Kilbourne Group Blog


Welcome to the Kilbourne Group blog, a compilation of what's new, what's fun and what's interesting in the world surrounding Downtown Fargo's hardest-working revitalization group. 


Inspire.15 is here!

Posted on December 8, 2014 by


For this year’s Inspire calendar, we’ve enlisted the help of talented, local photographers to capture people, places, and events that they felt best exhibited downtown’s core themes. Each word helps tell what Kilbourne Group knows our vibrant downtown has become and celebrate those who have brought us this far as we look forward to the bright future. Each project we complete, every event our amazing community hosts, and the new found national recognition keeps our team invigorated, grateful and excited about the future of the Fargo Metro Area.

 Theme: Activate
Photo: Dan Francis

Theme: Live
Photo: Jesse Hoorelbeke

Theme: Smart
Photo: Rick Abbott

Theme: Upgrade
Photo: Scott Archer


Happy Holidays!


To purchase your copy, email 

102 Broadway Welcomes Your Day by Nicole and Broadway Shoe Company!

Posted on July 2, 2014 by Cassandra Maland

Vibrant downtowns create smart, healthy cities.

Summer 2014 Apprentices

Posted on June 15, 2014 by Cassandra Maland

Kilbourne Group welcomes another talented team of apprentices this summer! Healthy, vibrant communities attract young professionals, and we hope to help these students and recent graduates gain real world experience through hands-on-learning and thought leadership.

We decided to get to know these young professionals by asking a couple non-professional questions...


Erik Diederich
Erik, our Project Management intern, hails from Fargo and attends NDSU. 

If you were a box of cereal, what kind would you be?: Frosted Mini-Wheats--compact, intricate and a little sweet.

If you could pick one superhero power, what would it be?: I would absolutely love to fly!

Shivanthy Balaretnaraja-Jones
Shivanthy, our Human Resources intern, had a busy spring! Shivi finished up her MBA at NDSU, got married and started her apprenticeship with Kilbourne Group

What is your go-to karaoke song? "I Will Survive" by Gloria Gaynor

If you could pick one superhero power, what would it be?Being multiple places at once.

Jonathan Melgaard
Jonathan, our Entrepreneur in Residence apprentice, just earned his degree from U of M, Twin Cities. Jon was a Kilbourne Group intern last summer, and we couldn't be happier to have him back.

If you had to eat only one this for the rest of your life, what would it be? Corn on the cob.

If you could pick one superhero power, what would it be?: The ability to fly.

Matt Wagenius
Matt, our Marketing intern, traded the St. Croix for the Red when he left Stillwater, MN to attend NDSU.

If you had to eat only one thing the rest of your life, what would it be? My mom's chocolate chip cookies.

If you could pick one superhero power, what would it be?: Teleportation.

Bret Sheeley
Bret, our Accounting intern, joins fellow former Wahpeton Huskies, Mike, Mark, and Courtland. Bret graduated from MSUM, and plans to return for his Master of Accountancy. 

If you had to eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?: Sushi


If you were a box of cereal, what would you be?Life! It's the best!


Welcome, apprentices!

We're happy you're here!

 Vibrant downtowns create smart, healthy cities.

'Safe' and sound: Beautifully restored antique now graces Loretta!

Posted on December 30, 2013 by Tammy Swift

We have a distinguished, new “resident” here on the third floor of Loretta!

 It’s a gorgeously restored antique safe, which was originally found in the basement of the original farmhouse at Tallgrass Trail, a rural Horace, N.D., farmstead that was homesteaded by Swedish immigrants back in 1870. (Kilbourne Group founder Doug Burgum purchased this farmstead in 1995.)  The beautiful old safe is now displayed against a zinc-shingled wall in theshared office space of Kilbourne Group and the Land Elements landscape architecture firm.

Hopefully it will stay there a spell, as it weighs 700 pounds and requires an Egyptian Army to move (or simply P2 Industries restoration expert Larry Larson and his assistant, once they’ve had their Wheaties!)

In order to fully appreciate this old piece, you need to know about some of the Herculean effort it required to restore it. The safe, which we think is from the early 1900s, had a mighty hard life – and it showed. It stood in flood waters in 1997 and was heavily encrusted with rust. The interior, Larson says, was even more deteriorated than the outside.

Never one to back down from a challenge, Larry and his team used a wire-wheel grinder to remove the rust from the piece’s surface. The finish of the safe had become incredibly thin and fragile after years of oxidation, so he didn’t dare use a more aggressive cleaning method like dry-ice blasting.

