Nancy Edmonds Hanson
Two plans to develop the community’s economy took center stage before the Moorhead City Council Tuesday – one that aims to build the whole region’s economy, the other to continue efforts to redevelop downtown Moorhead.
The first, a $5 million four-year campaign dubbed Fueling Our Future, was unveiled by the Chamber of Commerce and Greater Fargo-Moorhead Economic Development Corporation last week. At the time, sponsors announced the cities of Fargo and West Fargo have already pledged $400,000 each, drawing close to the $1 million. The balance is being funded by the private sector, and is already close to its goal, spurred by a half-million dollar contribution from Sanford Health as well as substantial pledges from Gate City and First International banks and others.
On Tuesday, EDC president Joe Raso brought the plan to Moorhead’s leaders. While he did not directly request the city to buy into the plan at any specific level, he did emphasize that a minimum contribution of $400,000 is required to qualify for a seat on the campaign’s governing board.
Fueling Our Future, he said, focuses in three areas he called “pillars”: People, including workforce development; prosperity through economic growth, including improved air transportation; and “place,” an emphasis on what’s needed to convince corporations to locate here and improve outsiders’ perceptions the area’s assets and quality of life.
Mayor Johnathan Judd said the council and city staff will discuss their level of participation in coming weeks. He asked Raso whether Dilworth and Clay and Cass counties have been invited to join the effort; so far, they have not been approached.
Downtown Moorhead hires consultant
Downtown Moorhead Inc. president Derrick LaPoint told the council his group and the Economic Development Authority have signed a contract with consulting group Stantec to move forward with development the Moorhead Downtown Master Plan. The $190,000 contract sketches out a work plan that collects extensive public input into a framework including land use, streetscaping, transportation, parking, “placemaking” and other aspects of the vision, then develops the tools to make it a reality, including a strategy for investment.
“We’re looking for broad community engagement throughout the process to build broad community support,” he noted. “This plan will set the vision for our future downtown and drive investment for both new growth and to sustain the existing business community.” A kick-off meeting is planned later this week.
LaPoint also detailed a property tax exemption requested by and ultimately granted by the council to Eventide Senior Living Services. The four-year, $116,000 tax break is for the four-story addition now under construction on the retirement center’s campus at Eighth Street and 16th Avenue South. When complete, it will house 73 independent and assisted living apartments, along with a restaurant and other facilities. It’s part of a two-phase, $18 million development plan; the first phase is expected to be done by July 2020.
Eventide CEO Jon Riewer said the expansion is part of the corporation’s “age in place” model. “Residents can start out very independent. Then service packages can be built for them as they’re needed,” he said. “They won’t have to make a move every time their needs change.” He said that, while the project includes additional jobs for caregivers, location on the main campus allows the corporation to “leverage the existing management.” He added, “We have absolutely the best location in town. We’re thankful this all has worked out.”
Council member Shelly Carlson noted Eventide’s investment in the future and in Moorhead. “With 10,000 people turning 65 every day, I applaud your foresight in building now, rather than waiting until the need for housing becomes more acute.”
The council also approved the Moorhead Economic Development Authority’s issuance of $3 million in facilities revenue bonds for Eventide’s corporate offices in Block E.
Wishing on a Book
The Parks and Recreation Department had development on its mind, too, at Tuesday’s meeting. Parks director Holly Heitkamp sought – and received – the council’s endorsement of a “wish book” to attract philanthropists to support a list of much-desired projects. The possibilities will be highlighted in what she called a “wish book,” a publication being developed by city staff to help promote the city’s new Moorhead Community Funds, being managed through an agreement with the F-M Area Foundation.
Among the enticements are six ideas she said came out of budget and planning deliberations: development of trails and amenities along the river corridor; a community center and aquatics center; an inclusive playground for children of all abilities; a dog park on the south side; improvements at Matson Field and a Little League complex at Centennial Field; and lighting for soccer fields at Southside Regional Park. Also part of the enticements are arts and culture projects, a youth scholarship fund, the City Center Plaza on Center Avenue, a second K-9 police dog, a pedestrian bridge across the Red River at Bluestem, historical markers in Viking Ship Park, and a city Christmas tree.
“We need to move forward. Moorhead is ready for this,” she stated. The council agreed, approving the choice of projects and publication of the wish book.
Council member Steve Gehrtz concurred: “These are great opportunities for people who want to make a lasting impact on their community through their philanthropy.”
Development proposals dominate council agenda
Nancy Edmonds Hanson