FARGO – The Block 9 building in downtown Fargo is steadily chugging toward completion, with the lead development partner, R.D. Offutt Co., planning to move its corporate offices there by year’s end.

The final panes of glass for the 18-story midrise tower are expected to be in place in the next couple weeks to complete the exterior walls of the building at Second Avenue North and Broadway, according to Adrienne Olson, a spokeswoman for Block 9 partner Kilbourne Group.

Block 9 is the most visible addition to Fargo’s skyline, even as the old city center fills in through the efforts of Kilbourne Group and other developers.

Business and city officials say that Block 9’s mix of office and commercial space, hotel and restaurant, and condos – plus the Broadway Square plaza – should bring a jolt of energy to the city’s old center once it’s completed.

 

Work continues Friday, Sept. 25, on the Broadway Square area of the Block 9 plaza in downtown Fargo. David Samson / The Forum
Work continues Friday, Sept. 25, on the Broadway Square area of the Block 9 plaza in downtown Fargo. David Samson / The Forum

“I think it fits in well with all the downtown plans that we’ve had in the past,” said Jim Gilmour, Fargo’s director of strategic planning and research. The city is another Block 9 partner.

“The main activity drivers (to start) are gonna’ be the R.D. Offutt employees into all of that space,” Gilmour said Wednesday, Sept. 30.

“We’re excited about the project. Anytime that we can bring in additional people, and energy and new businesses to basically celebrate our downtown Fargo and get more exposure and people to love it and experience it and enjoy it, is fantastic,” said Melissa Brandt, president and CEO of the Downtown Community Partnership.

‘A great move for us’

R.D. Offutt is now finishing work on its new corporate office space, including painting, millwork and flooring, Olson said.

“We will be moving in by the end of the year,” confirmed Tara May, vice president of communications and external affairs. “As with the final stages of any project, there can be some wiggle room. We are committed to moving in before the end of the year.”

May said RDO has installed an enhanced deionization air filtration system, no touch fixtures, and will pay attention to social distancing, not exceeding 50% capacity of their space.

Interior walls are being roughed in on the first floor of the Block 9 building in downtown Fargo in this photo taken Friday, Sept. 25. Several crews are working to fit up the spaces for R.D. Offutt Co., the Jasper Hotel, a restaurant, and condominiums. (Photo courtesy of the Kilbourne Group)

 

RDO designed its offices to encourage collaboration among team members. Full capacity would allow about 400 employees in the headquarters, she said.

“Everyone is looking forward to the day when they can take full advantage of the space’s design,” May said.

May said RDO’s motivation to move downtown “was really an investment in the future of Fargo.”

“The company and the Offutt family believe there is a vibrant community downtown and we both wanted to support and participate in it,” May said. “It’s a great move for Fargo and a great move for us. … This is really about a vision for a vibrant, exciting, business friendly environment downtown that we want to support.”

Waiting on the Jasper

Framing, drywall and mechanical, plumbing and electrical system rough-in work for the 125-room Jasper Hotel are ongoing and Aparium Hotel Group is building the hospitality team that will operate it, Olson said.

“We are planning for a spring of 2021 opening of the Jasper,” Olson wrote Monday, Sept. 28, promising more details on the luxury hotel and the Nordic-themed Rosewild restaurant later this fall.

A cocktail bar and ground floor coffee bar are also planned.

 

The Block 9 building adds to the skyline in downtown Fargo. It is pictured here from Broadway, just south of Main Avenue, on Friday, Sept. 25. David Samson / The Forum
The Block 9 building adds to the skyline in downtown Fargo. It is pictured here from Broadway, just south of Main Avenue, on Friday, Sept. 25. David Samson / The Forum

 

Joe Aguilera, Aparium’s executive vice president of marketing and communications, declined to sharpen the timeline to opening.

On Monday, Sept. 28, Aguilera said more information will be released about three months before the hotel opens.

“Some of the details are still coming together,” Aguilera said.

Earlier estimates had put the completion of the hotel and restaurant in January 2021.

“It’s a tough time to open a hotel with COVID and all of the occupancy rates have really been down. I certainly wish them well. I think that’s going to bring a lot of activity downtown,” Gilmour said.

