Mayor Dr. Tim Mahoney shared the following comments during the FMWF Chamber of Event's "State of the City" on Thursday, January 19.
In the coming weeks, this page will feature many of the stories which have fueled the past year of success in Fargo and showcase the roadmap for 2023.
Thank you to Shannon and the Chamber for organizing this annual event, which is a great opportunity for elected leaders to hear from all of you regarding your priorities for us.
The five Cities represented on this stage proudly provide the infrastructure backbone for nearly a quarter million residents and I’d like to express my appreciation to Bernie, Shelly, Kory and Chad for your partnership and friendship as we work united to advance our metro forward.
At this time, I would like to ask all of you to join me in a round of applause recognizing the strength, tenacity and perseverance of former Moorhead Mayor Del Rae Williams in her recovery efforts from a stroke last year. She’s always been a strong fighter and continues to inspire me.
Through the work of this team of leaders, along with our excellent employees, residents, businesses and community partners, our metro continues to be on the national scene as the crown jewel in the Upper Midwest – there’s no question about that.
As the Regional Leader, Fargo is mentioned in the same sentence as other high-octane cities in our nation. In the last year, WalletHub recognized Fargo in the top ten least stressed cities. Forbes ranked us in its ten best places to retire – and we are the only community to have received that designation consecutively for over 10 years running. WalletHub also recognized Fargo for being in the top fifteen best places for renters. Livability classified Fargo within its top 100 best places to live.
However, it’s very important to remember that these honors are reflective of the entire Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo-Dilworth-Horace metro community.
In Fargo, we’ve seen over 350 permits for new single family homes in 2022. Apartment vacancies are very low with builders looking to add more to our inventory. We’re bolstering our already-strong public safety commitments through the construction of Fire Station Number 8, the opening of the Fargo Police Downtown Substation and truly investing in all of our employees.
Our commitment has – and will always be – to provide the best services in the most collaborative, economical and efficient way possible to assist all of you in growing your business, raising your families and enjoying tremendous amenities.
Our Story is Your Story!
DEVELOPMENT & INFRASTRUCTURE
Water continues to be the center of infrastructure conversations across the Valley. With the FM Diversion project underway, there is now a push to fund the Red River Valley Water Supply project. Can you tell us about the progress of these two projects and the threat of water scarcity as we’ve been talking about water abundance for so long with the Diversion?
Water is life; everything – and everyone – depends on it.
We are working hard to flood-proof AND drought-proof our community.
With the FM Diversion Project, we will be ready in 2027 with permanent, reliable flood protection. We will work with FEMA to get the completed project certified as quickly as possible so that flood insurance costs will drop substantially across our communities.
With its four main components – the diversion channel, southern embankment, mitigation projects and in-town features, the FM Diversion is the first public-private partnership being done in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. By using this arrangement, we brought flood project earlier than anticipated – we will have permanent flood control 10 years sooner than originally anticipated – and we will get it for $270 million less.
How about these stats? The Diversion inlet structure is 89% complete, the wild rice structure is 75% done and the I-29 raise is 60% complete.
Now, onto droughts. We are seeing a major water shortage crisis in the western United States right now. Right here – in our community in 2021 – we advanced to stage three of our four-stage drought management plan...and stage four would have involved rationing our water.
We need permanent protection from water shortage. Experts predict we will see a severe drought in the next 30 years, and it is estimated that a 1930’s-style drought would inflict a $33 billion dollar devastation to our state if that were to occur.
Delivering water from the Missouri River to eastern North Dakota (via the Red River Valley Water Supply Project) is the answer – and construction has already begun on this project. This will provide an emergency and supplemental water supply to cities and rural water systems via buried pipelines spanning from central to eastern North Dakota. We want to be first in time – and we will be first in line – to claim water from the Missouri because others will come calling for it.
A construction schedule that spans eight years is proposed to access the emergency water supply as soon as possible. This is a win-win scenario – it maintains local affordability for consumers, while ensuring the rural water systems and municipalities have adequate future development capacity to attract new industries to North Dakota.
We intend to request $255 million from the North Dakota State Legislature to fund construction of the project during this biennium. We need everyone’s help in lobbying the legislature for this necessary appropriation.
The Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments is currently conducting a Housing Needs and Market Analysis for our entire metro community. Can you touch on the purpose of this study, the concerns about the housing market, and whether we are meeting the regional needs of the current and future workforce?
Fargo is excited to have participated in this regional housing study, in partnership with FM MetroCOG and metro cities. The purpose of the study is to ensure the long-term sustainability of the area's housing inventory. The study will also demonstrate how to successfully implement different housing types that may be needed and desired. It will help all of us coordinate on policies and regional strategies for better housing solutions. And we expect to see a draft of this report next month.
The housing market is tight – our metro has grown 18% in the last decade and population projections show the region reaching a population of more than 350,000 in 2050.
More than half of the region’s new housing has happened in Fargo, which shows the importance of our upcoming growth plan in ensuring smart future development. In 2022, Fargo accounted for 60% of all new housing units in the metro with 1,400 new units valued at over $475 million. That include single-family, twin home, townhome, multi-family and mixed used developments throughout Fargo.
In this study, we’ve learned that over the past decade, the region added over 20,000 new jobs; yet, there have been less than 15,000 new housing unit permits during the same time. That’s a substantial gap and we will continue to collaborate with our neighboring communities, home builders and the development community to create strategies and policies needed to build and preserve the necessary housing in the region.
I also want to touch on the critical need for all of us to band together in combatting long-term homelessness in this metro. Through our Downtown Engagement Center, Gladys Ray Shelter and other team efforts, we are utilizing evidence-based models to invest in proven solutions to allow our residents to rebuild healthy relationships outside of crisis. These social equity efforts are designed to help each person secure permanent housing and employment.
In addition to recognizing Fargo’s Harm Reduction Director Jan Eliassen for her passion and courage of conviction in doing this important work, I’d also like to introduce you to Natasha Berg, who received services at our Engagement Center, rebuilt her life and has now secured housing for her to create a new future for herself. This is vital work and this story needs to be told. We need to do more to tackle homelessness in the Fargo-Moorhead metro – and we must. We’re all in this together.
Placemaking is becoming a very important asset to thriving communities. These assets such as convention and performing arts centers, museums, etc. are strong attraction and retention tools. What future plans does The City of Fargo have in regards to these spaces?
The MetroCOG Housing Needs and Market Analysis has found that quality of life is one of the top three priorities in the attraction and retention of residents. Going hand-in-hand with quality of life is effective placemaking.
With $24 million in Prairie Dog Funds from the State of North Dakota on the way – which will be significantly invested in core neighborhood infrastructure improvements – we will continue to have amazing infrastructure in Fargo.
We’re now going after world-class amenities!
Let’s start at the top - the community’s largest venue and one of the region’s undisputed crown jewels, is our FARGODOME. It turned 30 years old last month. Since that very first event in December 1992, the FARGODOME has hosted over 3,000 events and 13 million attendees, with an annual direct economic impact PER YEAR of $24 million to $42 million.
As with most things after 30 years – despite ongoing maintenance and upkeep, there is a need for updates and modernization. FARGODOME management has spent many years analyzing ways to position the venue for the next 30 years and beyond, focusing on three main priorities of ADA compliance, patron expectations & experiences and operational enhancements.
In addition, a conference center expansion at FARGODOME has been studied and will be proposed as a way to further grow regional economic impact. In the coming weeks, we will be rolling out specific and exciting architectural renderings for the remodel and expansion, along with our funding plans. This will be bolster the FARGODOME and prepare it for the next 30 years and beyond. Stay turned for news on this in the very near future. We’ve talked about this long enough; it’s time to act.
We’re also working hard to advance a feasible plan to construct a Performing Arts Center on the site of the current Civic Center in Downtown Fargo. This year, we will form a steering committee with local leaders to engage in strategic planning and private fundraising. We’re re-engaging art groups to ensure we’re designing the optimal structure and we intend to roll out a funding proposal for this facility in 2024.
We’re collaborating with proponents of a Science Museum to learn about their vision. We’ve communicated that we strongly believe that this belongs in Fargo.
And, let’s not forget – Broadway Square, the Red River Zoo, a robust public art community and an expanding Hector International Airport. It’s truly Far More in Fargo right now.