have a splash pad, fountain and outdoor music stage in the summer, with an ice skating rink in the winter. It will be available for many of the downtown events.

Chicago connections

The project has a Chicago connection, although most of the construction crews are local companies, including Moorhead Electric and Wrigley Mechanical.

The architect is SOM, a world-renowned firm that built the tallest building in the world in Dubai. Kilbourne Group Project Manager Keith Leier said a couple of those architects from the Chicago office have been involved with the Block 9 effort. The company also drew up plans for the One World Trade Center in New York as well as several buildings on the Chicago skyline.

The other Chicago connection is the hotel owners and operators who will be the Aparium Hotel Group of Chicago, who have boutique hotels all over the Midwest, Leier said.

Leier said the hotel will have a local brand, though, as the company plans a “community immersion” where they talk to local artists and others and get a feel for the fabric of the city.

“They want a hotel to the story of the community for travelers and for locals to call the hotel and restaurant their own,” Leier said.

Kilbourne Group spokesperson Adrienne Olson also said interest in the project is amazing. Each Thursday at noon, Leier gives a project update in the Broadway skywalk that overlooks the work site. There’s always a crowd, she said.