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'This project has become the signature of downtown Moorhead.' Block E building nears completion

The Block E Building is seen Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, at the southeast corner of Main Avenue and 8th Street, Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor1 / 5
Steve Gehrtz, principal of Gehrtz Construction Services, talks Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, in the Block E Building on the southeast corner of Main Avenue and 8th Street, Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor2 / 5
An apartment kitchen is seen Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, at the Block E Building on the southeast corner of Main Avenue and 8th Street, Moorhead. The kitchens will have moveable islands when completed. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor3 / 5
Steve Gehrtz, principal of Gehrtz Construction Services, looks out from a balcony Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, of the Block E Building on the southeast corner of Main Avenue and 8th Street, Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor4 / 5
The back side of tje Block E Building is seen Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2018, at the southeast corner of Main Avenue and 8th Street, Moorhead. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor5 / 5

MOORHEAD - The Block E building, with a distinctive curved glass, cement- and aluminum-panel front that grabs your eyes at the intersection of Eighth Street and Main Avenue, is rapidly nearing completion.

All of the commercial spaces in downtown's newest building are spoken for and tenants start moving into their third- and fourth-floor apartments in the next two weeks.

The $6 million project makes a statement: Downtown is coming back.

"This project has become the signature of downtown Moorhead," said Steve Gehrtz, principal for Gehrtz Construction Services.

The Zerr Berg Architects-designed building is meant to be inviting, said McKenzy Olson, spokeswoman for developer and property management firm Epic Companies.

"I think it's a key anchor to downtown Moorhead's" success, Olson said.

Workers were adding windows, exterior panels and prepping the ground for a public plaza on Wednesday, Sept. 26.

The plaza is designed to be a hangout: a place to eat lunch, enjoy some ice cream (Dairy Queen is just across Main to the north), or listen to an acoustic show, Olson said.

"A friendly place to come, chat, that sort of thing," Olson said.

Fit-up for the first floor commercial spaces, which will include Usher's House restaurant, Edward Jones Financial Advisers, Choice Financial, and an Herbalife Nutrition Club, is well under way. Usher's House is expected to open by the end of the year, Gehrtz said, with Edward Jones opening sometime in December.

The second floor will hold the corporate headquarters of Eventide Senior Living Communities, which also provided the E for Block E. They should be able to move in about Dec. 1.

"Without them, I don't know if we would have done the project," Gehrtz said.

Six of the 12 apartments are already rented, Olson said. The remainder are available for $1,100 to $1,300 a month. There is a fitness room and tenants have the option of purchasing underground parking spots.

Views to the south are of St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, built in 1898-99. The Cass Gilbert-designed church is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Meanwhile, many of the offices and apartments offer panoramic views of downtown to the east, west and north.

"On behalf of the Downtown Moorhead Inc., I want to express how excited and proud we are of the work done on Block E," said Derrick LaPoint, president and CEO of Downtown Moorhead Inc. "With this new building, it makes it clear that downtown Moorhead continues to grow and evolve. Having a mix of strong businesses and residents on a prominent gateway into our downtown is a huge win for our community!"

St. John provided a parking easement for the project, and in return got help with its geothermal heating system and free use of available parking, Gehrtz said.

Gehrtz said the project moves the city closer to its goal to add 500 living spaces downtown, and Block E residents will have ready access to a medical clinic, drug stores, restaurants, coffee shops, a Hornbacher's grocery store, liquor stores, retail outlets, barbershop, churches, library and city hall, all within a short distance.

"You become much more walkable," Gehrtz said. "Who needs a car?"

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including K-12 education, Fargo city government, criminal justice, and military affairs. He is currently one of The Forum's business reporters.

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