The interior of the safe – as pictures show – is now gorgeous. All the little cubbies inside have now been lined with a period-appropriate crushed red velvet and the safe’s original pin-striping and brand name – “Cary Safe Company, Buffalo, N.Y.” – were meticulously restored by Butch Anton at Superfrog Signs & Graphics in Moorhead.

According to Wikipedia*, the company manufactured and sold bank vaults, cabinet safes, safe deposit boxes and various types of locks from 1878 to 1929.

Every safe was heralded as fire- and burglar-proof. A majority of Cary safes had letters painted according to purchasers’ requests in the upper portion of the safe. (Unfortunately, if this safe did once contain personalized lettering, you could no longer see it.)

 After grinding away the rust, Larry then added layers of clear coat to the entire safe to preserve the patina for years to come. Upon closer examination, you’ll find all sorts of cool details – including the remains of gold leaf on the outer four corners of the safe’s front.

 Even transporting the safe from Larry’s shop to Loretta was a bit of a project. It required a skidsteer to remove the bulky behemoth from Larry’s trailer, which was parked right on Broadway.

 But it was all worth it when we saw the safe in its rightful place on third floor. And now it is home at Loretta, ‘safe’ and sound at last!

*This article was based on past Cary Safe advertisements and a former Buffalo business directory.

Our Inspire.14 calendar: The perfect gift for the Fargo-phile on your holiday list!

Posted on December 18, 2013 by Kilbourne Group

The calendars are here! The calendars are here!

We are so excited to announce that Kilbourne Group’s Inspire.14 calendars are officially in stores now. The annual calendar -- which celebrates the many moods, events and seasons of downtown Fargo -- features the amazing work of local photographers.

In fact, we think you’ll notice several improvements to this year’s calendar, including:

·        Tons of facts, historic bits and stories about our fair city.

·        Standout dates in Fargo’s past, including the date of the Great Fargo Fire and the debut of the Coen brothers’ “Fargo” at the historic Fargo Theatre.

·        Twice as many photos as in previous years.

It’s a good thing we amped up the photos, too, because we have an amazing lineup of photographers:

Jesse Hoorelbeke of J. Alan Paul Photography ( is a former professional baseball player-turned-shutterbug who has become a wizard at post-processing digital-enhancement techniques. His works have a vivid, dimensional, painterly quality that is at once haunting and beautiful. He is the No. 1 photographer at Spotlight Media, so you’ll see his images and photo illustrations in Fargo Monthly, Design & Living Magazine, Bison Illustrated and Fargo-Moorhead Stride.

Dan Francis ( has been capturing Downtown Fargo and Kilbourne Group properties for years. A Photoshop expert and digital photography instructor at Minnesota State Community and Technical College, he also knows how to enhance any photo to bring out its greatest potential. (He even seamlessly turned a certain person’s sweater from fuchsia to black in our calendar’s team photo this year!) Below, Dan captured the perfect pizza-flipping moment in the display window of Sammy's Pizza! We love working with Dan and we always know his photos will be finished with the meticulous “Dan Francis touch.”

Photography isn’t Scott Archer’s ( full-time job, although he invests a great deal of time, enthusiasm and energy into it. Archer, who has a BFA from the University of North Dakota, loves to find compositions, patterns and symmetry in the most ordinary of objects – such as power lines, water towers or the back alley of a seemingly unexceptional building. Scott calls these hidden gems "found artistry." 

Darren Losee is a professional photographer whose work also was featured in last year’s Inspire calendar. He and Dawn Siewert run Urban Toad Media (, a busy and growing photography/design company that also finds time to publish a local men’s magazine, The Good Life. Darren contributed a couple of vibrant ESPN "Game Day" images to this year's calendar, as well as a nighttime image of Kilbourne Group's completely renovated Loretta Building.

Christopher A. Smith is a local artist and photographer ( who has been capturing downtown life for years. We were especially captivated by the photos he took of sure-footed wall-scalers attaching full-sized bicycles down the sides of downtown’s Hotel Donaldson.

By day, Dr. Niyutchai “Ton” Chaithongdi is a physician. But in his spare time, he likes to tour the city and capture great photos. You might recognize his work from last year’s calendar: the vibrant cover image of the historic Fargo Theatre. This year, he captured this tree in its full fall glory outside of the Fargo Public Library.

Kevin Taylor of Taylor Made Photography ( braved bitter cold to capture the many faces, floats and celebrations of downtown’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade last spring. His image of a gorgeous Clydesdale – decked out in St. Patty’s Day finery – was such a showstopper that we had to include it.


