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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Fargo Online

[edit] History

[edit] Early history
The area that is present-day Fargo was an early stopping point for steamboats floating down the Red River during the 1870s and 1880s. The city of Fargo was originally named "Centralia," but was later renamed to "Fargo" in honor of Northern Pacific Railway director and Wells Fargo Express Company founder William Fargo. Fargo was founded in 1871. The area started to flourish after the arrival of the railroad and the city became known as the "Gateway to the West".
During the 1880s, Fargo became the "divorce capital" of the Midwest due to very lenient divorce laws.[4]
A major fire struck the city on June 7, 1893 when the proprietor of a grocery store accidentally started the blaze as she emptied ashes behind her store on a windy day. The fire destroyed hundreds of homes and businesses. However, Fargo was quickly rebuilt with new buildings made of brick, new streets, and a water system. The North Dakota State Agricultural College was founded in 1890 as North Dakota's land-grant university, becoming first accredited by the North Central Association in 1915. In 1960, NDAC became known as North Dakota State University.

[edit] The 20th Century
Fargo-Moorhead boomed after World War II and the city grew rapidly despite being hit by a violent tornado in 1957. The tornado destroyed a large portion of the north end of the city. The coming of the two interstates (I-29 and I-94) revolutionized travel in the region and pushed growth of Fargo to the south and west of the city limits. In 1972, the West Acres Shopping Center was constructed near the intersection of the two Interstates. This mall would become the catalyst for retail growth in the area. It would also spell the beginning of a time of decline for the downtown area of Fargo.

[edit] Recent history

Broadway in downtown Fargo in 2007
In recent years, Fargo has seen relatively strong growth both in population and economic activity. Several businesses now have major operations in the community including Microsoft, Alien Technology, Navteq and PRACS Institute. The city's major retail districts on the southwest side have seen rapid expansion as has the downtown area due, at least in part, to investments made by the city and private developers in the Renaissance Zone. City leaders would like to see an addition of five-hundred new housing units in the downtown area within the next five years. Planning agencies have also been active in promoting housing rehabilitation in older sections of the city such as the Roosevelt neighborhood to stem blight and strengthen the core of the city. Indeed, during the 1990s most inner city neighborhoods such as Hawthorne, Jefferson, and Horace Mann actually lost population even as rapid growth occurred along the edges of the city in sprawling new developments. As Fargo has grown and matured, however, the city has placed a growing emphasis on long-range urban planning. Furthermore, several developers desiring to bring in additional "big box" retail stores on the far south end of Fargo have been rebuffed by planning officials and nearby residents alike arguing that the developments do not conform to new long-range planning guidelines. These instances might speak to the increasing bargaining power and leverage that Fargo has over private developers due to its stronger position within the regional economy after years of considerable growth. Many urban scholars argue that this is a preferred and advantageous position for cities to be in as they do not have to "bend over backwards" to accommodate business interests.
Since the late 1990s, the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Statistical Area has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates among MSAs in the United States. This, coupled with Fargo's low crime rate and the decent supply of affordable housing in the community, has prompted Money magazine to rank the city near the top of its annual list of America's most livable cities throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s. Fargo was also awarded in 2006 for having some of the cleanest air in the United States, for a city of its size.
Nevertheless, Fargo in the early 21st century faces some challenges. Articles published in the summer of 2006 by The Forum, have noted that the supply of affordable housing in the city is shrinking due to area wages and incomes not rising as fast as housing costs in the city. Moreover, research conducted by the North Dakota State Data Center and the U.S. Census Bureau document that the city's population growth may be stalling after decades of steady growth. In fact, 2005 census estimates showed a decrease in the population of Fargo proper, albeit an increase in the metro area as a whole. These numbers, however, have been disputed by city officials as the Census Bureau in recent years has been faulted for significantly underestimating the population of some North Dakota cities. Be this as it may, Richard Rathge, the state demographer, has warned that Fargo may very well be losing its primary pool of new migrants as outlying areas of North Dakota, traditionally the geographic area upon which Fargo draws for new migrants, have been rapidly declining in population for decades. In fact, Fargo, for the last two decades, has relied upon international migration for a very large proportion of its new in-migration. Overall, the population of Fargo has been estimated at 90,934 (2006 estimate), but city officials believe the number is closer to 96,000 or 97,000 people.

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