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Fargo Park Board approves sale of historic depot building – InForum

Fargo Park Board approves sale of historic depot building – InForum

FARGO – The Fargo Park District says goodbye to its historic headquarters.

In a unanimous decision, the Park Board approved the sale of the depot building at 701 Main Avenue to MBN Properties, LLC for $1.2 million during its July 9 meeting.

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In this undated photo from the 1930s or 1940s, trains wait side by side as smoke rises from their steam engines outside the Great Northern Depot. Photo courtesy of the Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo

“Obviously, it’s a beautiful, historic property in the heart of downtown Fargo,” said board member Aaron Hill. “It feels good to entrust it to an organization that will take care of it and do good with it.”

According to information in the package, the sale is expected to close this December, but a building inspection is still pending.

“When you sell a property, you come across things you don’t expect,” said board member Jerry Rostad.

Tony Eukel, vice president of MBN Engineering, said his team plans to convert the building into its new headquarters.

“We thought this would be a great place to settle permanently,” Eukel said.

The building is already mostly occupied by offices, he said, and they hope to add a few more and make general improvements throughout the building.

The iconic train in front of the depot is an artistic landmark for downtown, Eukel said. MBN still needs to determine space needs and talk with the Park District before making any decisions about the future of the train or the fountain west of the building.

“We just want to make sure we are good stewards (of the building’s history),” Eukel said.

Use of the building by the Park District ended with the completion of the new Park District offices at the Fargo Parks Sports Center, 6100 38th St S. Staff moved in on May 1, 2024, and opened the doors to the public toward the end of May.

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This passenger train, stopped in front of the Great Northern Depot in Fargo in April 1945, is an example of the more elegant diesel trains that replaced their steam counterparts. Photo courtesy of the Institute for Regional Studies, NDSU, Fargo

The depot was built in 1898 and designed by Cass Gilbert, the man responsible for designing the Minnesota State Capitol. The city of Fargo received the building from the railroad in 1971, and in 1975 it became the first historic landmark in Fargo to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, according to the park district’s website.

According to the filing, the North Dakota State Historical Society has approved the sale.

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The Northern Pacific Depot building is pictured at 701 Main Ave., Fargo, Tuesday, February 13, 2024.

Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

The park administration originally had two offers for the property and discussed how to proceed during a closed board meeting on June 11. Ultimately, MBN was chosen.

There were numerous discussions with MBN that led to this purchase agreement, Jeff Gunkelman of Kennelly Business Law told the board.

These talks have been complicated by the $170,000 depot maintenance endowment fund, administered by the FM Area Foundation. This fund keeps the historic building in good condition by maintaining the fountain, benches, trees, clock, hanging lights and other items.

The original plan was for MBN to take over the fund and use it to maintain the building, Gunkelman said, but both parties soon realized that the endowment fund could not be transferred to a private company, only to a public entity or nonprofit organization.

This realization caused the depot’s list price to drop to $1.2 million, he said.

The good news, however, is that the Fargo Park District has learned it can use the endowment fund for other purposes, Gunkelman said, noting that it can only access the endowment fund’s profits, not the capital balance.

Melissa Van Der Stad

Local reporter on the night shift 👻. I cover the Fargo city government, the Cass County government, and the communities in the area that have been under-reported.