At $15.95, the calendars make the perfect holiday gift for any Fargo fan on your list. They are available on as well as in the following downtown Fargo businesses: Boerth’s Gallery, Unglued’s holiday pop-up shop at 102 Broadway, Zandbroz Variety and Moxie Java on Broadway. 

Crowdsourcing St. Mark's: We asked; you answered!

Posted on December 12, 2013 by Kilbourne Group

When asked what to do with the former St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in downtown Fargo, our community had plenty of opinions.

After Kilbourne Group purchased the church at 670 4th Ave. N., this fall, we also initiated a crowdsourcing project to gain input on the best, most fiscally feasible use for this historic space. Outside of the church, we erected a large display board, containing the words, “I’d like to see St. Mark’s become …”  We also solicited usage ideas on our Facebook page.

We received more than 120 responses, showing that our community has no shortage of interest, creativity or – yes – humor concerning this topic. Several suggested that the former church become a … wait for it … church! Another dubbed it “St. Mark’s Barbecue Joint.” And another witty contributor suggested it become headquarters to the “North Dakota Chapter of the Society of Red-Headed Men.”

Most seemed to feel a strong sense of community ownership about the appearance of the downtown landmark. “Preserve the outside if possible!” wrote one person. “For the love of all that is good in the world, please take care of those stained-glass windows!” wrote another.

Here, in order of popularity, are your ideas for what we could potentially do with St. Mark’s:

1.      A homeless shelter

We received 15 different requests to turn the space either into a homeless shelter or an extension of the neighboring Salvation Army. One resident suggested a “Jane Addams-like center,” where residents could find coffee, conversation, art and facilities – especially for homeless kids, new refugees and travelers.”

Another person cited St. Mark’s centralized location as ideal for low-income housing. “The location is close to downtown and/or bus routes so that low-income people would have access to medical facilities, entertainment, some shopping and socialization.”

“This church has been giving back to the community of Fargo for so many years,” someone wrote. “I believe it should continue to give back to our great community.”

2.       A regional history archives and institute

We received at least a dozen requests to turn the building into a “decent, safe, climate-controlled” home for the NDSU Institute for Regional Studies. The institute – which serves as an important archive for the area’s historical materials and photos – was recently moved from the Skills and Technology Center north of NDSU. It is now in temporary quarters at the old Knox Lumber Building/GEM Plant on 7th Avenue North (near I-29). “This location and building are far from ideal, as it is about 3 miles from campus and not on a bus route,” writes John Hallberg, archives associate. “This will make it difficult for student and public access to the building for historical research.”

Hallberg and others cited St. Mark’s centralized accessibility, its convenient location on the city’s bus route, its proximity to the other college campuses and its warm, historic atmosphere as great assets for a potential headquarters for historic documents.

·        Hallberg suggested that a vault could be added to the back that would provide the ideal HVAC for proper storage of historical records and artifacts. He envisioned office space at the front of the building, and classroom space for the NDSU History Department to use for its Public History Program. Other research collections could be moved to the site, including the Germans from Russia Heritage Collection and the Emily Reynolds Costume Collection. “The sanctuary could serve as a museum space that public history students could use for learning museum work,” Hallberg wrote. “It could also be used as the archives research room and library.”

·        “The inside could be remodeled to accommodate a large reading room, the stained glass windows would be a wonderful attraction, there are several rooms that could be used as study rooms, and what better way to preserve a historic building than to put historic documents there for everyone to use,” wrote a Fargo academic assistant.

·        “The Archives and the Institute house many unique and valuable resources collected over the past 100+ years,” wrote an institute patron. “The information contained in the record is one thing but even feeling the actual paper, seeing the petitions and pleadings folded and refolded, all inform us of processes of the past and they will go away if not cared for. We will all be diminished if they are harmed or lost.”

3.      A grocery store

Downtown Fargo residents have been asking for a downtown grocery market ever since Leeby’s on Broadway closed in the space now occupied by Zandbroz Variety. So it didn’t surprise us that, even before the crowdsourcing display board was finished, one woman marched over to us with her own Sharpie and wrote down the very first suggestion: “The Mark-et Grocery Store.” (Nice MARK-eting!)

In all, we received 10 requests to turn St. Mark’s into some kind of grocery store, food co-op or even eco-friendly food manufacturer. Several specifically asked for a Trader Joe’s. The majority specifically mentioned that it could be a headquarters for the Prairie Roots Food Co-op, which is raising funds to open a retail food co-op somewhere in the city. 

“Reviving the spirit of Leeby’s or perhaps the Prairie Roots Co-op group?” one resident wrote. “Or a Mercado centrale … with eating/gathering spaces. Warm, vibrant everyday, not just on performance nights. While I support the arts/’food’ for the spirit, surely the practicality of a downtown source of groceries is long overdue.”

