Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
FARGO — Fargo’s Housing & Redevelopment Authority’s board has selected its preference for a co-developer to help plan the future of the city’s downtown high rise site.
After three proposals were reviewed by a panel of city officials and HRA staff, the board voted to have HRA Executive Director Matthew Pike work with Blue Line Development of Missoula, Mont., on a contract for the 50-year-old Lashkowitz High Rise that contains 247 one-bedroom low-income apartments.
Pike said he would work with a consultant and the company in the coming weeks and hopefully have a contract negotiated to present to the HRA board for approval in February or March.
What remains up in the air is whether the 22-story landmark that sits on a 2-acre parcel of land should be torn down or renovated.
Pike said Blue Line and another developer, Epic Companies of West Fargo, thought it would be best to tear the building down and develop more affordable housing on the site.
The third proposal came from Good Housing Partnership of Bozeman, Mont., and Los Angeles, with that company recommending retrofitting the structure.
Pike said Blue Line emerged as the favorite because of the company’s experience working with affordable housing, which encouraged confidence that the firm could get the project done.
“We want to do what’s best for the residents and the community in the long term,” said Pike, who added about 160 of the units are still occupied by residents. Vouchers have been approved for residents to move into other housing by September with assistance from the HRA.
Pike said they are “moving in the direction” of removal of the building, but that it’s still an open question.
The building is “built really, really well. It’s sturdy,” he said.
City Commissioner John Strand, liaison to the housing commission, said perhaps a developer may want to work on retrofitting or repurposing the high rise.
“I don’t think the demolition is etched in stone,” he said.
However, he said, cities are moving away from having public, low-income housing congregated or “stacked” in one location.
If a contract can be agreed upon with Blue Line, Pike said, the next steps would be hiring architectural and engineering firms to work on the design and also working on the tax credits and other financing needed to complete the project, which would involve the entire 2-acre parcel next to the Red River.
It could also include a neighboring parcel of land that was home to the Park East apartments that were torn down to make room for flood-control projects.