Link – After months of debate and revisions, Newman Center project plan gains final approval

https://www.inforum.com/news/government-and-politics/4632313-After-months-of-debate-and-revisions-Newman-Center-project-plan-gains-final-approval

Written By: Barry Amundson | Aug 27th 2019 – 4pm.

This is a drawing of the new St. Paul’s Newman Center that is under construction in north Fargo across from the North Dakota State University campus. Submitted drawing
This is a drawing of the new St. Paul’s Newman Center that is under construction in north Fargo across from the North Dakota State University campus. Submitted drawing
FARGO — Although north Fargo Roosevelt neighborhood residents never objected to the St. Paul’s Newman Center chapel and student center being expanded, there were complaints about an apartment building being attached to it.

However, on Monday night, Aug. 26, the final piece of the puzzle was put in place after what Roers Development Vice President Larry Nygard jokingly called 50 different plans over the years. On a 3-2 vote after a public hearing, a resolution was approved for a renewal plan for the neighborhood and a developer agreement with Roers.

Commissioner John Strand, who was key to the final compromise agreement, said in jest he thought it was the fifth different plan for what will be an 85-unit market-rate apartment building and 11 town houses that will consume an entire city block along University Drive North and between 11th Avenue and 12th Avenue across the street from North Dakota State University.

City Strategic Planner Jim Gilmour said the “urban renewal” type plan calls for a tax increment financing (TIF) district that includes most of the Roosevelt neighborhood.

In addition to a tax break of $950,000 for Roers to tear down dilapidated homes in the area and prepare the site for construction, there will also be $300,000 in the TIF for future acquisitions and demolition of more dilapidated houses within the neighborhood.

The 10-year tax break will begin after the project is completed in 2021.

In addition to the new, privately financed $21.5 million Catholic Church’s 450-seat chapel, administrative offices, student center and parish hall, the project also involves 24 units of faith-based student housing. That entire project is being constructed by Roers.

The $11.5 million Roers apartment building, once slated to number 125 apartments in six stories, was downsized after complaints from neighbors to 85 units in a structure that runs from five stories high to three stories. Seven of the 11 town homes will be built initially, with another four to be added in the future depending on the market demand, Nygard said.

Strand said the renewal plan to open up lots in the neighborhood and remove homes in dilapidated condition was an “experiment” as the city expands its effort for more affordable housing.

Strand was joined by Mayor Tim Mahoney and Commissioner Tony Grindberg in the approval for the renewal plan, while Commissioners Dave Piepkorn and Tony Gehrig opposed it.

Piepkorn said he was against the plan because the city’s tax exempt committee only approved the TIF for Roers at $950,000. Gehrig opposes all city property tax incentives.

Gilmour said one letter was submitted objecting to the plan from Sterling Management President Steve Downs who said, in part, the TIF “doesn’t represent an even playing field for the apartment owners who are working hard to stay competitive in this challenging market. If Fargo was in desperate need for development, this would be a good incentive but we’ve experienced a historical multifamily construction boom over the last three years and this is simply over and above the duty of the local government with this climate of surplus apartments.”

Work has already started on demolishing some of the homes in the block, as well as the center, which has been temporarily relocated to 2505 University Drive N.

St. Paul’s Newman Center has leased this building at 2505 University Drive N. for two years while construction is under way on the new facility at 1141 University Drive N. Staff members are working out of this building, which will be open to students. Meagan Deanne / The Forum
St. Paul’s Newman Center has leased this building at 2505 University Drive N. for two years while construction is under way on the new facility at 1141 University Drive N. Staff members are working out of this building, which will be open to students. Meagan Deanne / The Forum

City commissioners were asked if any of the 16 homes on the block would be saved as they weren’t in as bad a shape as some of the others. There were two recognized as possibly being saved, but Gilmour said with the cost of moving the home, building a new foundation and finding a lot, it “usually isn’t feasible.”

Roosevelt neighbors had objected to the size of the project, loss of more single-family homes and parking concerns in the area. Despite the compromise, they said they still objected to the 85-unit Roers apartment complex.

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