Jan Nelson, founder of HeartSprings, an alternative healing center in Fargo, suggested St. Mark’s become home to a multi-faceted healing/art/nutrition center, featuring rooftop vegetable gardening, a food co-op, a tea room, flower gardens, a bakery with a name like “Daily Bread,” a sanctuary/Tai Chi/meditation center, a community art space, a massage and reiki space, a health and healing library, a retreat center and a presentation area for speakers to talk on health and wellness.

Yet another green-friendly, food-related proposal involved concepts like in.gredients, a package-free, zero-waste, local foods store, and The Plant, a Chicago-based organization that is undertaking sustainable food production and economic development inside an old meatpacking facility. The Plant focuses on incubating small craft food businesses, brewing beer and kombucha, and doing it all by using renewable energy that is made onsite.

4.      An arts center

We received 12 different requests for various types of arts centers, ranging from a combination theater space/studio for artists to a new location for downtown’s Theatre B. David Swenson, an associate professor of ceramics and sculpture at NDSU, envisioned a type of artist cooperative, where people could rent live-in studio space at affordable rents, which could be subsidized through sales in a gallery located in the main sanctuary.

Another resident suggested a center that would provide offices for local arts organizations while dedicating the large sanctuary area to small-venue performance, rehearsal space and visual-arts display.

One local woman suggested a multi-use center that would skew heavily on the arts side, with a recording studio; rehearsal rooms; concert space in the chapel; art gallery and classrooms; culinary classes; storytelling, poetry and short-story classes and readings; a filmmakers’ workshop; and a theater for showing avant-garde films.

Yet another proposed a performing arts theatre/school with a twist – it would also be available for non-profit community groups such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Junior Achievement and Red Cross volunteer training.

5.      A multi-use center

Other multi-use centers were also proposed, as the roomy building could easily house more than one business or concept. A postal worker, who is based downtown, suggested a combination breakfast and lunch place/deli/coffee shop/ “Planet Fitness”-type gym.

One female respondent proposed a fusion of boutique specialty shops, coffee spot with books and space for community-education classes.

Yet another had a very specific vision: “Install a ‘public” cafeteria on the first floor, east side of complex (operated by NDSU?) Install nice paving over the grass fronting the wing on the north side. Ring the paving perimeter with berry bushes (raspberries, blueberries, etc.) to slightly enclose the outdoor space and yet low enough to leave it visible to passersby … & add tables & chairs & non-glare lighting fixtures for outdoor dining … chess players, etc. Add a couple of nice trees for a canopy effect.”

The author’s vision didn’t stop there: “Above the cafeteria build furnished mini-apartments (see If there’s enough space, turn the church over to Theatre B. Use church basement as a permanent base/headquarters for ongoing discussions/classes/lessons on urban renaissance, infill & eye-opening revelations re: the real costs of urban sprawl.”

6.      An event/entertainment center

Several pointed to the lack of a downtown entertainment or event venue that could accommodate 500 to 700 people. Such a space could accommodate anything from concert events to large weddings. One respondent cited an example for the ideal event center. “There is an old church in Milvale, PA outside of Pittsburgh turned entertainment complex and has gotten national attention. It has become a destination venue for many popular bands due to its uniqueness. It is called Mr. Smalls Funhouse and receives high praise from anyone who has visited. They provide history, art and entertainment in one location with a one-of-a-kind feel.”

We also received a few requests for the following concepts:


·        Various types of museums, ranging from a history or science center to a church museum.

·        Restaurant and microbrewery, similar to The Church Brew Works in Pittsburgh, Pa., or Freemason Abbey.

·        Inexpensive hotel or youth hostel.

·        Affordable apartments ($700 or less/month) or a housing co-op.

·        Community center.

·        An international market of small shops and food stalls, similar to the Forks Market in Winnipeg.

·        Coffee shop.

·        Recovery center: including a sober house, detox center or transitional recovery center.

·        Transitional housing for women ages 50 and older who suddenly find themselves on their own.

·       [Freespace], a type of pop-up, art-oriented community center that can be used by everyone from young professionals to the homeless population.

·        Community gardening headquarters/community kitchen or canning kitchen and classrooms.

·        Jazz club.

·        Country dance club or square-dance club.

·         Nightclub.

·        Retreat center.

·        24-7 stage.

·        Family service center.

·        Laundry.

·        Convention center.

·        Business incubator.

·        “English as a Second Language” learning center for New Americans.

·        Fitness center, including a fencing club or Pilates studio.

·        Winery and bread bakery/store.