‘A pretty cool view’

Four of the six condominiums in Block 9 have been sold, said Dave Noah of RE/Max Legacy Realtors in Fargo.

He expects one of the condo units may be ready for occupation between late November and mid-December, with the others following sometime in the first quarter of 2021.

Of the two unsold condos remaining, Noah sees potential for buyers.

“It’s a different duck than regular residential. It’s a different deal. But it’s been positive. There’s been good exposure and good activity,” Noah said.

 

An observation deck on downtown Fargo's Block 9 building offers a view down Broadway north to the Fargo Theatre and St. Mary's Cathedral in this Friday, Sept. 25 photo. (Photo courtesy of Kilbourne Group)
An observation deck on downtown Fargo’s Block 9 building offers a view down Broadway north to the Fargo Theatre and St. Mary’s Cathedral in this Friday, Sept. 25 photo. (Photo courtesy of Kilbourne Group)

 

A 3,200 square foot condo on the 16th floor is listed for $3.5 million, while a 15th floor condo with 1,780 square feet is listed for $1.75 million, Noah said.

For the Fargo-Moorhead area, “it’s a pretty cool view,” he said.

Speculative space

The sixth, seventh and eighth floors of Block 9 are all speculative office space available for lease.

Each floor is about 9,000 square feet, so there is about 27,000 square feet available in total, said Jim Buus, president of JBC Commercial Real Estate.

“Right now, one tenant is committed for a portion of the sixth floor for about 2,500 square feet,” Buus said.

All of the seventh and eight floors remain available, though Buus said there have been inquiries from potential tenants interested in renting a full floor, though there is not offer on the table.

 

The Block 9 building is reflected in the window of Dempsey's Public House in downtown Fargo on Friday, Sept. 25. David Samson / The Forum
The Block 9 building is reflected in the window of Dempsey’s Public House in downtown Fargo on Friday, Sept. 25. David Samson / The Forum

 

Buus said the floors will be roughed out by the end of the year, but space that doesn’t have a committed tenant will remain in unfinished condition.

Ready for some buy-in

Construction is ongoing on the building’s 6,000 square feet of retail space, with floor-to-ceiling glass along Broadway and Broadway Square, Olson said.

One of the retail bays is 3,500 square feet on the northwest corner of the building. It will have direct access to Broadway and features a small outdoor plaza space on the corner of Broadway and 3rd Avenue North, with room for outdoor seating.

The retail bays’ entrances are placed between the main R.D. Offutt office entrance on the north side of the building and the main hotel lobby and restaurant entrance to the south, Olson said.

Another retail bay is 1,400 square feet along the south side of the building featuring direct access to Broadway Square and outdoor seating along the plaza.

 

The sidewalks on the north side at the Block 9 building are pressure cleaned in downtown Fargo on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. David Samson / The Forum
The sidewalks on the north side at the Block 9 building are pressure cleaned in downtown Fargo on Friday, Sept. 25, 2020. David Samson / The Forum

 

‘One of the gems’

Sidewalks around Block 9 have been rebuilt and the work nearly completed by Wednesday, at the corner of 2nd Avenue and Broadway, Broadway Square is taking shape, with foundations for the fountain being installed.

Broadway Square is on track to be ready for the Nov. 24 Xcel Energy Holiday Lights Parade, Olson said.

However, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the parade is still “up in the air,” Brandt said Wednesday.

“We’re right now in communication with Xcel Energy, our sponsor, to figure out what we’re going to do. We’re hoping to announce (plans) in the next couple weeks,” Brandt said. “We’re going to do something, I just don’t know what it looks like yet.”

Ice making may start about Nov. 9 and the square’s ice rink “won’t be 100%” yet, for the tree-lighting ceremony, said Ana Rusness-Petersen, the Fargo Park District employee managing the plaza

Rusness-Peterson said skating is in the schedule for the winter, but social distancing still has to be figured out.

The winter program is being revised to keep COVID in mind “to be compliant and proactive. One of key values is watching out for public health and safety,” Rusness Peterson said.

Gilmour is looking forward to seeing activities in the plaza.

“I think one of the gems in all of this is that plaza. I think that’s got the potential to host a lot of events. I think if they get the skating rink going this winter. Some smaller concerts next year. I think that’s the thing that people won’t appreciate it until they actually see it in operation,” Gilmour said.