After decades of buying, questions linger near NDSU
FARGO — For 30 years, North Dakota State University’s Development Foundation has scooped up homes, apartment buildings and commercial spaces around the school as they become available.
In addition to its $3.9 million office on University Drive, the private nonprofit foundation that supports NDSU owns 44 properties near the school worth more than $6.2 million.
As the foundation buys more and more property on the east side of campus, residents wonder what’s in store for their neighborhood.
“How long does it take? And when are you going to start moving on some decisions? And what are those decisions?” Ken Enockson with the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association asked last week. “These are questions that we have periodically, especially those who live in that area.”
A faculty retirement community was mentioned as a possibility in 2005.
And as officials from Fargo Public Schools considered the district’s 10-year building plan last month, they mentioned rumblings about new housing for NDSU faculty and graduate students bringing more young families to the city’s north side.
But so far, the foundation is only exploring the potential for private student housing at one site along North University Drive — the block between between 16th and 17th avenues, said Doug Mayo, the foundation’s president.
Mayo said NDSU officials asked the foundation to look into student housing to help meet demand.
“All indications from the university’s perspective are that our enrollment will continue to grow and housing will continue to be an issue,” Mayo said.
He said he hasn’t been a part of conversations about housing for faculty or families.
“Based on what I know, I don’t think it’s within the university mission to have family use,” he said.
Mayo said the foundation intends to develop whatever kind of privately held student housing the school needs, but it could be awhile before anything is complete. The foundation is still missing a few parcels in that block and hasn’t filed plans with the city.
Gina Nolte owns one of the four remaining properties on the block the foundation is looking to develop.
“We know there are only a couple (properties) that aren’t owned by the foundation,” Nolte said.
Every once in a while, she said, the foundation will approach her and her husband about selling. So far, they’re not interested.
When the Noltes moved into the neighborhood 27 years ago, it was all owned by families. She said they realize some of the changes are unavoidable due to the growth of NDSU, and they’ve always loved the college neighborhood.
“It’s a lively atmosphere around here, and it’s always enjoyable to be around,” she said.
To bring student housing to that site, the foundation would likely need to acquire Nolte’s property and three others.
City Planner Jim Gilmour said the foundation would have to apply for rezoning and the planning commission would consider a development’s impact on the neighborhood.
“There’s ways to do it that will be compatible to the neighborhood, and there’s ways to do it where it will have a negative impact,” Gilmour said.
The details — such as the final design, who will be housed in the development and how far the development will be set back — determine that difference, he said.
Members of the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association have long monitored the foundation’s acquisition of property and potential development plans.
Enockson, a Roosevelt homeowner for 19 years, said the group favors building condos or homes for faculty and employees to bring more homeowners and families to the neighborhood.
He said other developers have done a good job bringing new student housing to the area, and the housing is well-maintained.
“Development could hopefully be better than what’s there,” he said.
The neighborhood group’s main concern is that the high concentration of rental units in the area brings down property values, and rental properties aren’t as well-cared-for as family-occupied homes.
In the past, the Roosevelt Neighborhood Association has been concerned about the condition of properties owned by the foundation, with some being described as “eyesores.”
But about a year ago, the foundation hired a new property manager. Enockson said he and others have noticed an improvement.
“We’re really trying to clean up a lot of stuff and put a clean bill of health on everything in terms of maintenance and operations,” said Pat Schilling, the new property manager.
Mostly, neighbors like Enockson are just anxious to know what’s coming.
“What they build will have an impact on what I think as an owner and whether I even want to stay in the neighborhood,” he said.
Mayo said there will be more discussion with neighbors.
“This is still an idea,” he said of discussions about student housing on the University Drive parcels, “but something we are moving toward.”
The foundation hasn’t had any discussions about other projects for the remainder of its properties, Mayo said.
He said the foundation primarily invests in properties around the school to position itself to help “advance the institution” if need arises.
“If the university approached the foundation about a need for property we own, we could transfer or develop or rent to the university — whatever that need is,” Mayo said.