·        Apartments for the homeless.

·        Counseling center for LGBT youth.

·        Headquarters for the “Dakota Air” radio show on Prairie Public Radio.

·        Dance studio.

·        Animal shelter.

·        Indoor dog park.

·        A recreation center for kids.

·        A high-tech charter school.

The team at Kilbourne Group would like to thank everyone for contributing their fresh, creative and often selfless ideas to our crowdsource project. We appreciate your thoughts and they will certainly be taken into consideration as we examine options for the very best, most fiscally feasible use for this beautiful old building.

Burgum explains Block 9 tower project, KG's vision for downtown Fargo

Posted on September 15, 2013 by Doug Burgum

 The following guest editorial by Doug Burgum appeared today in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. It also includes several supplementary "extras" that were not included in the original article, but which will help explain the potential and overall vision for our downtown.

On Sunday, Sept. 8, The Forum ran a front-page story on proposed downtown Fargo improvements, including a proposed concept for a Kilbourne Group-led project – the Block 9  tower – which would be located on existing surface parking lot on Broadway, immediately north of the current US Bank Plaza. 

The aspirational vision for this mixed-use tower includes retail, a hotel with meeting room/event amenities, office space, residential condos, a restaurant/bar, underground parking, public lobby escalators to the existing skyway system, all adjacent to a rebuilt, city-owned public parking ramp and a re-envisioned public plaza at the corner of Broadway and 2nd Avenue.

This significant project is intentional in its efforts to kindle a broad dialogue about thoughtful design, the positive economics of density, and the importance of a vibrant, walkable core to the economic health of our entire metro area. 

Much work remains to bring this vision to reality, and Kilbourne Group welcomes all input, ideas, and concerns.  

We are fortunate to live in a state with a strong economy and in a city with progressive leadership.  Now is the time to set our sights high and lay the foundation for the next century. 

Reporter Erik Burgess’ story was thorough and expansive in its scope, as he covered several complex, multi-faceted projects – some publicly funded, some privately funded – all in the same article. 

Based on some of the follow-up coverage of the story, and based on the feedback Kilbourne Group has received, there is some confusion, particularly in the areas related to the use of public funds, and the flood plain, which we attempt to clarify below. 

The truth about Block 9

The Block 9 tower project would be located three blocks west of the envisioned civic quad and  three blocks from the 100-year flood plain.

We would like to emphasize that the public-private partnership regarding Block 9 relates to city-owned parking structures on City of Fargo-owned land. The Block 9 tower project would be funded from private investors.

The convergence of a) available funds, b) existing, available, city-owned land, c) flood protection, and d) the roughly parallel timing for these three civic projects, creates an unprecedented opportunity for our city to bring to life an exciting vision that has been proposed for several decades. 

The Kilbourne Group does not seek credit for the core ideas which we strongly support: permanent flood protection for the metro area, civic buildings arranged around a civic green space, a high-density, mixed-use infill on Block 9, and a 2nd-avenue-aligned pedestrian/bike corridor running from NDSU’s downtown campus, connecting all the way to Viking Ship Park in downtown Moorhead. The credit for this vision goes to those involved in multiple planning efforts across multiple organizations over several decades. Those processes were driven by dedicated civic employees, thoughtful citizen and volunteer input, and enlightened elected/appointed leaders. 

Why infill pays

Seizing the opportunity for an integrated set of multiple civic projects now will certainly stimulate significant private investment in the downtown core in the near term. And private "infill" projects that utilize existing city infrastructure (e.g. streets, sewers, sidewalks, as well as fire/police protection) are more economic for all of us as taxpayers, vs. the cost of stretching the city’s infrastructure and services by developing on the city's edge.  

Infill "mixed-use" projects (e.g. residential, office, retail, hospitality, etc.) create different parking and traffic needs at different times of the day; this alternating flow can significantly increase utilization, which dramatically improves the economics of infrastructure such as parking ramps. 

North Dakota today, with its enviable lowest-in-the-country unemployment, does face work-force challenges ahead.  The American cities that will thrive in the coming decades will be those that attract and retain workforces, especially young people, both college students and young professionals in all fields. Tomorrow’s successful cities will have a strong, differentiated, unique urban core that builds upon, yet goes beyond the same big box retailers and franchise restaurants that exist across our country.  

The Fargo metro area’s downtown core has accomplished a tremendous turnaround in the last decade. This progress can be credited to a broad group of entrepreneurs, investors, champions, businesses and institutions, such as highly impactful NDSU's move toward the core.  Now, with both public and private projects on the horizon, we as a metro area can raise our sights even higher, as the success of the core benefits all. 

