How Public-Private Partnerships Can Help All

Written by: Fargo Inc Staff
Aerial view design of Block 9 Plaza


Mike Allmendinger

President at Kilbourne Group

Q & A

What should businesses know when attempting to work with cities?

Even in North Dakota’s biggest city, Fargo elected officials and staff leadership are exceedingly accessible. In learning from peer cities, we’ve found this to be a unique and highly valuable first step. And because our communities are relatively small, it seems no problem can’t be overcome within the city’s known network. 

The evolution of a city is typically guided by a comprehensive plan that has been developed through the input of its citizens. Policies and incentives are then designed to align private investment with public action to accomplish goals laid out in the plan. It is in this way that cities (public sector) and private enterprises work together to shape a city’s future. 

When working with cities, a shared priority and foundational tenet must be the common good. 

Governor Burgum’s Main Street Initiative is all about promoting and growing downtowns. How can businesses capitalize on that and help work with downtowns?

The Main Street Initiative brings to life the efficiencies and financial strength cities realize when investments are made where infrastructure already exists. Downtowns and Main Streets are typically the heart of a community and are a key component in what makes each city unique. 

The biggest impact you can make on your downtown or Main Street is to consider it as a home for your business. Then tap into the many benefits of a downtown location, including talent attraction and retention, an innovative, lively environment, a strong brand and image, walkable amenities, long-term value creation and positive community impact. Also, encourage your city to keep public anchors like a library, post office, fire and police stations and green space downtown. People can choose the city they want to live in, sometimes even before they choose their job. When your assets are your people, quality of space is a key component of your ability to attract them.

Cheer for those who keep your downtown strong. Support your downtown businesses and become a member of your downtown community organization because downtown is an amenity that benefits the entirety of a city or metro. 

Learn about and share your thoughts on incentives offered to draw private investment into your downtown, such as the Renaissance Zone, which is used in 58 cities across North Dakota. Cities don’t offer development incentives in their downtowns to make businesses more profitable. Cities offer development incentives in their downtowns to make the city more profitable. All taxpayers benefit from their downtown’s concentrated development pattern which yields higher property tax per acre than suburban development, its mix of uses which creates walkability and efficient use of infrastructure which lessens the need to build new. 

What are some good examples of public-private partnerships in Fargo or North Dakota as a whole?

· Roberts Commons Garage

Photo by Hillary Ehlen

The City of Fargo conducted a downtown parking study in 2014, which identified sites for parking garages that could include mixed-use development. In 2015, the Fargo City Commission adopted a Renewal Plan and created a TIF District around three surface parking lots a block off Broadway. Through a competitive process, Kilbourne Group earned the right to build the city-owned 454-stall garage and develop the land around it with mixed-use projects. The City set a goal for $30 million of private development in this P3. With the completion of the final of three mixed-use projects, the total private investment is more than $50 million.

The garage is an asset that spurs development through new parking capacity, which generates new taxes, which pay for the garage. When the garage is paid for, the new taxes will go to the general fund. Downtown grew by 251 new living spaces, 10 new businesses (so far) and the urban, pedestrian-friendly Roberts Alley.

· Block 9 Plaza (pictured at top)

Every city needs a gathering space, and the Block 9 civic plaza is designed to be just that. A true public-private partnership, the plaza will be built by Block 9 Partners as part of the incentive agreement applied to the project by the City of Fargo. It will be managed and programmed by Fargo Parks District and includes a bandshell for outdoor live performances, interactive water features for kids (and, adults, of course) and will double as a groomed ice rink in the winter. The public also has access on evenings and weekends to 379 additional spaces in the Block 9 parking garage.

What industries have a lot of opportunities for public-private partnerships or to just work with the city?

Any business looking to launch, expand or relocate has opportunities to work with their city to shape their strategy in a way that aligns with city goals. In some cases, there are incentives available to assist in these efforts.

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