A dream into reality

Sharon, Gary and David Spies (left to right) and others marked the groundbreaking of Phase 1 of the Downtown Riverfront Improvement Project Thursday in Fergus Falls.

A major milestone to bring the Downtown Riverfront Improvement Project to reality was reached on Wednesday with an official groundbreaking event that took place in the parking lot behind the Viking Cafe in downtown Fergus Falls. The event marks the beginning of phase one of the project.

City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, as well as Mayor Ben Schierer thanked those involved in the process, including donors, community partners, downtown businesses, staff and the public for their support. Mayor Ben Schierer spoke about the city’s investment in downtown infrastructure and the support this project will provide to local downtown businesses. 

“This project has been a long time coming, and when you think about the last four and a half years, all the political uncertainty, the economic uncertainty in particular, in the last eighteen months in the pandemic, the fact that city staff has been able to maintaintain this project and keep this project moving forward through the election cycles and all that uncertainty, I just want to say thank you to Andrew (Bremseth), and your staff, this would not have happened without you, thank you Andrew for your leadership on this project”, said Schierer.

According to City Administrator Andrew Bremseth, phase one will consist of the Rivermarket structure, a river balcony (river walk), overlook, parking lot paving and reconfiguration and entry gateway arches. There are other various improvements, such as landscaping, benches, and decorative metal railings.

The Rivermarket structure will include water, sewer, irrigation, restrooms, three season heating abilities and overhead garage doors which will allow for open air use. It’s envisioned that the Rivermarket will serve a variety of uses, including the farmers market, community events, and private functions such as graduation parties, and possibly wedding receptions. The structure will be very functional and will be able to accommodate many uses.

Local community and business leader Gary J. Spies thanked the city for their work and emphasized how important the river is to Fergus Falls.

“It’s unbelievable what the people of this community have done here, and I think it’s going to continue. The river is an awesome thing that the good Lord gave us, and we’ve used it, and I think you’re going to use it more and more in the future. I think we’re all very blessed.”

Comstock Construction Inc. of Fergus Falls is the general contractor for the long planned and anticipated project. Total project expenditures at this point are estimated at $6,873,564. The construction will be in two phases, with Phase 1 starting soon, which includes the West Block and costs to date. The Phase 2 construction is planned for 2022, and will include the East Block, and a prefabricated bridge. Funding sources for the project include the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) funding,Veden Charitable Trust, city bonds, private donations and state bonding aid, two local Rotary Clubs and West Central Initiative.

The last time Fergus Falls made a sizable investment in the downtown area was 1989. 

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