As noted by Fargo City Administrator Pat Zavoral in the same Forum article, ""The time is right … You gotta strike when the iron’s hot.”

And as we do raise our sights and seize the day, we will offer respect for the past, gratitude for the present, and inspiration for the future. 

Doug Burgum

Chairman, Kilbourne Group

Chairman, Arthur Ventures 

Just the facts: A quick run-down on proposed downtown projects

Here is a quick outline of the proposed downtown projects, the proposed budgets and their funding sources. 

The physical location of the three civic projects as shown, arranged around a public plaza/quad, is land already owned by the City of Fargo (please see above graphic).

Flood protection – 2nd Street flood wall project. 

o Proposed budget: $21-$40 million

o Decision-makers: City of Fargo/Corps of Engineers

o Funding source: Federal and city flood sales tax

New Fargo City Hall project:

o Budget: $8-$12 million

o Decision-makers: City of Fargo commissioners

o Funding source: City of Fargo/State of ND 

Convention center/exhibition space/Civic Center renovation 

o Budget: To be decided after consultants’ feasibility study

o Decision-makers: Fargo Dome Authority recommendation with City of Fargo approval.

o Funding source: a portion of Fargo Dome Authority reserve fund ($37 million); other sources TBD 

Block 9:

Budget: $90 million

Decision-makers: Kilbourne Group

Funding source: Private investments, including potential tenants 

Publicly owned parking structures (which could include a city-owned ramp adjacent to the east side of the Block 9 complex, and an additional ramp, possibly on Roberts Street and 2nd Ave.)

Budget: $20-$40 million for multiple ramps

Decision-makers: City of Fargo commissioners

Funding source: A downtown Fargo TIF (tax increment financing), with primary funds from new property taxes generated by Block 9. These new property taxes for the City of Fargo would be allocated to the city-owned parking structure.

We encourage the public to attend the Loretta Grand Opening Thursday, Sept. 19, which will  feature a presentation about these projects from 2 to 3 p.m. at the Fargo Theatre. Please register for this free event at:

In addition, please feel free to send questions to or to the following civic organizations. Each of these groups is seeking public input. 

Fargo Dome Authority (concerning convention center):

Fargo City Hall Site Selection Committee:

Flood Protection Plan:





Bus a move! MATBUS 'Lunch-and-Ride' impresses KG/LE/AV teams

Posted on August 8, 2013 by

The teams from Kilbourne Group, Land Elements and Arthur Ventures got to ride a magic bus Thursday.

We hopped aboard a spankin' new MATBUS Wednesday as part of the MATBUS/DCP's "Lunch-and-Ride" promotion. We got to drive through a bus-wash, eat Spicy Pie pizza in the idyllic Island Park Gazebo and learn a bit about how our city's public transportation system works.

All we know is that it was more fun than a third-grader's field trip to an ice cream factory. We had a blast. And we're pretty sure the experience turned a few Kilbournians into public-transportation converts.

Here's what we learned:

1. It's like they traveled from from the future! High-tech, space-shippesque and energy-efficient, our city's new hybrid buses look, drive and act like they're from the year 2025. Their impressive technology is everywhere: from the LED lighting and nine hidden cameras onboard to their hybrid status. The fleet's newest additions -- the four hybrids -- are especially fascinating. Each New Flyer is fueled by 15 hydrogen batteries until it reaches 36 miles per hour, at which point it kicks into diesel mode. Even cooler, the batteries "recharge" automatically every time the bus driver applies the brakes. The result of all this hybrid ingenuity: A hybrid bus uses 61 percent less fuel than a conventional one. Considering the size of these behemoths, that's pretty amazing.

2. They are locally made. Here's what is even more impressive: All of this technology and manufacturing occurred right in the old US of A. To go one further, the New Flyers were made by New Flyer of America Inc., right in Crookston, Minn.! Uff-da!

3, They are so sparkly. So very, very sparkly. The bus we rode looked as clean as a medical clinic inside. It helped that this particular one - a massive 41-footer - is 6 1/2 weeks old and has just 602 miles on it. But Gregg Schildberger, Fargo Transit Planner for MATBUS, assured us that cleanliness is a huge priority for all buses in their care. Each one receives a Daytona-worthy pitstop every single day: A five-person maintenance crew has 12 minutes to clean the interior, fuel up and remove the farebox from the vehicle. The bus also will move through a giant car wash -- a bus wash, if you will -- which cleans the exterior with eco-friendly recycled water. 

4. They put on A LOT of miles. An off-the-assembly-line hybrid costs $675,000, but it will earn its keep. Before it's retired, the average bus will have traveled 685,000 miles. At $1.02 a mile, that's not too shabby.

