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Site design in action: Downtown Fargo’s ambitious Block 9

The U.S. Bank Plaza has been a downtown Fargo staple since what feels like the beginning of time. Until the buildings were torn down during Fargo’s urban renewal project in the late 50s and early 60s, the block was filled with mixed-use buildings and single family housing. During urban renewal, cities used federal incentive money to demolish old structures – which would have become historic treasures by this point in time – to make room for more surface parking lots. The current 48,000-square-foot parking lot is fine real estate for larger events and is also a clever spot for an outdoor lunch or quick connection with friends. From there, most anything downtown is walkable.

It’s been good, but it’s time for a change.

In the works: a project that will morph the current U.S. Bank Plaza and surface parking lot into the new Block 9.

This renovation will include the construction of a new building and an entirely new site design to alleviate parking problems and add needed office space in the downtown district. It will include an 18-story building, a 375-stall parking ramp and a civic plaza. The mixed-use tower will have a mix of retail, office, hotel and residential spaces.

Block 9 Partners is set to complete the Block 9 project in 2019. The project is obviously of great interest to the entire city of Fargo, especially those who care about the rejuvenated downtown. But what goes on before the building is erected? Who plans and maps out what should go where, and for what purpose?

Behind the Scenes

The fact of the matter is, many behind-the-scenes elements of a major construction project go unnoticed and are rarely, if ever, considered by residents and guests who will use the new structure and accompanying space. While the general public simply enjoys the amenities of a new facility, a group of people have spent months – maybe years – considering and planning how all of it – the sidewalks, building footings and positioning, storm sewer, drainage and more – comes together for a safe, clean and efficient site.

The site design process normally begins with a survey to precisely measure and plot the space, including elevations. From there, an engineer assembles a design development plan and pulls together final construction documents. In the case of the Block 9 project, Moore Engineering provided a mass excavation plan, a demolition plan and a design development plan for civil site improvements, including grading, drainage, erosion control, sanitary sewer, watermain, storm sewer, exterior pavement and hardscapes.

Moore Engineering coordinated with the City of Fargo on storm water retention and water quality requirements for the proposed improvements, which included ensuring the first floor elevation requirements were met. The City of Fargo chooses between following the Water Surface Elevation Inundation Area (WSEIA) requirements or the FEMA requirements – whichever is stricter.

From there, Moore coordinated with the architect, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP (SOM), the landscape architect, Land Elements, and the parking structure designer, Collaborative Design Group, to communicate and finalize the positioning of the building and parking structure. Land Elements will implement seasonal components into the plaza design; namely, the plaza area will be greenscaped in the summer and will become an ice skating rink in the winter.

The Construction Plan

Mortenson, the construction contractor, will submit for a demolition permit in the summer of 2017. After demolition, footing and foundation plans will come into play and mass excavation and earth stabilization will follow. Throughout these phases, Moore Engineering will work with contractors to coordinate installation of utility services.

Finally, toward the end of the summer, construction of the tower will begin, followed by the ramp. A skywalk will connect the two. Because sidewalks will be demolished during the footings and foundations portion of the project, they’ll need to be reconstructed. Moore will work on the pedestrian paths, ensuring the walkways are up to ADA requirements and constructed to city standards.

Obviously, the various elements of site design make it a complicated process, especially when numerous contractors are involved. On the sites where Moore Engineering is involved, we’re constantly referencing ordinances, adjusting to setbacks, working with the cities we serve, studying the zoning of each property and planning utilities, all to make the site safe and functional for end users while fulfilling client needs and wants.

If you’d like to know more about our Land & Site Development services, call 701.282.4692. For steady updates on Moore Engineering projects, visit the current projects portion of our website. Or, see how this project is progressing.

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