Kesler, The Final Phase Of A Multi-Project Public-Private Partnership, Breaks Ground In Downtown Fargo

Written by: Adrienne Olson, Kilbourne Group

The resilience of the small businesses of downtown Fargo has been on full display through these days of late summer. As with businesses across the world, they’ve evolved in the face of adversity and constantly changing business conditions. Our community has united to support them and see them through.

Fargo has had its share of events that have united its people to set the city’s growth on a new path. 

In 1893, the city of Fargo had grown to about 6,000 people and it was booming with new buildings and commerce. On June 7, a fire swept through the city, destroying 160 acres and more than 31 blocks. We rebuilt.

In 1957, a deadly tornado wiped out 300 homes, churches, schools and multiple commercial buildings. We rebuilt.

Flooding of the Red River Valley has, over and over again, rallied the community to build sandbag walls to protect what we’ve built against forces of nature. 

In the 1970s, after thousands of miles of interstate were built and people acquired a taste for commuting, our city made many decisions to raze what we’d built in order to make more room for more car parking in downtown Fargo. These days, we rebuild.

The site at 624 Second Avenue North has been a surface parking lot for nearly 45 years. Before that, it was the mixed-use Kesler Block, rebuilt after the fire of 1893. In early August 2020, Kilbourne Group broke ground on a $20 million new mixed-use Kesler block. Project information is online at

Rendering of the future parking garage.
Rendering of the future parking garage.

The Kesler project represents the final phase of a public-private partnership designed to transform three surface parking lots in downtown Fargo into a 455-stall publicly-owned parking garage, and three privately owned mixed-use buildings: Roberts Commons, Dillard, and Kesler.

Kesler includes 69 parking stalls, almost 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail for five new businesses, and 109 apartments. Early construction activity includes installation of an earth retention system, followed by excavation and concrete work. The Kesler project is scheduled to be complete in the summer of 2022.

Kesler is the fourth phase of a public-private partnership with the City of Fargo which began in early 2016. The previous phases included the seven-level Roberts Garage public parking, the mixed-use Roberts Commons building wrapping around the garage, and the mixed-use Dillard project to the north. Construction of these projects created a west border of buildings along Roberts Alley, which has become a favorite stop on strolls through downtown Fargo, filled with retail, restaurants, and outdoor patio spaces. 

By the numbers, this public-private partnership transformed 195 surface lot parking stalls in the heart of downtown Fargo into 524 parking stalls, 265 new apartments, and 35,500 square feet of commercial space with 11 new businesses so far!

But what about the incentives that were needed to make the projects happen? All the private development in this partnership received a five-year property tax abatement through the Renaissance Zone. A portion of the Kesler project received an additional 10-year break through a PILOT.

Before the partnership, the surface lots in the projects paid a total of $5,736 in annual property taxes.

After the incentive period ends, the annual property taxes paid by the projects will total $658,000.

As the Roberts Commons and Dillard infill projects activated Roberts Alley north of 2nd Avenue North, the Kesler development will extend the activation of the alley south to 1st Avenue North. This urban alley will feature storefronts across from the historic Black Building. The west alley along the Graver building will provide a shaded walkway (still open to vehicles) with the installations of street trees and green walls. Kesler will be complimented by the Stone building along Roberts Alley and 1st Avenue North.

For 45 years, this site lacked activity with people. The team members of Kilbourne Group are grateful for the opportunity to work with the City of Fargo to invest in bringing new living and working experiences into this growing neighborhood. We know that urban infill is a key component to maintaining walkability and to the city’s revitalization journey. As a real estate redevelopment firm focused on historic renovation and mixed-use urban infill projects in downtown Fargo, Kilbourne Group aims to breathe new energy into downtown residential, commercial, and retail spaces, and the spaces in between.

Small businesses, like Beer & Fish Company, line Roberts Alley, creating a lively shopping and dining district.
Small businesses, like Beer & Fish Company, line Roberts Alley, creating a lively shopping and dining district.

The Dillard and Roberts Commons projects have become home to exciting businesses, all locally owned, that are writing a new chapter in the history of downtown Fargo. Come check them out! If you have a business that would be a perfect fit for this growing neighborhood, visit!

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