Above: Our fun-filled field trip included pizza at the Island Park Gazebo and a live remote by Y-94!

5. They'll save you a ton of cha-ching. The use of public transportation will reduce your carbon footprint from Jolly Green Giant-size to Tom Thumb-size.But at just $1.50/ride, it will also fatten up your wallet considerably. Schildberger reminded us that it costs more than $9,900/year to fuel up and maintain one car. A year's bus pass costs just $480. With that annual savings, a family could take a vacation to Hawaii in mid-January, when sun-starved Northerners need it most.


6. They are used by passengers from all walks of life. Schildberg says people of all ages, backgrounds and income levels use the bus. In fact, some kids as young as 6 or 7 navigate the whole MATBUS system by themselves with great proficiency. Overall, bus travel has become increasingly more popular, Schildberger says. Six years ago, the MATBUS system served 757,000 a year. In 2012, that number climbed to 2.2 million! And he believes it will only get busier.

7. They have an app for that (or at least they will). The MATBUS team is working on a website app that will tell prospective riders where they are, when the next bus will be there and what the whole system looks like. Look for it this fall!

To learn more about the MATBUS system, please go to:

(Above.) We were encouraged to get wacky for the camera. Forever the overachievers, we did as told.


Brothers Studt turn hardwood floor installation into art form

Posted on June 26, 2013 by Tammy Swift

Jason and Brian Studt get paid to play Tetris all day long.

The brothers co-own Legacy Hardwood Floors, a West Fargo business that specializes in installing new and reclaimed hardwood flooring. That means they have to be spatial savants. They can spend laying out “puzzle pieces” – very old, less-than-perfect floor boards – to figure out the best way to fit them all together.

The Brothers Studt have already tackled some of the best jobs in the area (custom floors with elaborate inlaid patterns) as well as some of the biggest (they refinished the 17,000-square-foot floor of the Bison Bunker Field House.)

But the vast majority of their workload nvolves the oldest of materials. They have been asked to install flooring made from old wine barrels and have turned petrified wood into floor tiles. Most recently, they laid reclaimed hardwood floors throughout the Loretta Building in downtown Fargo. They also were the craftsmen behind the reclaimed pumpkin plank pine flooring in the SkyBarn, Kilbourne Group’s showcase condo at 300 Broadway.

It’s hard, physical work, which also requires an eye for detail. The old boards are far from perfectly symmetrical. The crevices of these reclaimed planks are typically caked with decades of grime, which hardens to a concrete-like consistency and has to be chipped off to ensure proper fit. And certain boards are so rare that they’re nearly impossible to replace if broken.

In fact, when Jason recently covered the fourth-floor conference room of Loretta with flooring from the Hallock, Minn., gym, he wound up sanding each piece three times so it would be perfectly level and smooth. 

But it’s also rewarding. Few features transform a space as dramatically as flooring does. The end result is often “jaw-dropping,” Jason says.

Especially when the installers are as meticulous as this duo. When referring to Jason’s work, KG Founder Doug Burgum repeats a quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi:  “He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.”

Jason and Brian Studt, he adds, have turned floor-installation into an art form.

The brothers developed their skills and work ethic by growing up around their family’s construction business.

“If you were old enough to push a broom, you were working,” Jason recalls. “You didn’t get an allowance. You had to go out and work for a paycheck.”

The Studts’ uncle sold the business in 2005. For a few years afterward, the two siblings saved money (at Brian’s insistence) and talked of opening their own business. In 2008, they were finally able to launch Legacy Hardwood Flooring. They don’t have to do much marketing; word-of-mouth keeps them plenty busy. “To be good at it, you have to have an eye for detail. It’s not like there’s a school for it,” Jason says.

In fact, demand for their services is great enough that they often work 12 hours a day, seven days a week. And there are no plans to rest on their laurels anytime soon. “You’re only as good as your last job,” Jason says.

 Photography by Jacob Olson. SkyBarn photo by Scott Amundson.

