In January of last year I wrote an opinion piece for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead challenging the new city hall proposal. I was concerned that our commissioners were not prioritizing needs over wants. I was also curious about the price tag since, at the time, we had very little information as to where the building would be or how big it would be.The original estimate for Fargo’s new city hall was $8-12 million. Predictably, the city hall I thought we were debating morphed into a $30 million Minnesota-like cathedral to government excess.
Not only is this project unnecessarily lavish, it also strikes me as a wasted opportunity. This new city hall proposal takes a huge chunk of prime riverfront real-estate out of the hands of potential private sector development, which effectively removes vast opportunities for downtown growth, job creation, tax revenue and overall public enjoyment.
There are many other options that should be explored for our new city hall. One option I have found attractive is renting space in a proposed downtown skyscraper. A long-term lease with a private developer would encourage them to move forward with this long anticipated project.
This skyscraper could also incorporate additional parking for downtown patrons, effectively killing two birds with one stone. Another advantage would be removing the “need” to spend 30 million taxpayer dollars on new construction. Perhaps the most attractive benefit is the opportunity for private growth near the riverfront.
This option will free up a wonderful opportunity for development near the river, which would continue to grow our downtown investment and beautify the area. Not with tax dollars, but with private funds. That will help fill our coffers, not deplete them. Imagine the hotels, bars, restaurants and entertainment venues that would jump at the opportunity to invest on the riverfront downtown.
As your city commissioner, I will make the case that government isn't always the answer for growth in our city. In fact, it rarely is. We need to find ways to encourage and empower the private sector through commonsense solutions, prioritized spending and low taxes. This is how you attract new business, retain skilled workers and further grow a vibrant city like Fargo.
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