Right up our alley: During first Alley Fair, Burgum explains why we need to maximize alleys

Posted on June 7, 2013 by Tammy Swift

It’s Saturday afternoon behind 300 Broadway in Downtown Fargo.
Outside, people are noshing on fancified food-truck fare, buying indie crafts and pushing trendily dressed tots in strollers.
But just a few steps away, inside the Fargo Theatre’s second-screen auditorium, 75 citizens want their first-ever Alley Fair served with a heaping side dish of education.
That’s where Doug Burgum comes in. Burgum is the entrepreneur and philanthropist who founded Kilbourne Group, a group committed to revitalizing downtown cores – starting with the Fargo metro area. And Doug’s son, Joe Burgum, was instrumental in developing Alley Fair.
On this unseasonably brisk June day, the elder Burgum is offering a crash course in the economics of urban density. In keeping with the day’s theme, he is concentrating on alleyways – those oft-used but frequently forgotten thoroughfares.
Alleyways, he explains, can help a city maximize its space, enhance its walkability and amp up its character. They can create enchanting byways where visitors can browse through one-of-a-kind shops, watch street artists or sip lattes from a charming outdoor deck. 
Here are five things he taught us last weekend, when we weren’t bellying up to Mezzaluna’s food booth for tasty pulled-pork-and-Asian-slaw sammiches or watching Allison the Hooper.
5.) Suburbanization isn’t the most economic (or convenient) way to plan a city. “Cities can be designed in ways that are economic and uneconomic, just like a business,” Burgum says. Cities that are sprawled out for miles and miles, like Fargo, are more expensive to maintain. They require many more miles of expanded infrastructure plus additional city personnel (firefighters, police, etc.) to serve those areas.
To illustrate the cost of sprawl, he points to Davies High School, located 11 miles south of Fargo’s city center. It cost $6,500/linear foot to build a road, sewer and waterlines out to the high school. City centers – in which the infrastructure already exists, the city personnel doesn’t need to be increased much and more businesses are contributing to the tax base – are more economically efficient.
4.) Alleys allow us to maximize density, which makes cents. These behind-the-scenes roadways reflected an earlier era, when the typical downtown building was 140 feet deep. Alleys were used to efficiently deliver and unload goods by truck, horse-and-cart and even rail car into the back of the building. Many downtowns fell to blight in the 1960s and ’70s because these old, deep buildings were too expensive to own and maintain. As overnight shipping grew in popularity, the need for a large, back-store warehouse dwindled. Instead, businesspeople invested in the efficient, more affordable strip-mall store, which measured just 60 to 75 feet deep. Today, we’ve learned that if you are going to maximize retail space in a historic building, it pays to ratchet up density – placing one store up front and another facing the alley – to make it more affordable for storeowners. Just as you see in this floorplan of the Loretta Building here ...
3.) Improved alleys call for structure and cosmetic upgrades. Our city’s alleyways serve as important pedestrian and vehicular byways, and their ruggedly urban facades have made them a magnet for local portrait photographers. Even so, they could use major improvements. Right now, power lines and utility poles primarily serve as nesting spots for the local pigeon population. “The primary use of alleys right now is pigeons,” said Burgum, showing a slide of alleyways covered in pigeon guano. “If pigeons unite, we will have steep opposition.”
Burgum believes buried powerlines would not only deter pigeons and erase visual pollution, it would also protect and update the core’s aging, outage-prone electrical grid. “ Thomas Edison would be very familiar with how our grid works,” Burgum quipped.
 And while we’re at it, the former software entrepreneur/Microsoft executive believes our downtown should offer the fastest fiber-optic internet available. He cites cities like Kansas City and Austin, which can attract a young, tech-savvy demographic to their cores after installing a 1-gigabit internet line.
2.) The precedents have been set, with impressive success. Slowly but surely, we are seeing more  downtown businesses add alley entrances. Jade Presents, a concert promotion company, ONLY has an alley-facing entrance downtown.
Forward-thinking developer Mike Bullinger built CityScapes Plaza with retail space facing the alley. Mezzaluna, a fine-dining restaurant/lounge, has enjoyed major success with a main entrance into the alley.  
But this is just the beginning. Burgum cites amazing alley projects all over the U.S., ranging from the Alley Sports Tavern in Minneapolis to Chicago’s Green Alley Program. Closer to home, Grand Forks, N.D., has turned once-neglected alleyways into green interstitial spaces and pocket parks.
1.) When it comes to attracting youth, vibrancy and entrepreneurial companies, alleys are our allies. Young people and tech firms are attracted to downtowns – but only if those downtowns have amenities like a vibrant culture, unique neighborhoods and state-of-the-art technology. “Today, kids want  to live downtown,” Burgum says. “Their dream isn’t to live in a suburban house with a three-car garage. So we need to make our downtowns attractive to them to keep our cities growing in the future.”

Kilbourne Group was founded in 2006 with the mission of providing thought leadership on the revitalization, smart growth and redevelopment of Fargo, North Dakota’s downtown core. The Kilbourne Group team shares the vision of retaining and carrying forward the history of Fargo through the restoration of historic buildings and the creation of new buildings that honor the past and inspire the future. 


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